Angelique Kerber was the biggest name to fall on the opening day of the French Open when the German No 26 seed went down to Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina, 6-2 6-4 in an hour 26 minutes, while Petra Kvitova survived a scare after fending off a match point against Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen to advance.
I was just hoping that some point would just turn the match... I was just playing point by point. I started to serve a little bit better in the second set, and that was pretty important. Petra Kvitova
Qualifiers are always dangerous foes, having navigated their way through 3 gruelling rounds to play themselves into the main draw and growing more comfortable and confident with the conditions.
Kalinina did not drop a set on her way to meet the 3-time Grand Slam winner, and she was on song again against the World No 27, striking 21 winners to Kerber’s 18 but she also had 32 unforced errors to the German’s 27.
The World No 139, who came into Roland Garros qualifying in exceptional form having won back-to-back ITF Challenger events in Portugal and Croatia prior to Paris, finished with 70 points to the former World No 1’s 58, and broke Kerber 6 times en route to her first-ever win over a player ranked inside the Top 30.
Kalinina faces Danielle Collins next after the American, who is making a return to the tour after surgery for endometriosis, posted a 6-2 4-6 6-4 win over Chinese qualifier Xiyu Wang in their opening round.
Kvitova, the No 11 seed, came through a tough battle to fend off Minnen, 6-7(3) 7-6(5) 6-1 in 2 hours 16 minutes.
In the opening set, Minnen broke the former World No 2 early and took the lead, serving for the set in the 10th game, but was broken back by Kvitova.
In the tiebreak, Minnen once again built an early lead and, this time, held on long enough to go up a set.
The Czech, who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2012 and last year, struggled with her serve from the start and suffered service breaks in her first two games, but she fought back valiantly make the breaker under slightly windy conditions on the Suzanne Lenglen court, only to lose it by serving three double-faults.
Kvitova was down 30-40 at 6-5 in the second set and staring at a first-round exit at Roland Garros for the first time since 2010 when she saved the match point with a crosscourt backhand winner and then levelled things in the tiebreak.
Her confidence soared in the decider and she jumped to a 5-0 lead in no time, losing just 3 points on serve in the third set.
“I would say that, from my side, it wasn’t really good from the beginning,” she said. “I was struggling, I was missing a lot, I was double-faulting a lot.
“I didn’t really feel myself that well. I was pretty tight. And, yeah, it was really tough. I mean, I was fighting not only with her but with myself as well.
“I’m glad that, in the end, I beat myself as well and beat her, so that counts.”
Minnen, the World No 125, had lost both her previous meetings with Kvitova in straight sets but she looked the stronger player for most of the match until her resistance faded when Kvitova reined in her errors and found her range with her crushing forehands.
“I was just hoping that some point would just turn the match… I was just playing point by point,” said Kvitova, who had 44 unforced errors.
“I started to serve a little bit better in the second set, and that was pretty important.”
In the second round, Kvitova will play Elena Vesnina after the Russian defeated lucky loser Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-1 6-0 in just 58 minutes.
In other early matches on Day 1, No 33 seed Paula Badosa of Spain continued her stellar clay-court season with a 6-2 7-6(3) win over Lauren Davis of the United States.
Badosa has reached the semi-finals or better in her last 3 events, all on clay courts, at Charleston, Madrid, and Belgrade where she won her first career WTA singles title.
The Spaniard is now up to 6 consecutive wins following her 1 hour 40 minute victory over Davis, striking 27 winners in the affair, whereas the American fired 18 winners and had 32 unforced errors.
After a routine opening frame, Badosa faced a sterner challenge from World No 86 in the second set.
The American broke Badosa to love to lead 5-4, but the Spaniard stopped her from serving out the set with a love break of her own, ultimately reeling off the last 6 points of the tiebreak to gain victory.
Badosa will play Danka Kovinic in the second round after the Montenegrin ousted French wild-card Clara Burel, 6-3 7-6(8) in their opener.
Another French wild-card, Elsa Jacquemot, also suffered a loss in the opening round, to Elena Rybakina, the Kazakh 21st seed, who won 6-4 6-1 in an hour 21 minutes.
Rybakina will now take on Nao Hibino of Japan in the second round after the Japanese ousted Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic, 7-6(4) 6-2, in their opening match.
Veronika Kudermetova also reached the second round with a 7-6(5) 6-1 defeat of Amanda Anisimova.
In the second round, the 29th seed from Russia will play a Czech player in either Marie Bouzkova or Katerina Siniakova.
Another Russian, the 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also made it to the round-of-64 with a 6-4 6-0 win against Anisimova’s compatriot Christina McHale.
In the second round, Pavlyuchenkova will play Australian Ajla Tomljanovic who won 6-2 6-4 against Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova.
Lastly, Clara Tauson also came through her opener when the Dane defeated Georgian qualifier Ekaterina Gorgodze, 6-4 6-2, and she next meets former World No 1 and 15th seed Victoria Azarenka, who took out 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova from Russia, 6-4 2-6 6-3.