PARIS, France - Eight players will break new ground next week at Roland Garros by contesting the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time. Get to know more about them here at wtatennis.com.
Audrey Albié (FRA)
World No.288 Audrey Albié is the beneficiary of the French Tennis Federation's inaugural 'Race France', in which the French player who garnered the most points from seven domestic ITF tournaments this year would be rewarded with a main draw wildcard into Roland Garros. Finals in Andrézieux-Bouthéon in January - Albié's first at W60 level - and Calvi in April sealed the top spot for the 24-year-old, who also hit a career-high ranking of World No.278 following the latter result.
Five of the Dordogne native's six career Top 200 wins have come in the past seven months, including a victory over Veronika Kudermetova at the Limoges 125K last November and defeats of Antonia Lottner and Katie Swan in 2019.
Aliona Bolsova (ESP)
Two years ago, Aliona Bolsova's story was one of a promising junior career cut short through injury and burnout. The Moldova-born Spaniard, a former junior World No.4 and the daughter of two Olympic athletes, reached the Coimbra final on her ITF debut as a 14-year-old in 2012; by the time she was 17, she had won four ITF titles and cracked the Top 500.
But a foot injury stymied Bolsova's progress - and her love of the sport. In 2016, she opted to go to college - and not even to play tennis. Having decided that she "didn't want to play any more", Bolsova's intention was to focus on a degree in Fashion Design and Production at Oklahoma State University. It was only after she had started that she was persuaded to pick up a racquet again - and it wasn't long before her world-class talent began to show itself again. Bolsova compiled a 31-7 record as a freshman at Oklahoma State before transferring to Florida Atlantic University, where she went unbeaten in her first season.
This was the spur to put her academics on hold and give the pro ranks another shot - and it's paid off handsomely. A 2018 win-loss record of 41-16, including back-to-back ITF W25 titles in Getxo and Darmstadt in July, raised Bolsova's ranking from World No.477 to World No.163; reaching the second round of Charleston in April, her WTA main draw debut, boosted her to a career high of World No.136. This week, the 21-year-old has hit another milestone on her debut in Paris, successfully navigating Grand Slam qualifying at her third attempt with wins over Kristie Ahn, Xu Shilin and Timea Babos.
Someone to whom Bolsova's success will come as no surprise is Marcy Hora-Cava, head coach at FAU. "Bolsova is one of the most talented and mature players I have gotten the opportunity to coach," she told fausports.com on her charge's decision to turn professional last year. "Her court sense is something that can't be taught. She constantly wants more conditioning and more training. If I tell her to go run a mile around the track, she will run two miles and run on the outside lanes of the track to make it even longer for herself."
Giulia Gatto-Monticone (ITA)
When Giulia Gatto-Monticone played her first pro event in January 2002, Martina Hingis had yet to retire for the first time, Serena Williams owned just one major title and Naomi Osaka was only four years old. Seventeen years and 378 tournaments later, the 31-year-old Italian's journey has finally led her into a Grand Slam main draw for the first time in one of the most remarkable stories from Roland Garros qualifying.
Prior to this week, Gatto-Monticone had lost in the first qualifying round of all three majors she had previously contested (the US Open in 2011 and 2014, and the Australian Open in January). But, having finished 11 consecutive seasons ranked between World No.400 and World No.200, the veteran is now playing the best tennis of her life, breaking the Top 200 for the first time in March after winning the 10th ITF trophy of her career in Kofu.
Gatto-Monticone has competed in just four previous WTA-level main draws, with one victory to her name (at Kuala Lumpur 2014 over Ons Jabeur). But having hit a new career-high ranking of World No.162 a fortnight ago, she's spent this week fighting her way past younger opponents, coming from a set down to defeat 21-year-old Francesca Di Lorenzo and 19-year-old Katarina Zavatska to seal her place in the main draw.
Selena Janicijevic (FRA)
Unranked 16-year-old Selena Janicijevic has meagre pro experience in her nascent career, having scored just one match win in three events to date. However, the teenage Parisienne has been tearing up the junior circuit, compiling a 20-5 record this year, including a Grade 1 title in Casablanca in March, and storming from No.141 to No.29 in the junior rankings in just five months.
Kaja Juvan (SLO)
Last October, Kaja Juvan capped a standout junior career by making history: at the Rio de Janeiro Youth Olympic Games, the Slovenian became the first ever tennis player to win two gold medals, defeating Wang Xinyu and Clara Burel to triumph in the singles event and partnering Iga Swiatek to take the doubles.
Juvan, who was also the 2017 Wimbledon girls' doubles champion alongside Olga Danilovic, otherwise spent 2018 making serious headway in the professional ranks, rocketing from World No.555 to World No.174 by the end of the year thanks to a 42-10 win-loss record that included four ITF W25 titles. The 18-year-old, who was one of the first recipients of the ITF Junior Player Grants to ease her transition into the senior game, hit a career high of World No.123 last month after continuing her strong form this year. Juvan impressed with her all-court game during Roland Garros qualifying, winning a blockbuster second-round tie over Cori Gauff 6-3, 6-3 - but was narrowly pipped in the final round by Bernarda Pera, though the No.1 seed needed a final-set tiebreak to quell the talented teenager.
That wasn't the end of the road for Juvan, though - the Ljubljana native became the last player into the main draw as a lucky loser when No.5 seed Petra Kvitova withdrew with an arm injury. With only a few hours' notice before her debut on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, Juvan gave a strong account of herself, coming within two points of upsetting Sorana Cirstea before falling 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.
Jasmine Paolini (ITA)
With Italy's golden generation of Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani all either retired or far from their peak, Italian tennis could use some fresh blood - and there are signs that 23-year-old Jasmine Paolini could take up the mantle. The World No.210 from Castelnuovo di Garfagnana has posted some eye-catching results over the past two years: a title run at the strong Marseille ITF W100 event in 2017 and a maiden Top 20 win over Daria Kasatkina en route to her first WTA quarterfinal in Prague last year both boosted her to ranking high of World No.130 in each of those seasons.
So far, Paolini - who has Italian, Ghanaian and Polish heritage - has not been able to sustain that form over a whole year. But 2019 has been positive for her so far, with a seventh ITF trophy in Curitiba in March and a second-round showing in Bogota among the highlights. This week, the Italian's panache has shone through in qualifying as she has navigated past Anna Zaja, Rebecca Sramkova and Allie Kiick for the loss of just 16 games in total.
Diane Parry (FRA)
Last year, Diane Parry caused a stir in Roland Garros qualifying when, as a 15-year-old unranked wildcard, she stunned World No.109 Jana Fett in a 7-6(6), 1-6, 7-5 thriller - becoming the first player born in 2002 to win a Grand Slam qualifying match.
Having announced herself to the tennis world in dramatic fashion, the Nice native - who boasts a rare one-handed backhand as part of her aggressive repertoire - has built on it strongly over the past year. Parry has risen to World No.9 in the junior rankings thanks to a Grade A title in Merida, Mexico last year and a Grade 1 trophy in Criciúma, Brazil this February, and two ITF W25 quarterfinals in Santa Margherita di Pula and Tunis have boosted her WTA ranking to World No.486. And in Strasbourg qualifying last weekend, the 16-year-old added another name to her list of senior scalps with an upset of Sesil Karatantcheva.
Elena Rybakina (KAZ)
Moscow-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina, a former junior World No.3, has long been touted as one to watch - something that has been particularly bolstered by results such as her 2018 St. Petersburg quarterfinal run, where - as a qualifier ranked World No.450 - she stunned Caroline Garcia 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(5) to score her maiden Top 10 scalp at the first attempt.
The remainder of the season was relatively quiet for Rybakina as she consolidated her position in the Top 200, but 2019 has seen the 19-year-old go up a level as she heads towards the Top 100 at speed. Three ITF titles in Launceston, Moscow and Kazan set the stage for a second WTA quarterfinal showing in Istanbul, where the powerful right-hander showed off her smooth groundstrokes in upsetting Katerina Siniakova and Pauline Parmentier; it took the experience of Barbora Strycova to halt her in a topsy-turvy 0-6, 7-6(6), 6-0 clash.
Undaunted, Rybakina has picked her form back up this week, pounding her way past Liang En-Shuo, Rebecca Marino and Nao Hibino to extend her 2019 record to 28-8.
Liudmila Samsonova (RUS)
Born in Olenogorsk, Russia, but resident in Italy since the age of one, Liudmila Samsonova won her first ITF professional title in Rome at the age of 15 in June 2014. Following that success, though, Samsonova - who represented Italy as a teenager, but switched to Russia last year - largely flew under the radar, until 2018 saw her make her big move.
Compiling a 65-23 win-loss record, Samsonova zoomed from World No.552 to World No.180, winning her first ITF W25 title in El Espinar in August and a maiden ITF W60 trophy in Saint-Malo in September. The 20-year-old's first forays into main Tour qualifying this year have seen her continue to make progress, scoring the first three Top 100 wins of her career over Tamara Zidansek, Lara Arruabarrena and Kristyna Pliskova in Doha and Dubai and moving up to her current World No.161 ranking - but Roland Garros marks the first time that Samsonova and her powerful groundstrokes have navigated all the way through to a WTA-level main draw. And she has done it the hard way: Samsonova survived a three-hour, four-minute marathon in the first round to triumph 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-6(2) over Martina Di Giuseppe before upsetting two seeds, No.23 Sachia Vickery and No.10 Marie Bouzkova, in straight sets.