PARIS, France - The top three seeds in the Roland Garros qualifying draw are all rising U21 players who made their marks at the US Open earlier this month - Ann Li, Marta Kostyuk and Caty McNally - while former Grand Slam finalists Sara Errani and Vera Zvonareva also add veteran star power to the field, which begins tomorrow in Paris.
Top-seeded Li, the 2017 Wimbledon junior runner-up, made her Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open in January, and turned heads in New York by stunning Alison Riske 6-0, 6-3 to notch her first Top 20 win. The 20-year-old American opens against Indy De Vroome, and faces a potentially intriguing final hurdle against either No.13 seed Lesia Tsurenko, the oft-injured former World No.23 who reached the fourth round of Roland Garros in 2018, or 2016 Istanbul champion Cagla Buyukakcay.
Kostyuk, who signalled her potential early with a run to the 2018 Australian Open third round at the age of 15 but announced her resurgence as a more mature and complete talent by stretching eventual champion Naomi Osaka to three compelling sets at the same stage of the US Open, is the No.2 seed here. The Ukrainian has landed in a section that features just one former Top 100 player, No.22 seed Kurumi Nara, standing between her and a main draw debut in Paris.
Meanwhile, No.3 seed McNally, who scored her first Top 30 win over Ekaterina Alexandrova en route to the third round in Flushing Meadows, will have to navigate some dangerous fellow 18-year-olds in a bid to make her own main draw debut: 2019 US Open girls' champion Maria Camila Osorio Serrano lurks in the second round, while whoever emerges from that is projected to face 2017 Roland Garros junior titlist Whitney Osuigwe, the No.23 seed, in the final round. Amidst the youth in this section is another noteworthy narrative: rising Pepperdine University alumna Mayar Sherif, who became the second Egyptian ever to compete in a WTA main draw when she qualified for Prague a month ago, and who opens against Osorio Serrano in her bid to be the first Egyptian woman in a Grand Slam main draw.
Elsewhere, two-time major runner-up Zvonareva is fresh off the biggest success since returning from maternity leave in 2017 - the US Open doubles title alongside Laura Siegemund. The Russian former World No.2 made her Grand Slam singles debut at Roland Garros all the way back in 2002, when as a qualifier ranked World No.142 she made it all the way to the fourth round, where she took a set from eventual champion Serena Williams. Zvonareva bested that result a year later, reaching her first major quarterfinal with an upset of Venus Williams - but has not been back to the last eight in Paris since. Now ranked World No.181 and unseeded in the qualifying draw, the 36-year-old has drawn 23-year-old compatriot Natalia Vikhlyantseva, the No.11 seed, in the first round, with a potential third-round clash against the idiosyncrasies of No.16 seed Monica Niculescu awaiting.
No.24 seed Errani has also shown signs of a resurgence lately: the 2012 Roland Garros finalist lit up the Tour's first week back post-shutdown in Palermo a month ago, delivering some of her signature gritty epics to reach the quarterfinals on home soil. The Italian opens against Georgia's Ekaterine Gorgodze, and is slated to face Czech No.4 seed Tereza Martincova - fresh off her third career WTA semifinal in Istanbul - in the final round.
Martincova is far from the only in-form player to keep an eye on. Two weeks ago, the super-sized 128-player draw at the Prague Open 125K posed a unique challenge for competitors at this level, and it was Kristina Kucova who emerged with seven victories and the title. The Slovak is the No.14 seed here, and is projected to face No.5 seed and former World No.20 Mihaela Buzarnescu in the third round.
The Prague 125K runner-up was another talented teenager, Italy's Elisabetta Cocciaretto, who has also impressed recently in upsetting Donna Vekic en route to her maiden WTA quarterfinal in Palermo. The 19-year-old is the No.6 seed this week, and a potential second-round clash against Danish 17-year-old Clara Tauson - the 2019 Australian Open junior champion - could be a tantalizing foreshadowing of a future rivalry at the top of the game.
Few players in the field have displayed as much sustained form in 2020 at this level as No.8 seed Nadia Podoroska, though. The 23-year-old Argentinian, a Pan American Games gold medallist last year, opened the season with a 14-match winning streak and has picked up where she left off in the past month: a run to the Prague 125K semifinals was backed up by her biggest title to date at the Saint-Malo ITF W60 event, resulting in her new career-high ranking of World No.130, and this week she makes her first appearance in Roland Garros qualifying since 2017.
In a stacked section of the draw, Podoroska takes on Prague quarterfinalist Magdalena Frech in her opener, followed by either dangerous Romanian Jaqueline Cristian or notorious upset artist Jana Cepelova in the second round. Awaiting in the final round could be the 18-year-old No.20 seed Wang Xinyu, making her first appearance since the Indian Wells 125K in February.
Click here to view the full 2020 Roland Garros qualifying draw.