British No 2 Anne Keothavong out of French Open

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The Independent Online

Anne Keothavong's bid to become the first British woman to win a first-round match at the French Open for 17 years ended in gallant failure after a more than three-hour battle with Russian Vesna Dolonts this afternoon.

Not since Clare Wood beat Gigi Fernandez in 1994 has a British woman tasted victory in the main draw at Roland Garros but hopes were high this year after all three of Britain's representatives received favourable draws.

Keothavong's was perhaps the toughest, against a player ranked seven places higher at 101st, and in the end she could not capitalise on a good start as she went down 3-6 7-6 (7/5) 6-4 after three hours and 21 minutes.

The Londoner, blending in with the court in an orange dress, began impressively and broke her opponent in the opening game of the match on Court 16.

Dolonts hit back but Keothavong was looking extremely solid and generally coming out on top of lengthy baseline exchanges.

The British number two broke serve again in the fifth game and this time she managed to stay ahead despite some concerted pressure from the Russian, and a third break gave her the first set.

Dolonts received lengthy treatment to her right foot before the start of the second but, far from putting off Keothavong, the 27-year-old promptly made it four games in a row.

All the games were very tight, though, and, after saving two break points in the next game, Dolonts fought back to lead 5-3. Twice the Russian served for the set but twice Keothavong, who also received treatment to her feet, broke back to force a tie-break.

The world number 108 was certainly digging deep and she did so again, winning three points in a row to level at 5-5, but a poor return gave Dolonts set point and this time she took it.

Both players took toilet breaks before the decider, where the topsy-turvy nature of the clash continued, with Dolonts twice going a break up before being pegged back.

Keothavong showed tremendous courage to fight back from 0-40 in the eighth game and level at 4-4 but, after another long break while the trainer attended to her thigh, the Briton finally succumbed, serving a double-fault on match point.