Parry Stuns Defending Roland Garros Champ Krejcikova

Diane Parry (photo: Roland Garros video)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, May 23, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Ninety minutes before French teenager Diane Parry sent shockwaves through Stade Roland Garros Monday afternoon by stunning defending French Open champion and current World No. 2 Barbora Krejcikova with a three-set, first-round upset on Court Philippe-Chatrier, she trailed by a set and a break.

The 97th-ranked Parry had won just a single point of the first 16 during the match – the very first one, thanks to a double fault by Krejcikova. Things were not looking too good for the 19-year-old from Nice.

Yet, the 5-foot-7 dynamo with a beautiful – and potent – one-fisted backhand, remained poised and, importantly, never got too down on herself. She fought back against incredible odds and won. In her first career match against a Top-10 opponent – heck, against a Top-50 opponent – Parry turned a sure defeat into an inspiring and satisfying victory. She beat Krejcikova, who was playing in her first match since February after injuring her right elbow, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3, in two hours and eight minutes for the biggest win of her young career. It was a special moment for Parry, who received a warm and generous ovation from the French crowd.

“When I was at school, when my mother would bring me to school, I could see every day the Roland Garros Stadium,” Parry recalled after her victory. “It was a dream for me to play there once. I played there, and I actually won, so it’s wonderful. Today, it’s a dream come true in front of a beautiful crowd.”

The loss meant Krejcikova became the third Top-10 player to be ousted in the opening round, following yesterday’s surprising defeats that befell No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and No. 10 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain. It opens up the bottom half of the draw even further.

Krecikova showed that it’s not easy – even for the best players – to get over the finish line. She became the first defending champion at the French Open to be ousted in the first round the following year since 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko lost in the opening round in 2018. Her Cinderella story that started last year in Paris with her unlikely Roland Garros title had come to an end.

“I just think I just collapsed physically,” Krejcikova said in her post-match press conference. “It was tough because I didn’t play the matches. Usually, the matches are different than the practices, and I tried to prepare the best way I could.

“We started to play rallies, and I was there for those shots, I started to be a little late. That’s where I felt that I started to miss balls and where the match changed. … She was just overplaying me, because I was late and I wasn’t able to put that much pressure on her anymore.”

After a slow start, Parry worked her way into the match against Krejcikova and took control of it by the second set to win her first tour-level main draw match of the season, which advanced her to face No. 66 Camila Osorio of Colombia in the second round.

Parry hit two aces, won 55 percent (22 of 40) of her first-serve points, overcame 26 unforced errors by hitting 20 winners and outpointed Krejcikova 79-73. Although the Czech star hit 24 winners against Parry, she also committed 45 unforced errors – and, thanks to Parry’s tenacity and never-say-die spirit, made 14 forced errors.

“I’m just so happy at the moment,” Parry said during her on-court interview with former French great Marion Bartoli. “To be able to start on this court against a title holder, at the start I told myself I had to be aggressive and I succeeded in doing that and I’m very happy.”

The victory marked the latest milestone for Parry, a former junior World No. 1 who won her first WTA main-draw win in and first major triumph in 2019 at the French Open. She’s part of a new generation of French players making their way on Tour. Her victory is a great shot in the arm for French tennis.

“It’s hard to make a comparison, because there has been three years in the meantime. I was much younger. The court was smaller. Everything was different,” Parry explained.

“At the time I was already delighted to win this first match. Today it’s even more important, because I played on the Philippe Chatrier court in front of a big crowd, so it’s even more important for me. I have evolved a lot since then mentally in my game. I know there is still a lot of work to do though.”

Being No. 1 is just a number for Swiatek

World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek extended her winning streak to 29 matches – including 14 bagel sets – after advancing with a 54-minute 6-2, 6-0 win over 119th-ranked qualifier Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine under cover on Court Philippe-Chatrier as Day Two got under way in rainy Paris.

Swiatek, the 20-year-old Polish star who improved to 12-1 in the opening round of majors, moved one round closer to winning her sixth straight title after hitting 20 winners and making just 13 unforced errors. The 2020 French Open champion converted six of nine break points and outpointed her opponent 54-22. Meanwhile, Tsurenko dropped to 0-7 lifetime against reigning No. 1 opponents.

“We wondered how she would come out in this first round at a major, where she’s seeded number one and playing as the world number one for the first time,” Tennis Channel analyst Chanda Rubin said. “She handled it like it was nothing, like she’s used to playing at this level. It’s only been this year, the last few months, where her game and mentality has completely changed. … Swiatek is just playing at another speed. She’s so quick with her footwork, she’s using her forehand to control the middle of the court. She didn’t allow her opponent to get into the match. It’s always impressive in the first round when you can play that cleanly.”

After her win, Swiatek was asked Tennis Channel‘s Jon Wertheim during an interview just off the center court what she was most proud of after winning for the first time seeded first at a major and also while playing as the World No. 1 in a Grand Slam.

“My consistency. I was really focused from A to Z,” Swiatek said. “I wanted to pressure my opponent and I did that from the beginning. So, I’m pretty happy I also played better in the second set – and I even had ups and downs. For sure, it’s a nice first round because, you know, first rounds are usually tricky. I’m looking forward to my next match.”

Wertheim then asked Swiatek what’s the best part about being the best player in the world right now. “Honestly,” admitted Swiatek, “it’s just a number. You know how it is in tennis. Every week, some other girl can be better. You never know. Basically, I’m not really focusing on it. I’m just living my life. The most important thing for me is to keep working hard, to keep being focused only on tennis.”

Nadal opens bid for 14th French title with easy victory

Thirteen-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal opened his bid for an unprecedented 14th Paris crown with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win over Jordan Thompson of Australia on Court Philippe-Chatrier in two hours and two minutes. It was the Spaniard’s 106th victory at Roland-Garros in 109 career matches and 299th Grand Slam triumph overall.

Nadal attacked with his usual foray of brutal ground strokes and wore down the 82nd-ranked Thompson, hitting 27 winners to 21 unforced errors and winning 73 percent (30 of 41) of his first-serve points. Nadal broke Thompson’s serve seven times during the contest and outpointed him 90-53.

Next, Nadal will attempt to join Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who have already accumulated 300-plus major victories. He will face 139th-ranked wild card Corentin Moutet of France, who defeated 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

Osaka knocked out in first round by Anisimova

For the second straight year, Naomi Osaka will not play a second-round match at Roland-Garros. Last year, the Japanese superstar withdrew after a contentious standoff over news conferences. Fast forward 12 months, on Monday she was beaten in the opening round by 27th-seeded American Amanda Anisimova – the same player who defeated her in the last major at Melbourne in January.

The 20-year-old Anisimova advanced with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over the 38th-ranked Osaka, who arrived for the Parisian fortnight unseeded and having played only two singles matches on clay. Anisimova, a French Open semifinalist three years ago at age 17, displayed power and poise – and had all the right shots to beat the former World No. 1 and four-time major champion, who withdrew from Rome earlier this month due to a left Achilles’ tendon injury and won just once in three clay-court matches this season.

Anisimova struck three winners in the 12th game and served out the first set at love on the heavy clay at Court Suzanne-Lenglen. Then, she served out the match and won on her third match-point opportunity with a backhand winner down the line that was the knock-out punch to Osaka and ended the marquee clash after just 90 minutes.

“When you see Naomi Osaka in the first round, you don’t think it’s going to be easy,” Anisimova said after her victory that advanced her to face qualifier Donna Vekic of Croatia. “A very tough match, and going there I knew I had to play good tennis, and the conditions weren’t easy. …

“It was very difficult [with] a lot of anticipation over the last couple of days. I was trying not to think about it too much, but going into the match, I did feel like the stress and the nerves a bit, because it is a very tough first round. I’m just happy with how I was able to manage it and get through it.”

Anisimova has enjoyed a stellar season on clay. She’s yet to lose before the quarterfinal round, having reached the semifinals in Charleston, S.C., and quarterfinals in Madrid and Rome.

During her press conference, Osaka said the difference for her was the lack of match play. “I only played two matches on clay this year. I wish I could have played more. Like, I stayed in Europe for longer to be able to prepare for this tournament. So, it is a bit disappointing, but I’m happy with how my attitude was, because the last match that we played in Australia, I was getting a bit more upset with myself. So, I think I progressed in that part.”

Djokovic headlines night session with victory

World No. 1 and reigning Roland Garros champion Novak Djokovic, who turned 35 on Sunday, headlined the first night session of the Parisian fortnight under the closed roof of Court Philippe-Chatrier Monday evening.

The top seed from Serbia defeated No. 99 Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, 6-3, 6-1, 6-0, in one hour and 58 minutes. The victory improved his lifetime record against the Japanese left-hander to 3-0.

Djokovic hit nine aces and 35 winners to 32 unforced errors against his opponent, converted eight of 18 break points and dropped serve just once. He outpointed Nishioka 100-65 to advance into the second round. In his 18th straight Roland Garros appearance, Djokovic has never lost in the first round.

“The conditions were quite slow, the ball was not bouncing. And it was just difficult to penetrate, and so the first set was very close,” Djokovic said in press. “I cruised through the second and third really, when I started going through the ball a bit more. I have to be pleased overall.

“Of course, I always expect highs from myself, so I can always do better, but it was a very good start to the tournament.”

Next, Djokovic will await the winner between No. 38 Alex Molcan of Slovakia and No. 54 Federico Coria of Argentina, who were originally scheduled to play Monday. Their match was postponed due to rain and rescheduled to Tuesday. Molcan is coached by Djokovic’s former longtime coach Marian Vajda.

Around Roland-Garros

Rain interrupted play shortly after 1 p.m. with eight matches on court across Stade Roland Garros affected. A total of eight singles matches (one men’s and seven women’s) were completed before the tarps came out. With the roof shut on Court Philippe-Chatrier – the only covered court and the last major to add a roof on its center court – Monday’s order of play continued without interruption.

The tarps finally came off the outside courts just before 3 p.m. and play resumed after about an hour and 50-minute delay. Later, the rain returned just past 9:30 p.m. with 10 outdoor matches still on court interrupted. By 10:15 p.m., they were cancelled until Tuesday. Two matches scheduled for Court 4 were postponed until Tuesday – Alex Molina of Slovakia versus Federico Coria of Argentina, and No. 30 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia against Greet Minnen of Belgium.

• No. 17 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States was the first men’s seed to fall on Day 2. He lost to No. 55 Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-3, in an hour and 49 minutes on Court 13. Opelka was the third American male in two days to lose. Later, No. 13 seed Taylor Fritz turned the tide for the U.S. by pulling out a five-set 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over 201st-ranked Argentine qualifier Santiago Fa Rodriguez Taverna that lasted three hours and 34 minutes on Court 6.

“I wasn’t too surprised,” said Fritz, 24, after his hard-fought win that leveled his career win-loss record at the French Open to 5-5. “I knew kind of what to expect and I knew that he had won three matches in a row, [his] first main draw, the guy’s obviously playing his best tennis.

“He’s really confident, he’s got nothing to lose playing me, so I expected his level to be high and I think the match was tough.”

• No. 12 seed Emma Raducanu of Great Britain rallied from a set and a break down to beat last year’s French Open junior girls’ champion Linda Noskova of the Czech Republic, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-1, in two hours and 38 minutes on Court Simonne-Mathieu. The reigning US Open Raducanu hit 24 winners to 25 unforced errors, while the 184th-ranked qualifier Noskova finished with 48 winners and 54 unforced errors.

“It was an absolute battle,” Raducanu said during her on-court interview. “I have to say Linda’s playing some amazing tennis. She really came out firing. As soon as I dropped my ball speed, she was killing me. It was really challenging to hold on, hold my serve and keep breaking back. I’m really proud of how I fought.

“I really have no expectations. I’m really happy to be competing here after Rome. I’m just looking forward to trying to stay as long as possible really.”

• No. 15 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus rallied against No. 93 Ana Bogdan of Romania to win 6-7 (7), 7-6 (1), 6-2, on Court 14 in a first-round match that eclipsed three hours. Next, she plays No. 65 Andrea Petkovic of Germany, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over France’s 84th-ranked Oceane Dodin.

• No. 25 seed Liudmila Samsonova of Russia was upset by No. 95 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, in an hour and 53 minutes on Court 13.

• No. 32 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, twice a Wimbledon champion, advanced to the second round over No. 61 Anna Bondar of Hungary, 7-6 (0), 6-1, in an hour and 22 minutes on Court 8. Her win snapped a four-match losing streak. Next, she’ll face No. 127 Daria Saville of Australia, who advanced over 187th-ranked qualifier Valentini Grammatikopoulou of Greece, 6-1, 6-2.

• Three points from a first-round elimination, unseeded and 72nd-ranked Bianca Andreescu of Canada rallied to beat 186th-ranked Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure, 3-6, 7-5, 6-0, on Court 7. Next, she’ll play No. 14 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.

• No. 10 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, just three days after winning his first clay-court title in Lyon, beat 146th-ranked French wild card Manuel Guinard, 7-5, 6-2, 6-0 in two hours and 19 minutes on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

• The longest match of the day and of the tournament thus far goes to Borna Gojo of Croatia and lucky loser Alessandro Giannessi of Italy, who replaced Alejandro Tabilo of Chile. Gojo and Giannessi were the first match on Court 4 at 11 a.m. Not counting a 90-minute rain delay, they competed for five hours and 11 minutes and the 223rd-ranked qualifier Gojo won 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4 to advance to the second round against Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.

• Germany’s Angelique Kerber averted an upset and won her first French Open match since reaching the 2018 quarterfinals with an improbable 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory over No. 89 Magdalena Frech of Poland Monday night. During the two-hour and 28-minute drama, the No. 21 seed Kerber, who has never won the Roland Garros title, saved two match points in the 10th game of the final set. Then, she won on her second match point two games later.

Kerber, who finished with 41 winners, came from 3-5 down in the decider and won the final four games of the first-round match. She soaked in the wild applause of the fans who filled in all of the seats on Court 6.

Monday’s French Open results

Tuesday’s French Open order of play

By the numbers

• With her 29th straight victory secured with a 6-2, 6-0 first-round win, Iga Swiatek extended the longest winning streak on the WTA Tour since 2013.

• At the start of Day 2, there were five women’s major winners on court playing their first-round matches at the same time: Iga Swiatek (2020 French Open) on Court Philippe-Chatrier; Naomi Osaka (four-time major champion) on Court Suzanne-Lenglen; Bianca Andreescu (2019 US Open) on Court 7; Petra Kvitova (2011 and 2014 Wimbledon) on Court 8; Victoria Azarenka (2012-13 Australian Open). Three other French Open champions – Barbora Krejcikova, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – were scheduled to play on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Monday.

Passing shots

From Christopher Clarey, tennis correspondent of The New York Times

“Quotable …”

“I am trying to be focused just on the tournaments, on the matches, and [not] trying to be a part of the social media and everyone talking about you. [I] just focus on what I have to improve, what I have to do [in] the matches, what I have to do … every day to be ready in the tournament.”

– World No. 6 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, following his Opening Day victory on Court Philippe-Chatrier Sunday.

• “Last year that match could have been a completely different situation. It’s one of those matches that one of my strengths is my serve and sometimes when your strength isn’t working you tend to freak out and I think today I did a good job of not freaking out.”

– No. 18 seed Coco Gauff of the United States, during her post-match press conference following her 7-5, 6-0 victory over 115th-ranked qualifier Rebecca Marino of Canada on Sunday.