Britain’s Harriet Dart was in dominant form as she beat Romanian 5th seed Mihaela Buzarnescu in the first round of French Open qualifying on Tuesday, the same day that top main draw seed Simona Halep admitted the Roland Garros coronavirus situation is worrying and Bianca Andreescu decided to write off the 2020 season in a bid to ‘come back stronger’ following injury.
I have come to the difficult decision to skip the clay court swing this year. I will be taking the remainder of the season off to focus on my health and training. As hard as it was to come to this conclusion, I have so much to look forward to in 2021, including the Olympics. I want to use this time to focus on my game so I can come back stronger and better than ever. Bianca Andreescu
Following Ashleigh Barty’s decision not to play in Paris, Halep is a strong favourite to win the title after winning the Italian Open in Rome on Monday.
Five players, however, have already being removed from the qualifying draws at Roland Garros due to potential coronavirus exposure risks.
“I heard [about the positive test results] before the match [in Rome] and, of course, it worries me,” said Halep, who decided not to travel to play in the USA because of the health risks. “But I’m sure that measures will take place there, and we will be safe enough to be okay to play and to be safe.
“I don’t know yet because I’m not there. After I get there, I will have a feeling.”
Andreescu has endured a torrid time with injury since winning the US Open in 2019 and after her comeback in February she was unable to build her fitness, and opted not to defend her title at Flushing Meadows when tennis resumed following its coronavirus suspension.
“I have come to the difficult decision to skip the clay court swing this year,” Andreescu said on social media. “I will be taking the remainder of the season off to focus on my health and training.
“As hard as it was to come to this conclusion, I have so much to look forward to in 2021, including the Olympics.
“I want to use this time to focus on my game so I can come back stronger and better than ever.”
With Barty, Naomi Osaka and Andreescu set to miss the French Open, organisers are seeing the women’s draw struggling for star power, just as the US Open did earlier this month, but there is good depth of talent in the women’s field, especially among the younger generations.
Dart, at 24, won 9 games in a row to seal her emphatic 6-3 6-0 victory over Buzarnescu in just 63 minutes and must play Romania’s World No 163 Irina Bara or Croat Tereza Mrdeza, who is ranked 242nd, next.
There are three rounds of qualifying before the main draw of the clay-court Grand Slam starts on Sunday in Paris.
Dart, who reached the second round at this year’s Australian Open, has never played in the main draw at Roland Garros.
Fellow Briton Samantha Murray Sharan plays Australia’s Arina Rodionova in qualifying on Wednesday.
Last laugh goes to Haas
Barbara Haas, the No 17 seed from Austria, survived against Wimbledon junior champion Daria Snigur after leading 6-0 5-0, while there were also wins for Marta Kostyuk, Vera Zvonareva and Elisabetta Cocciaretto.
Haas came through her rollercoaster 6-0 5-7 7-5 defeat of Snigur in the first round, although after 42 minutes of play it looked as if she was sending young Ukrainian swiftly to the exit door.
The Austrian had lost just 6 points in the second set and held a match point for a rare double bagel victory, but her 18-year-old opponent recovered after Haas struck a double-fault on match point.
Making her debut, Snigur hit just 1 winner to 35 unforced errors in 11 games, but she sprung to life, triggering a turnaround that was nothing short of spectacular.
Three more double faults followed in her next service game and 2 in the one after that as the World No 143 failed to serve out the win three times.
Winners that had eluded Snigur started flowing, and the Ukrainian concede just one more point on serve in that second set as she reeled off 6 consecutive games to level the match, finishing with a blistering crosscourt forehand on the run.
Haas did not allow the collapse to extend into the decider, which opened with 7 breaks of serve in a row, but having edged to the brink of victory at 5-3, closing remained a complicated task.
The Austrian held two match point serving at 5-4, but double-faulted again on the first and netted a short forehand on the second.
The 24-year-old nonetheless proved steadier in the final stretch than Snigur, the World No 220, whose tactic of going for the lines failed to keep the ball in court often enough to take the lead herself.
Haas broke again for 6-5, came up with a brilliant volley pickup to reach match point for a fourth time – and this time converted it as Snigur sent a forehand into the net.
Other Tuesday results
Elsewhere No 1 seed Ann Li needed to overturn a break deficit and save 2 set points in the opener against Indy De Vroome, but the 20-year-old American reined in her initially inconsistent forehand just in time to emerge a 7-6(6) 6-4 victor after an hour and 41 minutes.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old No 2 seed Marta Kostyuk rode out a second-set blip to race through a 19-minute decider, defeating Isabella Shinikova 6-1 3-6 6-0 in a stellar showcase of all-court play.
Another teenager living up to recent form was 19-year-old No 6 seed Elisabetta Cocciaretto, who got her maiden Roland Garros off to a fine start with a 6-4 6-2 dismissal of Anastasiya Komardina.
Kristina Kucova, however, was a surprise casualty, the No 14 seed falling 6-1 6-3 to former World No.94 Richel Hogenkamp in just 68 minutes.
Local wildcards also fared well on the first day, with World No 519 Carole Monnet overturning a 370-spot ranking deficit to upset No 23 seed Whitney Osuigwe 6-3 6-1 in a battle of 18-year-olds, while World No 265 Tessah Andrianjafitrimo batted for 2 hours and 22 minutes to triumph 3-6 7-5 6-3 over Nuria Parrizas Diaz.
Elsewhere, 17-year-old World No 909 Aubane Droguet was unable to join her fellow Frenchwomen in the second round, but impressed with her powerful game as she pushed No 22 seed Kurumi Nara all the way in a 7-6(3) 3-6 6-2 defeat.
The two longest matches of the day both neared the 3-hour mark and were ultimately won at the net.
India’s Ankita Raina needed 2 hours and 47 minutes to overcome Jovana Jovic 6-4 4-6 6-4, boldly taking on drive volleys in a nail-biting final stretch and sealing her 4th match point with a do-or-die forehand winner down the line.
Later, Japanese World No 181 Mayo Hibi successfully blunted No 15 seed American Caroline Dolehide’s power with a series of feathery volleys and wafted lobs, coming from a break down three times in the 3rd set to emerge a 3-6 7-5 7-5 victor after two hours and 45 minutes.
Amidst the drama and the longueurs, the two highest-profile names in the draw slipped into the second round with the minimum of fuss.
No 24 seed and 2012 finalist Sara Errani eased past Ekaterine Gorgodze 6-2 6-2 in 69 minutes, while former World No 2 Vera Zvonareva, fresh off being crowned US Open doubles champion, was even more ruthless in dispatching No 11 seed and Russian compatriot Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-1 6-2 in 58 minutes.
Another impressively clean performance came from No 8 seed Nadia Podoroska, who improved her 2020 record to 36-6 and her current winning streak to 6 by striking 20 winners to just 10 unforced errors in an hour-long 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Magdalena Frech.
Up on Wednesday Sam Murray, who is 32, takes on the 30-year-old Arina Rodionova to begin her qualifying campaign.
Despite being ranked No 191, Murray is making her Roland Garros debut, but the two are familiar opponents, the Brit holding a 2-1 head-to-head advantage, although the No 165-ranked Rodionova did win their most recent match in 2018.