Zvonareva Moves On In Paris, Ivashka Falls

Vera Zvonareva (photo: @rolandgarros/Twitter)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, May 25, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Qualifying for this year’s French Open began on a Monday filled at times with rain, less than a week before the start of Sunday’s main draw at Stade Roland-Garros. Last year, qualifiying proved to be a springboard for future success for American Sebastian Korda, who qualified and reached the fourth round, while Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska enjoyed a successful run all the way to the semifinals. Each lost to the eventual champion, Korda to Rafael Nadal and Podoroska to Iga Swiatek. Both Korda and Podoroska are well established in the Top 100.

Players whose rankings aren’t high enough to earn direct entry into the 128-player main draw can earn a berth by winning three rounds of qualifying. It’s like a tournament within a tournament and the play downs began with an upset of men’s No. 1 seed Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, ranked 89th, who fell to World No. 448 Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia, 6-4, 7-6 (1). No. 2 seed Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia, ranked 106th, advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Ernests Gulbis of Latvia. Also, World No. 164 Thomas Fabiano beat Christopher Eubanks of the United States 6-4, 7-5, and No. 22 seed Carlos Taberner of Spain advanced with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Martin Klizan of Slovakia.

Additionally, World No. 205 Viktor Troicki of Serbia saved a match point and beat Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil, 0-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), in a match that was delayed by rain. “I was already looking at the flights during the rain break, I spoke to my wife and she was the biggest support, gave me a lot of motivation not to give up,” said Troicki, quoted by the Roland-Garros website.

In the women’s draw, former World No. 2 Vera Zvonareva of Russia showed that at age 36, she’s still got game. Zvonareva disposed of Great Britain’s Francesca Jones in just 36 minutes, 6-1, 6-2, to advance.

Earlier this month, Zvonareva enjoyed a round of 16 red clay run in Rome and appears ready to do damage on the red dirt in Paris, too.

“It means I’ve still got it; I still have the fight and the passion. I still love the sport and I’m still capable of playing at the highest level,” said Zvonareva, now ranked 96th. “I know the level I can play. Every day I’m working towards that and we’ll see where that journey is going to take me.”

Other winners include: No. 7 seed Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany, who beat Daniela Seguei of Chile, 6-0, 6-3; No. 17 seed Greet Minnen of Belgium, who was a 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 winner over Poland’s Urszula Radwanska; No. 18 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who defeated Fang Ying Xun of China, 6-1, 6-2; and No. 31 seed Harriet Dart of Great Britain, who beat Barbara Haas of Austria, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

Monday’s Roland-Garros qualifying draw results

Welcome back to Paris, Ashleigh Barty

Catching up with Caroline Garcia

France’s No. 2 player, Caroline Garcia, is a joy to watch on clay. She loves to especially entertain in front of French audiences. It’s been a long time coming. On Monday, the 57th-ranked Garcia won her first round-match at the Internationaux de Strasbourg in northeastern France, with a 7-5, 6-2 victory against No. 93 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in front of a spirited crowd that applauded her.

Afterward, she broke out her “Fly With Caro” dance, where she mimics being an aero plane with her arms spread out like wings as she skips about the court while beaming a big smile. A bit of tennis theater, playing to the cheering crowd.

Garcia told an on-court interviewer that she was very happy with her performance. “I think I fought very well,” she said. “I want to play as many matches this week.”

Soon after leaving Patrice-Dominguez Court, Garcia sat down with Tennis TourTalk for a brief, virtual Q & A.

Are you pleased with how your game is faring on clay so far?

“Yes, I think I am. I look forward to getting better on the court every time. I think my body and my physical condition are improving from one week to another. This is very good for my confidence. I feel like I can give more energy on the court. So, I’m looking forward to [doing well] this tournament, and of course next week [at Roland-Garros]. This tournament is a great tournament and I’m happy to be in the second round.”

How important is it to you to play in front of French fans here in your home country? There was a good crowd today to see your match.

“It was a great crowd today. It was a holiday today, so a lot of people who hadn’t had a chance to see sports in a long time came. They showed a lot of positive energy. It’s definitely what I’ve been looking for; it’s what I need. Of course, it’s important for me to play well in France. I’m glad a lot of people could enjoy my win as much as I enjoyed it.

“When I was a little girl [growing up in France], I always wanted to play in tennis tournaments in front of fans. Now, I have a chance to do that. I really want to enjoy it.”

Can you talk about your change in coaches, switching from your father (Louis-Paul Garcia) to Gabriel Urpi, and working out from the Rafael Nadal Academy. What is it like working with someone other than your father?

“I made some changes in my organization and I am no longer training with my father. It was a hard decision for me, a very difficult one because we have a lot in common together. I felt ready for it. I think it was an important step for my personal and professional life. Now, I will work with Gabriel Urpi from the Rafael Nadal Academy. He’s not with me this week but he will be with me at the French Open in Paris. Things are going well. I’ve known him for a long time because he was with the Fed Cup team when I was there. I’m really looking forward to working with him.”

Garcia said that with Urpi, she knows what to expect and is ready to make the effort.

With four victories in her past five matches, Garcia has improved her win-loss record this season to 11-9 (4-2 on clay) and next will face No. 38 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic in Wednesday’s second round.

Buon compleanno, Fabio Fognini 

What they’re sharing on social media

Cameron Norrie / Thank you, Lyon

Naomi Osaka / Her Nike designs are always fashionable

Serena Williams / Spotted at Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix