‘Les Bleus’ continue to advance at the French Open, with Leolia Jeanjean and Alizé Cornet upsetting Karolina Pliskova and Jelena Ostapenko on Thursday to join Dianne Parry, conqueror of defending champion Barbora Krejcikova, in the 3rd round at Roland Garros, but Caroline Garcia fell to Madison Keys.
I don’t have an explanation. I don’t even realise what’s happening. I know I’m 26. It’s my first Grand Slam. I thought I would have lost in the first round in two sets, and now I found myself beating a top-10 player... When I stopped playing when I was young, I just wanted to give myself another chance, because in my head since I was good when I was like 14, 15, so I’m like, ‘why I can’t be good 10 years later?’. Leolia Jeanjean
These results continued a series of excellent performances from lower-ranked Frenchwomen at Roland Garros, with Elsa Jacquemot making it into the 2nd round, where she pushed Angelique Kerber, and Tessah Andrianjafitrimo, who gave Pliskova some trouble in the opening round.
Also out of contention are 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep, who fell to unseeded Zheng Qinwen, a 19-year old from China, and Danielle Collins, a casualty of fellow American Shelby Rogers, but safely through are seeds Paula Badosa, Aryna Sabalenka and Jessica Pegula, led by World No 1 Iga Swiatek, who stormed into the Last 32 in just 61 minutes.
Opening on Court Simonne-Mathieu, wild-card Jeanjean eliminated Pliskova, the 8th seed from Czech Republic, 6-2 6-2, while Cornet took out 13th-seeded Ostapenko from Latvia, 6-0 1-6 6-3, in front of a packed home crowd in the night session on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
While Cornet is a familiar figure on tour, Jeanjean is not, aged 26 and ranked 227 in the world.
In beating Pliskova, the Wimbledon finalist, Jeanjean became the lowest-ranked woman to win a match against a top-10 player in Paris since Spain’s Conchita Martinez beat Lori McNeil from the USA in 1988.
It is an amazing performance for a player who was a talented junior but had to give up tennis for almost 5 years after suffering a serious knee injury.
“I don’t really know what to say, actually, because what’s happening right now, it’s really something I never imagine before,” Jeanjean said. “You know, when I stopped playing for four, five years, I never told myself I’d be in the third round of a Grand Slam.
“I don’t have an explanation. I don’t even realise what’s happening. I know I’m 26. It’s my first Grand Slam. I thought I would have lost in the first round in two sets, and now I found myself beating a top-10 player.
“I don’t really know how it’s possible, what’s happening. I just try to give my best to play my tennis, and it’s working so far.
“When I stopped playing when I was young, I just wanted to give myself another chance, because in my head since I was good when I was like 14, 15, so I’m like, ‘why I can’t be good 10 years later?’.
“So that’s why, yeah, I took my chance, and so far it’s working.”
A top junior in France, Jeanjean was tipped for stardom until she suffered the knee injury, which caused her to quit the sport.
She decided to go to college in the United States, first attending Baylor University, then the University of Arkansas and finally, taking a year at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, where she began to play top-level tennis again while studying for a degree in finance.
Until now she had not contested a tour-level main draw or played a Top 50 player, but she took out 45th-ranked Nuria Parrizas Diaz from Spain in the first round, and claimed her first Top 10 win on Thursday in a display of flair and creativity.
She rarely gave Pliskova 2 shots the same, upsetting her rhythm with high topspin forehands and mixing in superb drop-shots to bring up her first break point at 2-2, and going on to convert when Pliskova double-faulted.
That was the start of an 8-game run for Jeanjean, who out-manoeuvred the Czech with changes of spin, pace and direction to take a 6-2, 4-0 lead, staving off 2 break points in the last of those, the second with one of her finest drop-shots of the day, to extend her lead.
Jeanjean dropped only 7 points on her first serve, while Pliskova produced 28 unforced errors in the match, and the Frenchwoman now will play Irina-Camelia Begu next, who knocked out 30th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, in the 3rd round, 6-0 6-3.
The Romanian was fortunate to escape with just a warning after she bounced her racket on the court in frustration, and saw it spin off into the crowd, leaving a child in tears.
Alexandrova was upset by the lenient decision, disputing the verdict with the supervisor and, when Begu broke back immediately after the incident, she was furious and fired a ball into the air and out of the court before slamming her racket onto her bag and arguing with the umpire, who gave her a warning as the crowd booed.
“So disappointed to leave Roland Garros like that, I was trying to do my best, but seems like the rules were against me today,” Alexandrova wrote on social media afterwards. “This shouldn’t be happening. I hope after today’s match rules will be improved for everyone’s safety. We are responsible for our racket.”
Later, Begu admitted: “Well, it’s an embarrassing moment for me, so I don’t want to talk too much about it. I just want to apologise.
“In my whole career I didn’t do something like this, and I feel really bad and sorry. So I’m just going to say again, sorry for the incident and, yeah, it was just an embarrassing moment for me.”
Meanwhile Jeanjean will see her ranking set to rise inside the world’s top 150, so the Frenchwoman will try to qualify for Wimbledon next month, and now plans to test herself on the WTA tour.
As a new star is born, a 32-year old veteran, Cornet, lit up the Paris night as she treated fans to a memorable 3-set win over Ostapenko, the 2017 Roland Garros champion.
A two-time published author, the Frenchwoman produced a classic performance under the lights, with two of the tour’s flashiest shot-makers setting the tone for a fitting climax.
In the opening set, Cornet romped past the 24-year-old with lethal efficiency, inviting the Latvian to misfire while she claimed the set to love in just 23 minutes, and allowing her opponent to win just 8 points in total, one of which came from the Frenchwoman’s own unforced error.
The 13th seed raised her level in the second, improving her first-serve percentage to turn the tables, and dropping just a single game in levelling the match, only for Cornet to snatch back control at the start of the third.
Ostapenko reacted to the 0-3 deficit with some booming forehand returns, and reeled off the next 2 games to set the stage for the drama everyone on Chatrier had been hoping for.
With the fans urging her on, Cornet rallied after tweaking her upper thigh sliding into a forehand at 4-3, but she did not face another break point, holding up under Ostapenko’s baseline barrage.
After an hour and 43 minutes, Cornet had fired 10 winners and made just 5 unforced errors, while Ostapenko bombarded her with 26 winners, but the Latvian was undone by her 48 unforced errors, which made up over half of the 80 points the Frenchwoman won during the match.
Zheng, the 19-year-old who ousted Halep earlier in the day, 2-6 6-2 6-1, awaits Cornet in the 3rd round.
The Chinese teenager showed why she is one of the most exciting prospects on the women’s tour after the World No 70 took out the Romanian 19th seed, coming from a set down to triumph.
“I feel really nice,” Zheng said after her upset win. “It’s a second Grand Slam for me, so I enjoy every chance that I stand on court. I try to give my best like always and I’m glad [about] my performance today.”
Halep called for the doctor during the 3rd set and later explained: “It was just a panic attack. It happened.
“I didn’t know how to handle it, because I don’t have it often. I don’t really know why it happened, because I was leading the match, I was playing well.
“I lost it. I couldn’t focus. After the match, was pretty tough. But now I’m good. I’m recovered, and I will learn from this episode. Nothing like dangerous, in my opinion.”
The 30-year-old Romanian added she had been given the all-clear by doctors.
Elsewhere, Swiatek continued her dominant form by thrashing American Alison Riske, 6-0 6-2, taking her tally of consecutive match wins to 30.
Swiatek raced through the first set against 43rd-ranked Riske in just 21 minutes, and was 3-0 up in the second before the American avoided a ‘double bagel’ after the Pole had taken her record of 6-0 sets in 2022 to a season-leading 15.
“I’m pretty happy to play some solid tennis,” said Swiatek, now one of only 3 of the top 10 women’s seeds to survive the opening two rounds at Roland Garros.
Swiatek hit 23 winners to 15 unforced errors in 61 minutes, and she lost just 10 points in 7 service games.
She now takes on Danka Kovinic from Montenegro, who defeated Anna Karolína Schmiedlova from Slovakia, 6-3 7-5.
Spanish 3rd seed Badosa survived a tricky second set to overcome Kaja Juvan from Slovenia, 7-5 3-6 6-2, and will play Veronika Kudermetova, the No 29 seed from Russian, playing as a neutral and a 6-3 6-3 winner against Serbian qualifier Aleksandra Krunic.
Keys from the US defeated home favourite Garcia, 6-4 7-6, and the 22nd seed is set to take on 16th seed Elena Rybakina from Kazakhstan, a 6-4 6-0 winner over American wild-card Katie Volynets.
In an all-American match-up, Rogers defeated 9th-seeded Collins, 6-4 6-3, and next plays 20th seed Daria Kasatkina, who is playing under a neutral banner due to Russia’s involvement in the invasion of Ukraine and eased past Mexican qualifier Fernanda Contreras Gomez, 6-0 6-3.
Another neutral athlete, Sabalenka, who usually competes under the Belarus flag, defeated American Madison Brengle, 6-1 6-3, the 7th seed meeting the 28th seed, Italian Camila Giorgi next, who won 6-3 7-5 over Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.
American 11th seed Jessica Pegula also progressed, in 3 sets, beating Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina, 6-1 5-7 6-4, and will now meet Slovenian 24th seed Tamara Zidansek, who received a walk-over from Mayar Sherif, after the Egyptian pulled out due to a foot injury.