Paris | 8 out 16 qualifiers determined on Thursday

Eight qualifiers have made it into the main draw at Roland Garros, having won their 3rd and final round matches on Thursday, while 16 players have yet to fight it out for the remaining 8 places on Friday.

I found the joy again of playing tennis. I think you can see it on the court, I’m really trying to smile a lot and to just play, not thinking about results and everything – that’s what I’m trying to do.” Jule Niemeier

Julia Riera, Jules Niemeier, Moyuka Uchijima and Olga Danilovic were among those happy to advance.

Riera, the No 2 seed from Argentina, ruined Alex Eala’s 19th birthday by outlasting the Filipino, 4-6 76(3) 6-4, after a 2 hour 37 minute battle.

The match could have gone either way to the finish line, as Riera attempted to pull away when she went up 4-2, but Eala resisted and levelled the score at 4-4.

The Filipino teenager then crucially dropped her serve in the 9th game, enabling the Argentine to pocket the next 2 games and steal the match.

For Eala, the World No 160, it was a major disappointment as she was bidding to become the first Filipino female player in the modern era to earn a spot in the Grand Slam main draw, especially since she scored more points than Riera in the match, 108 to 104, and had a better first serve percentage, 75% to 59%, but her 2 double-faults came at a fatal stage of the third set.

Riera, ranked 93, got off to the quicker start, bounding out to 4-0 lead in the first set, but the 5-foot-9 Eala snapped out of her sluggish early form to rack up the next 6 games and take the opener.

A shocked Riera, who is riding a wave of recent success after winning the ITF W100 Wiesbaden Tennis Open in Germany and ITF W75 Axion Open in Switzerland this past month, gained control of the second when she opened up a 5-3 lead, but the Filipino again showed her resolve and drew even at 6-6 to send the matter into a tiebreak.

Riera jumped to a 5-1 lead in the breaker, providing enough cushion to close out the set, extending the match to a decider.

Finding good form is Jule Niemeier, who enjoyed another comfortable win, this time against Dalma Galfi, dropping just 12 games across all 3 qualifying matches

© Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Niemeier, a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon on her main draw debut at the All England Club in 2022, defeated Dalma Galfi, the Hungarian No 32 seed, 6-4 6-1, and then spoke about finding tennis fun again.

The German had backed up her Wimbledon run with a trip to the second week in her US Open debut, where she pushed eventual champion Iga Swiatek to 3 sets in the round of 16 at Flushing Meadows.

A slump then grounded the German in 2023, and she managed just a single win at the majors as pressure and expectations sapped her confidence.

“The last year was pretty tough after having a pretty good first year on tour, playing quarters at Wimbledon and last 16 at the US Open,” Niemeier told after solidifying her place in the main draw. “It was just tough last year to have joy on the court, to enjoy playing tennis and to love the game again.”

Niemeier won just 9 of 28 matches on tour last year, and dropped over 100 spots in the rankings from a peak at No 61 in November, 2022, to a year-end 2023 ranking of 162.

Things started to improve, though, when she hired renowned German coach Michael Geserer last November, who has set her on a path to getting back inside the Top 100.

“It was great timing,” Niemeier said of teaming up with Geserer, who has also coached Julia Goerges, Jennifer Brady and Petra Martic. “We started working in November, right before the pre-season so we had a lot of time, five or six weeks at home, practicing – it was perfect for us to start the teamwork for everything.

“We had a great off-season and I think we can see it on the court that I’m playing well. I found my game again, I know how I want to play, and what I want to do on court.”

More than anything, Geserer has helped Niemeier rediscover her love for the sport, and her joyful celebration after locking up the win over Galfi on Thursday afternoon in Paris was the end-product of months of hard work.

“I found the joy again of playing tennis,” she said. “I think you can see it on the court, I’m really trying to smile a lot and to just play, not thinking about results and everything – that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now that she has qualified, Niemeier is hoping she can continue the positive vibes into her first main draw win in Paris.

“I’m happy with the match today, and glad that I could qualify,” she said. “It’s always special to play here in Paris and it would be great to get my first win.

“I’m just trying to enjoy everything that I’m doing now, on and off the court, and it’s really working well, just trying to live in the moment.”

Another player celebrating their passage into a first Roland-Garros was Turkey's 22-year-old Zeynep Sonmez

© Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

It was a massive day also for Turkey’s Zeynep Sonmez, who completed her successful run through qualifying with a 7-6(5) 6-3 win over Croatia’s Jana Fett on Court No 6.

157th-ranked Sonmez took out 12th-seeded Aliaksandra Sasnovich, and now the 21st-seed to reach her maiden Grand Slam main draw.

Japan’s Moyuka Uchijima, seeded 9, battled her way past Cypriot Raluka Serban, 7-5 6-4, while France’s Leolia Jeanjean needed 2 hours and 24 minutes to get past American 19-year old Robin Montgomery, 4-6 6-2 6-4.

Spain’s Irene Burillo Escorihuela also powered into the main draw early on Thursday with a 6-1 7-6(1) win over Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann, as did 11th-seeded Olga Danilovic from Serbia, who edged past Astra Sharma, the No 22 seed from Australia, 7-6(2) 7-5.

After some good form on the ITF circuit this year, Japan's Moyuka Uchijima beat Cypriot Raluka Serban 7-5 6-4 in the third round

© Julien Crosnier / FFT



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