PARIS, France - Slovenian teenager Kaja Juvan completed one of the day’s biggest upsets as she stunned former World No.1 Angelique Kerber in straight sets to claim her first main draw victory at the French Open.
19-year old Juvan made her Grand Slam debut here in Paris last year as a lucky loser, falling to Sorana Cirstea in her first-round match and pushed Serena Williams to three sets in her Wimbledon debut.
Now over a year later, Juvan showed no signs of nerves as she outlasted No.18 seed Kerber in two sets, needing just over an hour to complete the 6-3, 6-3 upset.
“It doesn't matter to me who the draw is, but when you play against players who have a lot of titles, you say to yourself, Okay, I watched them on TV when I was little, but I have to stay focused on myself,” Juvan said in her post-match press conference. “So I did what I had to do.
“But in the end, we had to wait three hours to play. And so we were trying to warm up, I was trying to stay aggressive. That's why I won her in the end, because she's a fantastic player.”
Juvan didn’t allow Kerber to get into the match and get any rhythm, keeping her under pressure from the start as she pushed the German to break points in her first two service games. They remained on serve through the first six games of the match as Juvan continued to chip away at Kerber’s defenses until she finally broke through at 5-3, reeling off the last three games of the set to close it out.
It was one-way traffic for most of the second set for the Slovenian, who opened up a double break lead to start 3-0 against Kerber. The three-time Grand Slam winner got on the scoreboard with a break of her own, but couldn’t protect her lefty serve as Juvan extended her lead to 4-1. The pair traded breaks once again but Juvan kept her nose in front, and closed out the match with a 6-3, 6-3 victory in 68 minutes.
“[I’m proud of] the way I handled the situation, I was not afraid,” Juvan said. “The match against Serena last year, of course, helped me stay calm in this match. But it's a new motivation. And this year is very hard, it's very hard for everyone here. It's cold, it's humid. You have to keep warm and move your body, so it's a question of who manages it best.
“This year, we're trying to play tennis, play matches, and survive the year. This is the main objective.”
Juvan advanced to the second round, where she will take on the winner between Arantxa Rus and French wildcard Clara Burel.
For Kerber, the defeat extended her Parisian woes as the two-time quarterfinalist has now fallen in the first round four times in the last five years.
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“I couldn't find my rhythm, especially at the start of the first set,” Kerber said. “She plays very well. The first games you have to get used to the conditions and then it was dark. It was not very easy for me, especially in terms of movement.
“I don't know if it's because we waited so long before we could play or not. Now I can try to find excuses, but that's not me.”