PARIS, May 27, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Woe has been two-time Roland Garros quarterfinalist Caroline Wozniacki, currently ranked 13th, who earlier this year dropped out of the Top 10 for the first time since May 2017. Since losing in the final at Charleston on green clay in April, the former World No. 1 Wozniacki retired from her past two clay-court matches, in Madrid (lower back) and Rome (left leg). Last October, the 28-year-old Dane was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
So, when Wozniacki breezed through the first set of her first-round match against No. 68 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia without losing a game, it gave her a lot of hope. After all, the unseeded Kudermetova came into the match as a four-time WTA quarterfinalist, including last week at Nürnberg.
However, after winning the first seven games during the two hour and four minute match on the new-look Court Philippe Chatrier, it became an entirely different match. The young, 22-year-old Russian, who began the year ranked 133rd, rebounded remarkably for a 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Wozniacki. The win was the first Grand Slam victory and first Top 20 triumph for Kudermetova, who was playing in just her 13th tour-level event.
Another day, another upset!
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) 27. Mai 2019
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) 27. Mai 2019
“It is a great win for me today. I was so excited to play this court, on a big stadium and in this match. I am super excited,” said Kudermetova during an on-court interview after her win.
“I was a little bit nervous when I started the match, but after, game by game, I tried to play my tennis. A little bit more aggressive, and I think I did a great job today.”
Kudermetova broke Wozniacki’s serve five times in eight opportunities and hit 40 winners – 32 of them in the final two sets – to offset her 43 unforced errors. Wozniacki managed just 15 winners and committed 21 unforced errors as the momentum from the first seven games quickly faded.
“I think I played really well in the first set. I played aggressive. I played the way I wanted to play,” said Wozniacki, whose preparation for Roland Garros was slowed by a left calf injury. “And then I think she got very lucky in the start of the second set and kind of, you know, took advantage of the opportunities she got.
“And then, I think I just lost a little steam in the end and I made some unforced errors that I normally don’t do. So, that was very frustrating. It is what it is. I haven’t had the best lead-up to this tournament, which has also been frustrating. Right now, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Now with both Wozniacki and No. 5 Angelique Kerber ousted in the first round, both by big clay hitters in Kudermetova and Anastasia Potapova, the tournament has lost two of its best counterpunchers.
Bertens passes first test
Kiki Bertens arrived on Court Suzanne Lenglen for her first-round match against Pauline Parmentier with a career-high ranking of No. 4 and a chance to rise to No. 1 by the end of the Roland Garros fortnight. In the 66th-ranked Parmentier from France, she was facing a 15-time Roland Garros veteran, who had won their three previous head-to-head matches, all on hard courts, between 2014-16. However, with 12 match-wins on clay this year, which tied her with Petra Martic and Maria Sakkari, Bertens has been playing some of her best tennis and won Madrid three weeks ago. After beating Parmentier 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 28 minutes, Bertens moved ahead of Martic and Sakkari with her 13th clay victory.
“I think it was a good win today,” said Bertens. “It’s always tough first round in a slam against a French girl. I’m just happy to get through, happy that it was a good fight.”
Bertens said she felt comfortable playing on Court Suzanne Lenglen, the second-largest court at Stade Roland Garros. “I have played a lot in front of big crowds, on the big stage. I’m getting used to it. I still prefer one of the outside courts, but I think that’s not gonna happen now.”
Next, Bertens will oppose No. 46 Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia, who advanced over 14-time Roland Garros veteran Alizé Cornet of France, ranked No. 48, 6-4, 6-3. Cornet, who was competing in her 15th French Open, has the longest active successive Grand Slam main draw appearance streak with 50.
Kvitova withdraws with injury
World No. 6 Petra Kvitova withdrew from Roland Garros with a left arm injury on Monday. She confirmed she has a Grade 2 tear. According to the WTA Insider, Kvitova said she started to experience tightness in her forearm while practicing last week. On Sunday, Kvitova felt a sharp pain hitting a forehand and shut down practice. An MRI revealed the tear, and Kvitova was told she will need 2-3 weeks off to heal her injury.
Kvitova tweeted, “I’m so disappointed to have to announce my withdrawal from Roland Garros. I’ve had pain in my left forearm for a few weeks and last night an MRI confirmed a grade two tear, which unfortunately could get a lot worse if I play today. Two years ago, I made my comeback here at Roland Garros, so I’m truly sad not to be able to play here this year. It is a really tough decision to make, but I wish the tournament all the best for a successful event and can’t wait to be back in 2020.”
Kvitova was replaced in the main draw by No. 131 lucky loser Kaja Juvan, an 18-year-old from Slovenia, who lost to No. 84 Sorana Cirstea of Romania, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5. Last week, Juvan reached the final round of qualifying before losing to No. 1 seed Bernarda Pera of the United States.
Around Roland Garros
• No. 8 seed Ashleigh Barty is winning everywhere and on all surfaces. On Monday, the Aussie needed just 60 minutes to advance to the second round after defeating No. 72 Jessica Pegula of the United States, 6-3, 6-3. Barty outpointed Pegula 58-44 in capturing her 25th tour-level match of the season.
• No. 12 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia moved into the second round with a 6-1, 6-4 win over No. 107 Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand in 65 minutes.
No. 18 seed Julia Goerges, who has been battling injuries this year, bowed to two-time Roland Garros quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi, 7-5, 6-1. The 33-year-old Estonian, who has now beaten a seeded player in a Grand Slam 16 times, won 82 percent (23 of 28) first-serve points, broke Goerges six times, and hit 21 winners. Goerges committed 31 unforced errors during the one hour and 32 minute match on Court 1.
• No. 23 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia, whose best performance at Roland Garros came when she reached the third round in 2015, defeated No. 159 qualifier Liudmila Samsonova of Russia, 6-2, 6-4.
• No. 26 seed Jo Konta of Great Britain won her first Grand Slam match on clay with a 6-4, 6-4 win over 147th-ranked German qualifier Antonia Lottner. The former World No. 4 Konta, who was a finalist two weeks ago at Rome, had bowed in the first round in each of the past four French Opens.
“Obviously, I’m pleased to have come through that match. It’s nice to have won a main-draw match here. I think I was just, more than anything, happy to have dealt with the challenges of today,” said Konta.
• No. 50 Zhang Shuai of China advanced easily over American qualifier Varvara Lepchenko, ranked No. 129, 6-1, 6-1.
• No. 71 Polona Hercog of Slovenia upset No. 32 seed Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, 4-6, 6-2, 8-6, in a match that was suspended due to darkness Sunday and completed today.
• No. 80 Jennifer Brady of the United States completed her suspended match against No. 103 Ivana Jorovic of Serbia and moved on with a 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-5 win.
• No 100 Mandy Minella of Luxembourg gained her first career main-draw win at the French Open – and first since becoming a mom – in her sixth main draw appearance. She beat No. 44 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, 6-4, 6-2.
• No. 111 Lauren Davis of the United States advanced to the second round by defeating No. 112 Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-4.
• Sixteen-year-old French wild card Diane Parry, ranked No. 457, won her first Grand Slam match with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 102 Vera Lapko of Belarus. She is playing in her first tour-level main draw.
What they’re saying
• No. 7 seed Sloane Stephens, on the pressure of winning in the first round at a major: “It’s the first round, and everyone can be nervous, anyone can win, an underdog can beat the No. 1 seed. That’s how it is. So, I think, yeah, it’s a little nerve-wracking, but I think most of the time, at least for me, once I get through it, I don’t feel, like those butterflies anymore. I’m okay. Like, we got started. Good to go. Let’s get it going … let’s get it out of the way.”
• World No. 9 Elina Svitolina, was asked after her win against 38-year-old Venus Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam titlist and the 2002 runner-up in Paris, if she sees herself playing at the same age. She said: “No. Definitely no. It takes lots of willpower, I think. It’s amazing what she does and how she still keeps going and still motivated to play. And, yeah, it’s amazing. Even today, I was playing against her and thinking, ‘you know, I’m not sure I will be here playing at that age.’ But she’s a great player. Still can challenge, you know, everyone on tour.”