Making it into the 3rd round of qualifying were teenager Marta Kostyuk and veterans Vera Zvonareva and Sara Errani, but Harriet Dart and Caty McNally’s dreams of reaching the main draw of the French Open were shattered on the clay of Roland Garros, while top seed Ann Li also met her match on Thursday.
I still believe in myself, I still believe I can beat anyone on the other side of the net if I’m able to play my best tennis. That’s not easy to do at all. Vera Zvonareva
Li, the No 1 seed from America, was beaten by Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova, who scored a major upset in 3 marathon sets, 6-7(12) 7-6(4) 6-4 and moves on to face Natalija Kostic from Serbia, winner over Turkey’s Cagla Buyukakcay, 6-3 2-6 6-2, while Brit Dart fell to Romania’s Irina Bara, 7-5 6-2.
Ukraine’s Kostyuk, however, is now just one match away from reaching her career first main draw in Paris after a stacked day of second-round qualifying action that saw Mayar Sherif pull off one of the upsets of the week when she took out the No 3 seeded American, McNally, 6-2 6-4.
Sherif, who made Egyptian tennis history in the previous round after becoming the first player from her country to win a match at any Grand Slam event, will take on Giulia Gatto-Monticone from Italy as she seeks her first Grand Slam main draw appearance.
“I always imagined myself and visualised myself doing something good here in Paris,” Sherif told RolandGarros.com. “I’m just enjoying it, it’s such a dream to be here and to compete here. I’m going to try to enjoy it as much as I can.”
Kostyuk, who hails Ukraine, made her unforgettable Grand Slam debut in 2018 at the Australian Open, where she reached the 3rd round as a 15-year-old and became the youngest player to win a match in Melbourne in over two decades.
A long battle with injuries threatened to stall her progress, but the resurgent Kostyuk has shown signs of her return to form after stretching Naomi Osaka to three sets in the third round of the 2020 US Open, just her second Slam appearance.
The No 2 seed defeated Romania’s Laura Ioana Paar, 6-2, 6-2, and next takes on Kurumi Nara, the No 22 seed from Japan, fwho dispatched India’s Ankita Raina, 6-3 6-2.
Zvonareva close to qualifying
Vera Zvonareva, who last played Paris qualifying in 2002, has just one more match to win to make it into the main draw where she reached the quarter-finals the following year.
“I still believe in myself, I still believe I can beat anyone on the other side of the net if I’m able to play my best tennis,” she said. “That’s not easy to do at all.”
The former World No 2 from Russia has been away from the tour for several years, became a mother before returning to competition earlier this year, and is making only a second appearance in Paris since 2011 .
“The competition is increasingly tough at the moment, it doesn’t matter if you’re in qualies or main draw, you will have to be ready for anything,” she says.
The Russian has booked a third-round qualifying clash with No 16 seed Monica Niculescu from Romania, after halting a resurgence from Australia’s Arina Rodionova in a 6-0 6-4 victory on Thursday.
Zvonareva produced patches of scintillating tennis as she stormed through the opening set in just 27 minutes.
“It’s always nice to get a win,” added the 36-year-old. “I haven’t been able to play too many matches at Roland-Garros in recent years.
“The challenge out there is huge and to have another chance on the court is great feeling.”
The 2010 Wimbledon and US Open finalist last successfully qualified for a major at Roland-Garros right at the beginning of her career in 2002.
“It was my first ever Grand Slam,” said the current world No.182. “I think I was the last player into the qualifying.
“Eventually I made it through and then took on Serena Williams in the fourth round. I was one of only two players to take a set off her that year.”
Another veteran, 24th-seeded Italian, Sara Errani, also made her way to the final qualifying round after defeating Spain’s Eva Guerrero Alvarez, 6-4 6-1.
The 2012 finalist will take on No 4 seed Tereza Martincova from Czech Republic as she seeks her first Grand Slam main draw appearance since 2018.
Other Thursday results
It was also a successful second-round for Latin American tennis, after Mexico’s Renata Zarazua, Chile’s Daniela Seguel and Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska all advanced to the final qualifying matches.
Zarazua and Seguel will face each other in the third round after fighting past seeded opponents, with Zarazua defeating No 12 Viktoria Tomova from Bulgaria, 6-3 6-4 and Seguel coming back from a set down to take out No 19 Leonie Kung from Switzerland, 4-6 6-4 6-3.
Zarazua is seeking to become the first Mexican woman in a Grand Slam main draw since Angelica Gavaldon at the 2000 Australian Open, while Seguel would be the first Chilean since Germaine Ohaco’s 1982 US Open appearance.
Meanwhile Podoroska, the No 8 seed, took down Romania’s Jaqueline Cristian, 6-0 6-4, to set up a clash with No 20 Wang Xinyu, who needed 3 sets to eliminate Tessah Andrianjafitrimo from France, 6-4 6-7(4) 6-1.
Podoroska burst back on the scene after lockdown with an astonishing set of results and cruised through her encounter with conviction.
“I’ve been playing a lot of matches in the past few weeks, that’s given me a lot of confidence and I couldn’t be happier,” said the 8th seed. “My level is up, I’m not making too many mistakes, which is putting a lot of pressure on my opponents.”
The 23-year-old, playing at a career-high No 130, has compiled an impressive 16-3 record since the return of tennis.
“It’s been a very promising and productive year for me, even before the quarantine. I trained so much at my base in Alicante, over three months my coaches helped improve all aspects and that is coming out on the court,” she explained.
Podoroska last featured in a Grand Slam at US Open 2016 and attributes her patience in returning to main draw contention in Paris.
“So many things like injuries, changing my team, out of form, it took me a long time to regain the confidence I have now,” she said. “To be back at this level is a great feeling.
“Roland-Garros is such a special place for South Americans so I would love to make it, but I have one more match to focus on.”
Also into the final round is No 9 seed Astra Sharma from Australia, who faces Italy’s Martina Trevisan next.