Paris | Miyazaki falls as Kulikova topples top seed in Q2

There was disappointment for 26-year-old Tokyo-born Yuriko Miyazaki, who switched from representing Japan to Great Britain in March earlier this year, and fell 7-5 6-2 to Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium in the 2nd-round of qualifying at Roland Garros on Wednesday.

I haven't played in months so to be back playing pain-free, and to be winning matches is good. I know I'm still a long way from my level but, I think, any kind of wins are going to help me get there. Patience has never been my virtue and, I think, just realising the things that I have to do, and that it's going to take time to get back to my level, and, actually, accepting that is maybe still something I'm struggling with. Throughout my career I've had some ups and downs definitely. Donna Vekic

Miyazaki made her WTA Tour singles debut at the 2022 Lyon Open in February but had her hopes of making it into the main singles draw of the French Open dashed after her 1 hour 12 minute encounter with the more experienced Belgian.

Great Britain’s representation in the field will be led by 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu, with Heather Watson and Harriet Dart also direct entries into the women’s draw.

Raducanu, the World No 12, who recently split from coach Torben Beltz, will be making her debut at Roland Garros in her first full year on the tour.

The 19-year-old British No 1 will hope to allay any injury concerns after she was forced to retire from her first-round match at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia recently because of a back problem.

Meanwhile, Finland’s Anastasia Kulikova notched up the biggest upset of qualifying so far, ousting top seed Anastasia Potapova on Wednesday, 5-7 7-6(5) 6-3.

Kulikova, the first Finnish woman to compete in a Grand Slam qualifying draw since Emma Laine at the 2007 US Open, pulled off her win in 2 hours and 43 minutes after saving 2 match points.

Now bidding to become the first Finn in a main draw since Laine at Roland Garros that the same year, she impressed with a hefty forehand that helped garner her 44 winners in total to win her first meeting with a top 100 player.

The 22-year-old, who cracked the Top 200 for the first time this week after winning the Split ITF W25 title, faces Bonaventure for a spot in the main draw.

Potapova had shown signs of resurgence last month when she collected her first Hologic WTA Tour title in Istanbul, but squandered double match point at 6-5 in the second set.


Last year's Roland-Garros girls' singles champion Linda Noskova moved into the final round of qualifying with victory against Conny Perrin.

© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Last year’s Roland Garros junior champion Linda Noskova from Czech Republic took another step towards her main-draw debut with a 6-4 4-6 6-3 win over Swiss Conny Perrin in the second round.

Noskova has risen from No 659 to her current No 185 in the rankings over the past 12 months, but has yet to compete in a tour-level main draw.

Over the course of 2 hours and 3 minutes, she got to grips with the variety of 31-year-old Perrin’s game, and was particularly impressive down the home stretch.

Having dropped serve to go down 3-2 in the 3rd set, Noskova responded by rattling off 14 straight points, and, ultimately, 16 of the last 18, sealing her first match point with an emphatic smash.

Noskova’s fellow Czech, 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova, though, fell 7-5 3-6 7-5 to Viktoria Kuzmova from Slovakia.

Fruhvirtova, ranked 192, led Kuzmova by a 4-1 double break in the final set, but it was the powerful Slovak who held firm to mount a come-back.

Kuzmova, who reached a career high of No 43 in 2019 but has since fallen to 191, saved 5 break points in a crucial game to hold for 5-4 in the decider, and sealed the deal after 2 hours 30 minutes when Fruhvirtova coughed up her 4th double-fault at match point down.


A general view of Roland Garros

FFT/Facebook

Elsewhere, high seeds who did manage to progress, including No 2 Jule Niemeier from Germany, who dispatched France’s Jessika Ponchet, 6-4 6-0, in 70 minutes; No 3 Zhu Lin from China, who eased past Natalia Vikhlyantseva, 6-1 6-2, in 69 minutes; and No 5 Irina Bara, who needed 3 hours and 2 minutes to overcome French wild-card Selena Janicijevic, 5-7 6-4 6-3.

2020 quarter-finalist Laura Siegemund’s come-back from knee surgery continued apace as the German took out 4th-seeded Wang Xiyu of China, 6-3 6-3, while a trio of Japanese players reached the last round of qualifying with fine wins to buck their nation’s history on clay.

Moyuka Uchijima, 20, continued a stellar Grand Slam qualifying debut by defeating Liechtenstein’s Kathinka Von Deichmann, 3-6 6-4 6-2.

Uchijima only returned to action following the Covid-19 shutdown last August, and has compiled a 53-16 record since then on the ITF World Tour, including 5 titles.

Yuki Naito, 21, has previously excelled on clay, with 5 of her 6 ITF titles coming on the terre battue.

The World No 219 also came from a set down, advancing 2-6 6-3 6-3 past Katharina Gerlach from Germany.

The young pair were joined by former World No 56 Nao Hibino, who needed 7 set points to close out the opener but, eventually, beat Yuliya Hatouka, 7-6(7) 6-2.


Former top-20 player Donna Vekic advanced to the final round of qualifying with a hard-fought 3-set win over Louisa Chirico on Wednesday

©Loic Wacziak / FFT

Meanwhile, Donna Vekic, the 6th seed from Croatia, who cracked the top 20 two-and-a-half years ago and has since endured right knee surgery, which curtailed her last season, advanced with a a 6-0 3-6 7-5 win against American Louisa Chirico.

“I haven’t played in months so to be back playing pain-free, and to be winning matches is good,” Vekic, whose best result in Paris was a 4th-round appearance 3 years ago, said. “I know I’m still a long way from my level but, I think, any kind of wins are going to help me get there.”

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the Croatian appeared in a hurry to reach the final round of Roland-Garros qualifying when she bolted through the opening set in just 29 minutes.

Chirico, the World No 231 was intent on playing spoiler and, having levelled sets, she went on to serve for the match at 5-3, but Vekic’s resolve shone as she peeled off the final 4 games to prevail after 2 hours 12 minutes and set a showdown with Anastasia Gasanova, a 6-4 6-3 winner over Aussie Priscilla Hon.

“Patience has never been my virtue and, I think, just realising the things that I have to do, and that it’s going to take time to get back to my level, and, actually, accepting that is maybe still something I’m struggling with,” she said. “Throughout my career I’ve had some ups and downs definitely.

“I’ve always been quick to get up from those downs, but I’ve never really had to deal with an injury, so that’s something different for sure and something I had to learn to accept.”

Acceptance of situations beyond her control, unfortunately, has become a familiar battle for Lesia Tsurenko  this year, but the Ukrainian easily dispatched 2012 Roland-Garros runner-up Sara Errani from Italy, 6-1 6-2, to book a final-round clash with Naito.

Since qualifying in January for the Australian Open, where she faced eventual champion Ash Barty in the opening round, a recurring elbow injury has hindered the former World No 23, but that paled in comparison to the struggle ahead of her when, in March, she put out a plea for a new training base, unable to return home due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Having endured a lengthy journey from Spain, via Poland to collect her car from the Ukrainian border, Tsurenko’s plan to base herself in Munich was quickly foiled due to snow.

The Piatti Academy in Bordighera, on the Italian Riviera, eventually became her new home away from home.

“My friend Marta Kostyuk is training there so I thought, OK, at least I go to some place where I have some friends,” Tsurenko said. “We get to Italy and the academy is amazing. The people are amazing. They are taking really good care of me.”



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