PARIS, France - A pair of young Americans broke out of their slumps at the French Open on a hot Sunday afternoon, with Melanie Oudin and Irina Falconi toughing out first round wins on the terre battue of Roland Garros.
Oudin, who made a dream run to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open three years ago and had gone as high as No.31 in the world since, came to Paris at No.269, having lost 13 of her last 14 WTA-level matches (the only win coming via retirement). But an aggressive mindset may have been the key - she hit 23 winners to beat No.80-ranked Johanna Larsson, 63 63.
"I was a little bit nervous at the start. My feet weren't really moving," Oudin said. "But after the first two games I definitely loosened up, and towards the end of the first set I think I won like 10 straight points in a row, just kind of like cruising. After that I was really feeling it. I started to relax and be really aggressive.
"I played to win today. I played some really, really good points, better than I've played in a long time. I believe I can win these matches again."
Oudin described the last few years: "Of course I was a little bit down on myself the last year and a half, but I was never at the point where I was giving up or anything like that. I really, really tried to stay positive the whole time. I think I did a good job of that. I definitely think the worst part of my slump is over."
Next up for Oudin is No.21 seed Sara Errani, who rallied from a set down to beat Casey Dellacqua, 46 62 62. Errani has won more clay court titles than anyone on the WTA this year with three - Acapulco, Barcelona and Budapest.
Errani beat Oudin in their only previous meeting, just barely though.
Irina Falconi wrote a similar story a little bit later - having lost 10 of her last 11 WTA-level matches (and her only win coming via retirement too), the World No.112 beat No.89-ranked Edina Gallovits-Hall, 36 63 61, getting better and better as the match went on - she had only two unforced errors in the third set and converted all three of her break points in that deciding set too.
Next up for Falconi is No.6 seed Sam Stosur, who beat Elena Baltacha, 64 60, also playing extremely cleanly at the end of the match - the Australian had a near-perfect second set with 11 winners to just one unforced error.
"I'm overall happy with the way I played and the scoreline and everything else," Stosur said after the match. "It's good to be on these courts again. It's obviously a beautiful court to play on. The ball definitely gets up high - you can use your kick serve and topspin groundstrokes well. It's nice to be back."
Stosur beat Falconi in their only previous meeting, in straight sets.
"It's one of those matches where I've got to go out there and think about my own tennis more so than theirs," Stosur said of the looming match. "I'm always going to go out there and play my game, and whatever else. But I guess I've got two days to now think about it and be ready for that next one against Irina."