PARIS, France - The propensity for drama in Grand Slam qualifying hasn't been dimmed by 2020's unusual circumstances, as No.17 seed Barbara Haas can attest after a rollercoaster 6-0, 5-7, 7-5 defeat of Daria Snigur in the first preliminary round of Roland Garros - though it wouldn't have seemed that way after the first 42 minutes of play.
At that juncture, the Austrian led 6-0, 5-0, had lost just six points in the second set and held a match point for a rare double bagel victory. Her 18-year-old opponent, last year's Wimbledon junior champion, was making her debut at Grand Slam qualifying level - but having hit just one winner to 35 unforced errors in 11 games, it seemed as though it would be one to forget.
But Haas double faulted on match point, triggering a turnaround that was nothing short of spectacular. Three more double faults followed in her next service game and two in the one after that as the World No.143 failed to serve out the win three times. By contrast, the winners that had hitherto eluded Snigur suddenly started flowing, and the Ukrainian would concede just one more point on serve in that second set as she reeled off six consecutive games to level the match, finishing with a blistering crosscourt forehand on the run.
To Haas's credit, she did not permit the collapse to extend into the decider, which opened with seven breaks of serve in a row - though, having edged to the brink of victory once more at 5-3, closing remained a complicated task. Haas held double match point serving at 5-4, but double faulted again on the first and netted a short forehand on the second.
The 24-year-old nonetheless proved steadier in the final stretch than World No.220 Snigur, whose tactic of going for the lines failed to keep the ball in court often enough to take the lead herself. Haas broke again for 6-5, came up with a brilliant volley pickup to reach match point for a fourth time - and this time converted it as Snigur sent a forehand into the net.
Elsewhere, the youthful pair heading the draw - both coming off third-round runs at the US Open - survived scares to progress. No.1 seed Ann Li needed to overturn a break deficit and save two set points in the first set against Indy De Vroome, but the 20-year-old American would rein in her initially inconsistent forehand just in time to emerge a 7-6(6), 6-4 victor after one hour and 41 minutes. Meanwhile, 18-year-old No.2 seed Marta Kostyuk rode out a second-set blip to race through a 19-minute decider, defeating Isabella Shinikova 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 in a stellar showcase of all-court play.
Another teenager living up to recent form was 19-year-old No.6 seed Elisabetta Cocciaretto, a Palermo quarterfinalist and Prague 125K runner-up since the Tour's resumption. The Italian got her maiden Roland Garros off to a fine start with a 6-4, 6-2 dismissal of Anastasiya Komardina. However, Kristina Kucova - Cocciaretto's conqueror in the Prague final - was a surprise casualty, the No.14 seed falling 6-1, 6-3 to former World No.94 Richel Hogenkamp in just 68 minutes.
Local wildcards also fared well on the first day, with World No.519 Carole Monnet overturning a 370-spot ranking deficit to paint an upset of No.23 seed Whitney Osuigwe 6-3, 6-1 in a battle of 18-year-olds, and World No.265 Tessah Andrianjafitrimo battling for two hours and 22 minutes to triumph 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 over Nuria Parrizas Diaz.
For the 21-year-old Andrianjafitrimo, victory in this manner goes some way to allaying her Roland Garros qualifying heartbreak last year, when she squandered a 5-1 third-set lead and two match points against Rebecca Marino. Meanwhile, 17-year-old World No.909 Aubane Droguet was unable to join her fellow Frenchwomen in the second round, but impressed with her powerful game as she pushed No.22 seed Kurumi Nara all the way in a 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2 defeat.
The two longest matches of the day both neared the three-hour mark and were ultimately won at the net. India's Ankita Raina needed two hours and 47 minutes to overcome 2014 Monterrey finalist Jovana Jovic 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, boldly taking on drive volleys in a nailbiting final stretch and sealing her fourth match point with a do-or-die forehand winner down the line. Later, Japanese World No.181 Mayo Hibi successfully blunted No.15 seed Caroline Dolehide's power with a series of feathery volleys and wafted lobs, coming from a break down three times in the third set to emerge a 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 victor after two hours and 45 minutes.
Amidst the drama and the longueurs, the two highest-profile names in the draw slipped into the second round with the minimum of fuss. No.24 seed and 2012 finalist Sara Errani eased past Ekaterine Gorgodze 6-2, 6-2 in 69 minutes, while former World No.2 Vera Zvonareva, fresh off being crowned US Open doubles champion, was even more ruthless in dispatching No.11 seed and Russian compatriot Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-1, 6-2 in 58 minutes. Another impressively clean performance came from No.8 seed Nadia Podoroska, who improved her 2020 record to 36-6 and her current winning streak to six by striking 20 winners to just 10 unforced errors in an hour-long 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Magdalena Frech.