The first round of the 2019 French Open began with a stunning upset as 18-year-old Anastasia Potapova eliminated No.5 seed Angelique Kerber, 6-4, 6-2.
WTA Staff
May 26, 2019

PARIS, France – Roland Garros 2019 began with a stunning upset as 18-year-old WTA World No.81 Anastasia Potapova eliminated No.5 seed Angelique Kerber, 6-4, 6-2 in 73 minutes, in the first match on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The teenager played fearlessly throughout in what was her first ever outing at the tournament and just her second career meeting with a Top 10 player, knocking the German out of Roland Garros at the first hurdle for the third time in the last four years.

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Kerber, who was chasing a career Gland Slam, having equaled her career-best performance in the Parisian tournament by reaching the quarterfinals 12 months ago, had no answer to the raw power of her Russian opponent, who won just her second clay court main draw match of 2019 outside of Fed Cup play.

“My phone is exploding now,” she admitted to the press following her Roland Garros main draw debut, which could barely have gone any better. “I really appreciate it. It's nice to hear congratulations from great people.

“I was trying to keep some focus on me, on myself, how I'm playing, how I'm running. I wasn’t trying to think a lot about the court, about the first round, about Kerber, because of course she's a great player. But, you know, I'm here to play my best. That's what I did.

“I was really looking forward for this match because I like Kerber’s game a lot. She's actually one of my idols, and when I was young looked at her game and how she was playing. When you step in on the court and you know you play your idol, you’ve just got to show your best.”

From the outset, the hitting of Potapova was blistering in its intensity as she drilled the ball across the net with confidence and depth, immediately punching holes into her opponent’s defenses and fashioning a two-game advantage.

Anastasia Potapova 2019 French Open Getty

Kerber, who arrived in Paris off the back of an ankle issue, showed some signs of early-tournament nerves but played her best tennis throughout the first set when faced with adversity. Twice she found herself a break down but twice she responded immediately.

By the time Potapova broke for a third time, however, it was too late for the German to respond as the set slipped away. Indeed, the game the teenager played to move ahead was her most astonishing of the match as she fought back from 40-0 down on her rival’s delivery to deal a succession of heavy groundstrokes that her more experienced rival could not answer.

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Her tally of 13 winners to just 12 unforced errors told the story of her set, while Kerber, who served 71% of her first serves in, mustered just eight winners to 11 unforced errors. 

There was more of the same in the second from Potapova as her level remained astonishingly high. With her confidence up, she used the dropshot judiciously to complement the terrific power that continued to force the WTA World No.5 onto the back foot.

Twice Kerber saw her serve slip away, and even when she threatened to break back in between times, fortune favored her rival, with a big net cord allowing Potapova to hold when her level temporarily wavered.

Although the German did rally to an extent, deservedly getting one of the break backs, Potapova showed no signs of nerves and, having won three match points, too the last of these as Kerber fired wide, sealing the biggest win of her career and a second-round clash with either Wang Yafan or Marketa Vondrousova.

And in a warning shot to future opponents, she says she’s now got a taste for the big stage, although she’s not yet contemplating becoming the next Jelena Ostapenko, who won on debut in 2017.

“I live for this win, for these emotions and these moments,” she said. “I’m going to do everything to experience it again and again and again.

“I don't want to think about future. I want to think about every point, every game. And the only thing what I can think about now, it's my next round. It's the second round. And what's gonna happen, nice. If I'm going to win it, great. But I want to keep focused on myself, on my health, and just stay with a clear mind.”