The first round of qualifying was completed at Roland Garros on Tuesday, whittling down the 128-strong draw to 64 as players vie for the 16 precious spots in the main draw of the French Open, which starts in Paris on Sunday.
Definitely feeling confident this year. AO started things off really well. I can even go back to Canadian Open in August … then AO qualifying, and I'm just having a really good string, so I'm just hoping to continue that. Having that self-belief and confidence helps a lot with the wins. Just knowing deep down I have the game is also really nice. Rebecca Marino
There was disappointment, however, for Britain’s Katie Swan, who fell at the first hurdle, beaten 6-3 6-2 by 10th seed Viktoriya Tomova from Bulgaria, leaving Yuriko Miyazaki as the sole British women’s prospect after her upset of 26th seed Ylena In-Albon from Switzerland, 6-3 6-3, on Monday to claim her first Grand Slam win.
Known as Lily, 26-year old Miyazaki, who switched allegiance from Japan to Britain in March, having lived in London since the age of 10, takes on Ysalina Bonaventure from Belgium on Wednesday for a crack at the final round of qualifying.
Canada’s 9th seed Rebecca Marino, who is a former World No 38, launched her qualifying campaign on Tuesday with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Argentine Paula Ormaechea and, later, the 31-year old reminisced on a past visit.
“I was actually talking about it the other day, with my fitness coach, that I remember playing [Svetlana] Kuznetsova third round,” Marino said. “Even the matches prior, people were telling me maybe clay wasn’t my best surface and, kind of, being, like, ‘you know what, I want to prove you wrong’…
“Of course,  years ago in the third round after losing, my cousins and my aunt and uncle were here and they wanted to walk up the Eiffel Tower.
“I was exhausted after losing and going up. My uncle’s scared of heights, so it was good memories all around.”
Marino, who booked a meeting with Katarina Zavatska, only returned to Roland-Garros for qualifying 8 years later following a hiatus from the sport.
She qualified for her first Grand Slam main draw since 2013 at last year’s Australian Open before winning a round, and made it back into the main draw again in Melbourne earlier this year before carrying that form to ITF events in the US and Mexico, where she compiled a 16-3 record, including a W60 title in California.
“Definitely feeling confident this year. AO started things off really well,” she said. “I can even go back to Canadian Open in August … then AO qualifying, and I’m just having a really good string, so I’m just hoping to continue that.
“Having that self-belief and confidence helps a lot with the wins. Just knowing deep down I have the game is also really nice.”
Marino’s next opponent, Zavatska, is from Ukraine and came through a gruelling battle against Italy’s Lucrezia Stefanini, 6-3 5-7 7-5, after 2 hours and 51 minutes.
A former Top 15 junior, Zavatska recently returned to action after being sidelined due to health problems, which kept the 22-year old off the tour for 6 months, only returning in Miami in March.
The Ukrainian is hoping to regain the form that took her to the edge of the Top 100 at the start of 2020 while dealing with the invasion of her homeland.
“Every day I’m calling to my parents, my family, to ask them if they’re alive,” said Zavatska at a recent Billie Jean King Cup tie. “What I can do is to play tournaments to earn money, to send this to my family to help them because nobody has a job right now there. Everybody is just home. They have nothing to do to earn.
“Day by day, for me, the court was the only place where I could live my life because there was a ball, there was a racket, and I just have to hit it and not think about it.”
Olga Danilovic from Serbia also had to battle to upset No 23 seed Rebeka Masarova from Spain, 3-6 7-6(7) 6-4, after coming from two points away from defeat to take the win in 2 hours and 32 minutes.
Another former Top 15 junior, the 21-year old did not play for 9 months after being diagnosed with a virus at last year’s US Open and made her comeback 2 weeks ago at the Koper ITF W60, where she reached the quarter-finals.
German teenager Nastasja Schunk made a triumphant start to her Grand Slam qualifying debut, making in the 2nd-round after a 7-5 3-6 6-3 win over 16th seed Laura Pigossi from Brazil, the highest seed to fall, who reached her first WTA final in Bogota last month.
“I was kind of nervous because it’s my first Grand Slam, but my opponent played really high top spin and this was really tough for me,” Schunk said.
Last year’s girls’ singles runner-up at Wimbledon has reached 2 ITF finals on clay, at Joue-Les-Tours in France and Wiesbaden in Germany, in the past two months.
She picked up invaluable tour-level experience when she qualified for the Stuttgart main draw for a second straight year, where she tested World No 16 Elena Rybakina.
“I mean, it was a confidence boost [pushing Rybakina] because I know now, when I play good, I can also play with top-50 players,” Schunk said after setting a clash with Veronica Cepede Royg. “It was a really good match from me, even though I didn’t get the win.”
30-year old Cepede Royg from Paraguay, a former World No 73 who reached the 4th round of Roland Garros in 2017, triumphed in the longest match of the day, 7-5 4-6 7-6, over Anastasia Tikhonova in 2 hours and 52 minutes.
Elsewhere, Fernanda Contreras Gomez made a memorable Grand Slam qualifying debut, taking out American Caty McNally, 3-6 6-3 7-6, the 224th-ranked Mexican dominating with her forehand during the first-to-10 deciding tiebreak.
Former World No 9 CoCo Vandeweghe, whose comeback from complex regional pain syndrome took a positive step forward in Charleston, where she upset Jessica Pegula en route to the quarter-finals, was also stopped at the first hurdle, by 232rd-ranked German Katharina Gerlach, whose single-handed backhand was on song as she took out the American, 7-6(4) 6-4.
Brazil’s Carolina Alves, 26, scored her first Grand Slam qualifying win with a 6-3 7-5 upset of 2020 Australian Open junior champion Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva.
Alves is fresh off a run to the Saint-Gaudens ITF W60 final last week, and maintained her form to take out the 16-year-old Andorran.
Another first-time major qualifying winner was 22-year-old Ipek Oz, who became the first Turkish player to win a WTA main draw match in 5 years when she reached the second round of Bogota in April.
Oz, who cracked the Top 200 for the first time this week after winning the Bastad ITF W25, shook off the loss of a tight first set to defeat No 30 seed Daria Snigur from Ukraine, 6-7(6) 6-3 6-2.
18-year old Oceane Babel won a gruelling battle of French wild-cards over Alice Rame, 3-6 6-4 6-4.
The No.654-ranked teenager pushed Elina Svitolina to a 6-2, 7-5 scoreline as a main-draw wild-card last year, and scored her first Grand Slam qualifying victory in 2 hours and 11 minutes.
Meanwhile, Romanian seeds Irina Bara and Mihaela Buzarnescu also advanced, over Czech Jesika Maleckova, 6-3 4-6 6-3, and Han Xinyun from China, 2-6 6-4 6-2, respectively.