Paris | Errani leads the charge in Roland Garros Qualifying

128 women are fighting it out in French Open qualifying this week for 16 places in the main draw at Roland Garros, where they will provide a real threat to those direct entries they meet as they will be battle-hardy and well-used to the clay courts and match conditions, having played 3 rounds for the privilege.

I think the game now, after so many years, has so much more power now. That makes it all very difficult for me. Also, I'm really old, so physically it's not the same for me anymore. Everybody is stronger, hitting harder than many years ago, so I have to come up with different answers, changing the height of the ball, drop-shots, sometimes the net. I have to be smart and play intelligent tennis to put my opponents in tricky positions. Sara Errani

Top seed Sara Errani is leading the charge, and was one of the winners of the 1st-round in qualifying after the 37-year-old Italian came through 6-3 6-4 in 1 hour and 28 minutes against American Ann Li on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

The 2012 finalist kicked off her campaign to book a 14th main draw ticket in Paris after fending off a second set fightback from the World No 178, and was relieved to close it out in straight sets.

“Very happy of course. Not easy coming last minute from Rome, I’m pretty tired. I know she’s a really good player,” said Errani, who had won the Italian Open doubles title with compatriot Jasmine Paolini 48 hours earlier. “I was 4-1, 5-2 up [in the second set] and I had to be brave at the end, it was tough to close out.

“I’m playing with a smile because it’s still a pleasure for me to compete in this sport,” added the former World No 5. “I’m trying to give everything, every time I head onto the court. I love to watch it, at all levels, I love to watch all types of players. I just love tennis.”

The No 1 qualifying seed this year is making her 17th appearance at the tournament, having made her qualifying debut in 2007, while it is 12 years since Errani was runner-up to Maria Sharapova in the final on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The Italian has had to adapt to remain in the hunt for deep runs at majors.

“I think the game now, after so many years, has so much more power now,” added Errani. “That makes it all very difficult for me. Also, I’m really old, so physically it’s not the same for me anymore.

“Everybody is stronger, hitting harder than many years ago, so I have to come up with different answers, changing the height of the ball, drop-shots, sometimes the net. I have to be smart and play intelligent tennis to put my opponents in tricky positions.”

French qualifying wild card Alice Tubello produced an emotional performance to beat Ya Yi Yang, 5-7 7-6(6) 6-1, and she plays top seed Sara Errani in round two

© Loïc Wacziak / FFT

Errani advances to meet French wild-card Alice Tubello, the 23-year-old having battled back to navigate past Yang Ya Yi from Taipei, 5-7 7-6(6) 6-1.

She is one 2 Frenchwomen, spurred on by the Parisian crowd, who turned their matches around from the brink of defeat.

Tubello saved 2 match points down, the first when Yang served for the match at 6-5 in the second set, and her second in the tiebreak, and missed on the forehand both times.

On Monday, former No 90 Harmony Tan fended off 5 match points on her way to outlasting Nastasja Schunk from Germany, 6-7(3) 7-6(6) 6-3, in 3 hours and 35 minute.

Tan, who famously defeated Serena Williams in the 23-time major champion’s final Wimbledon match in 2022, squandered 2 set points to drop the first set to Schunk, the 2021 Wimbledon junior finalist, but had to save 2 while serving at 4-5 in the second, and then 3 more serving at 5-6, before pulling away in the decider.

Mai Hontama, the No 13 seed from Japan had to save 7 match points in a contest full of twists and turns before she got the better of Canadian Carol Zhao, 7-5 5-7 7-5, in 2 hours and 56 minutes.

Hontama won the first set from 5-3 down, and missed her first match point serving at 5-4 in the second set.

From 5-2 down in the third set, the Japanese won the last 5 games in a row, with all 7 of Zhao’s match points coming when the Canadian was serving at 5-3.

Romania’s Miriam Bulgaru also saved a match point when Aliona Falei from Belarus served at 6-5 in the third set, triumphing 6-4 5-7 7-6[3] after 3 hours and 17 minutes.

Argentine second seed Julia Riera was another to race through, winning 6-0 6-2 to book a ticket into the second round

© Cédric Lecocq / FFT

11 of the Top 16 seeds notched up opening wins, with No 2 Julia Riera from Argentina taking just 53 minutes to speed past Serbia’s Natalija Stevanovic, 6-0 6-2 on Monday, while No 5 Jule Niemeier from Germany, the 2022 Wimbledon quarter-finalist, enjoyed the quickest victory of the 1st-round with a 6-0 6-1 rout of Laura Ioana Paar from Romania in 44 minutes.

35-year old Paar was playing for the first time since Wimbledon 2022, and had been the last direct entry to the qualifying draw via a special ranking.

No 9 Moyuka Uchijima extended her winning streak to 16 matches by defeating Lithuania’s Justina Mikulskyte, 6-2 6-1, after the Japanese 22-year-old made her Top 100 debut this week after winning consecutive ITF titles in Gifu, Trnava and Madrid.

No 16 Rebecca Sramkova is, like Uchijima, a brand new face in this week’s Top 100 after reaching the 4th-round of Rome as a qualifier. The Slovak also sustained her strong form, dismissing 17-year-old wild-card Sarah Iliev from France, 6-4 6-1.

There were early upsets too, with Lucija Ciric Bagaric from Croatia taking out Arina Rodionova from Australia, 6-4 6-3, the highest seed at No 7 to lose her opener.

20-year old Ciric Bagaric is making her Grand Slam qualifying debut, and began 2024 on a 23-match winning streak that has taken her to a career high of 185.

Rodionova was making a quick surface transition after reaching the Kurume ITF W75 final last week on Japanese hard courts.

Slovenia’s Veronika Erjavec notched her first Grand Slam qualifying win over No 14 Claire Liu, from USA, 2-6 6-3 6-3, in 1 hour and 55 minutes, while Russia’s Julia Avdeeva, also making her Grand Slam qualifying debut, took out No 15 Emiliana Arango from Colombia, 6-4 2-6 6-3, in 2 hours and 1 minute.

The 2021 singles semi-finalist Tamara Zidansek from Slovenia eased past compatriot Polona Hercog, 6-2 6-4

© Rémy Chautard / FFT

Just 3 years ago Tamara Zidansek catapulted into the semi-finals in Paris in a dream career-changing run.

“This is something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. I hope that I can get anywhere near as close as that, make it happen again, make it even better,” said the Slovenian, the No 25 seed, who her compatriot Polona Hercog, 6-2 6-4, on Tuesday.

“But that’s the outcome, I’m trying to focus on what I can do best every day and hopefully I can go far again,” she said. “I always feel at home here at Roland-Garros, it’s my surface and I have good memories here. First round, no matter what tournament, is always tough, especially facing an experienced opponent from my home country.”

The World No 131 has been here before, having qualified for the Roland-Garros main draw last year, and the 26-year-old is intent on feeding off that experience.

“It does help because first round of qualies is tough, second round is a little bit easier, third round is the hardest,” reflected Zidansek. “It’s emotional and not something that can be taken for granted.

“We see more qualifiers going further in main draws, its strong, everyone can play top tennis and are everyone is a good competitor.”

Since last November Zidansek has been wrestling with a shoulder injury and then being diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. Both issues have cleared up and the World No 131 feels she can finally trouble the established order once again.

Serbia's Olga Danilovic, who made the third round of the main draw in 2023, fought her way past Anca Todoni, 6-1 4-6 6-1

© Rémy Chautard / FFT

There was another French reason to celebrate for the Parisian crowds as Leolia Jeanjean dispatched Romanian Andreea Mitu, 7-5 6-2.

American No 8 seed Katie Volynets swept aside World No 171 Lucrezia Stefanini from Italy, 6-2 6-1.

No 11 seed Olga Danilovic from Serbia evaded danger in a 6-1 4-6 6-1 victory over Romania’s Anca Alexia Todoni, whilst No 17 seed Daria Snigur from Ukraine posted a 7-5 6-2 win against Greek Despina Papamichail.

Czech sisters Brenda and Linda Fruhvirtova both advanced in straight sets, the former, Brenda, seeded 4 and aged 17, raced past former No 43 Viktoria Hruncakova from Slovakia, 6-0 6-3 in 64 minutes, while the latter, Linda, aged 19, defeated Iryna Shymanovich from Belarus, 6-4 6-2.

19-year-old Canadian Marina Stakusic, who turned heads with her performance in last November’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals, won the first Grand Slam qualifying match of her career 6-1 6-4 over No 10 seed Marina Bassols Ribera from Spain.

A generational clash saw Petra Marcinko, an 18-year old from Croatia, advance 6-2 6-4 over two-time quarter-finalist Kaia Kanepi, a 38-year old from Estonia.

Former junior No 5 Sara Saito, a 17-year old from Japan, marked her Grand Slam qualifying debut by defeating Francisca Jorge of Portugal, 6-4 6-1, and will face No 28 seed Alycia Parks from the USA, who snapped a 13-match losing streak to defeat French wild-card Manon Leonard, 2-6 6-2 6-3.

Czech Dominika Salkova, 19, extended her winning streak to 6 matches after coming from 4-1 down in the third set to beat No 31 seed Arianne Hartono from the Netherlands, 6-4 2-6 6-4.



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