PARIS, France - The wildcards for Roland Garros 2019 have been announced, and some shake-ups to the methods of choosing them and an emphasis on youth mean that several new faces will be debuting on the Grand Slam stage in a fortnight's time.
Junior World No.9 Diane Parry caused a stir as a 15-year-old unranked qualifying wildcard last year when she became the first player born in 2002 to win a Grand Slam qualifying match, defeating World No.109 Jana Fett in a 7-6(6), 1-6, 7-5 thriller that showed off her rare one-handed backhand in full flow. Now ranked World No.484, Parry has continued to impress on the junior circuit with a Grade A title in Merida, Mexico last year and a Grade 1 trophy in Criciúma, Brazil this February, as well as making inroads on to the ITF World Tour with two W25 quarterfinals in Santa Margherita di Pula and Tunis under her belt.
Fellow 16-year-old Selena Janicijevic has also been making waves on the junior tour this year, with a Grade 1 title in Casablanca spearheading a rise from World No.141 to World No.29 in just five months. Janicijevic has played just four pro events, reaching the second round at the Gonesse ITF W15 in March, but nonetheless will join Parry in making her Grand Slam main draw debut in Paris.
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More familiar names include World No.194 Jessika Ponchet and World No.229 Chloe Paquet, wildcard stalwarts who, as the current French No.6 and No.7, are the two highest-ranked local players outside the main draw cut-off. 22-year-old Ponchet, who received main draw wildcards into the Australian Open and Roland Garros last year, came through qualifying for a major for the first time at the Australian Open, and backed that up by winning the Glasgow ITF W25 in February; Paquet won a round in Paris on her main draw debut in 2017, and her 2019 season highlights have been qualifying for Hua Hin and Bogota.
Meanwhile, Harmony Tan has been rewarded for her impressive improvement over the past 12 months. The 21-year-old, who reached the final round of qualifying as a wildcard last year and made her Grand Slam main draw debut via wildcvard at the US Open, was ranked as low as World No.399 in August - but a maiden ITF W25 title in Cherbourg last October and a run to the Grenoble W25 final in February have helped boost her ranking to its current World No.259.
For the first time, the French Tennis Federation has instituted a race to allocate one of its home wildcards. Determined by the points total spread across seven French ITF events this year, the inaugural winner was 24-year-old World No.286 Audrey Albié, currently just eight spots off her career high ranking, who reached finals at both the Andrézieux-Bouthéon ITF W60 in January and the Calvi ITF W25 in April.
With six of the eight main draw wildcards reserved for Frenchwomen, the reciprocal USTA wildcard has gone to former World No.26 Lauren Davis. The 25-year-old, making a comeback from an injury-affected slump in 2018, has raised her ranking from a low of World No.264 in October to its current World No.112, aided in recent weeks by the performances that earned her the most claycourt points of any American over the past two months - a final run at the Dothan ITF W80 and a title at last week's Bonita Springs ITF W100 - narrowly pipping 2017 Roland Garros junior champion Whitney Osuigwe to the post. Meanwhile, the reciprocal Tennis Australia wildcard has been awarded to World No.134 Priscilla Hon.
In recent years, two of the four Grand Slams, Wimbledon and the Australian Open have habitually rewarded their junior champions with a wildcard into either the qualifying competition or the main draw the following year. Eye-catching runs such as Agnieszka Radwanska's fourth-round showing at Wimbledon 2006, Jelena Ostapenko stunning Carla Suárez Navarro in a Wimbledon 2015 first-round upset and Marta Kostyuk reaching the third round in Melbourne last year have resulted. This year, Roland Garros has become the third major to do so, with 15-year-old phenomenon Cori Gauff awarded a qualifying wildcard. The American, who defeated Catherine McNally to win the girls' title last year and made her major qualifying debut at last year's US Open, became the youngest player in a decade to win a WTA main draw match in Miami this year, and is also the youngest player to hold a WTA ranking as the World No.345.
The remaining qualifying wildcards have gone to home players, including 17-year-old World No.526 Loudmilla Bencheikh, finalist at the Cherbourg ITF W25 last year and junior World No.43, and 16-year-old junior World No.55 Elsa Jacquemot, winner of the Grade 1 junior event in Beaulieu-sur-Mer in April. World No.232 Myrtille Georges and World No.406 Alizé Lim have been rewarded for their second and third places in the ITF race, while World No.340 Margot Yerolymos, World No.341 Tessah Andrianjafitrimo and World No.611 Manon Leonard round out the wildcards.