Renata Zarazua became just the fourth Mexican woman in the Open Era to play in the main draw of a major on Monday at Roland Garros, where the 22-year-old followed up her successful qualifying campaign to earn her first win at a Slam. Zarazua defeated French wildcard Elsa Jacquemot, 6-1, 6-2 to earn a second-round clash with No.3 seed Elina Svitolina. She is the first Mexican woman to win a main draw match at a Slam since Angélica Gavaldón advanced to the second round of the 2000 Australian Open.
"It means a lot," Zarazua said after the match. "I think it's not only a win, I think it means even more than that. I'm super happy. I think I'm living a dream here in Paris. So I just want to enjoy every match and enjoy every opportunity that it's been giving me being here this week."
WTA fans undoubtedly remember Zarazua's electric run to the semifinals at the Abierto Mexicano TelCel in February, where she defeated top seed Sloane Stephens en route to becoming the first Mexican woman to play a WTA semifinal since 1993. That run vaulted her into the Top 200 and she now sits at a career-high No.178, surely to rise after Paris.
Though the season shutdown would come a few weeks later, halting her momentum, Zarazua spent the time getting fitter and making adjustments to her game to come out of the lockdown stronger.
"It was hard to manage because after Acapulco my confidence was really high so I wanted to play a lot of matches and make the most of it. So when the lockdown came I was a little bit sad.
"But I think my brother and my coach kept me motivated every day. It was hard to push through when you didn't have a goal, but we made some adjustments to my game and some physical training. So that was nice to have some focus on something."
Zarazua counts World No.2 Simona Halep as a reference point for the development of her game, watching videos of the similarly short-statured Romanian to learn how to best use her own abilities on court. She certainly had plenty of time during the shutdown to practice. Training with her brother and coach in Florida, Zarazua says she was lucky that her complex had a tennis court onsite.
"It was good and bad at the same time because all the time you spend, you were on court because there was nothing else to do," she said, laughing.
🇲🇽 Las únicas tres mujeres mexicanas en la historia que han ganado un partido de #RolandGarros en la Era Open (desde 1968)— ESPN.com.mx (@ESPNmx) September 28, 2020
💥 Elena Subirats (1968)
💥 Angélica Gavaldón (1994)
💥 Renata Zarazúa (2020)https://t.co/fzwSyVf8Fw pic.twitter.com/WKKDjlrV2x
2020 Roland Garros is Zarazua's second trip to Paris, having come to play her first Slam qualifying here in 2018. Zarazua lost in the first round of qualifying in her three previous attempts to qualify for a Slam main draw, but her experience of playing on the WTA Tour in February has made Paris a much more comfortable experience this time around.
"This year it's been actually good because I know most of the players," Zarazua said. "I was able to be with them in Acapulco and Monterrey.
"I was actually telling my brother on the first day that we came, I told him I don't feel that lost. Two years ago I was really lost. I didn't know where to go, I was so nervous. I was going to the warm-up area and I wasn't even warming up.
"This year I'm not feeling that anymore. I feel like I'm here because I have the ranking to be here so I should be comfortable, in a way."
Living in the Roland Garros bubble means Zarazua has not been able to explore Paris, but she still has an opportunity to explore new sights.
"I haven't been to the Chatrier locker rooms yet," she said. "I started to feel comfortable at the Suzanne Lenglen locker rooms. Maybe I'll just stay here.
"But I want to go see under the stadium where the players eat and everything. I'm hesitating to do that. My brother said just stay in your zone, but I think tomorrow I'll probably go there."
As she prepares to face World No.5 Elina Svitolina, who comes into Paris fresh off her second title of the year in Strasbourg, Zarazua is ready to see how her game stacks up against the WTA's elite.
"I know she's a great player and playing in a Slam and playing the best players is what you wish for," Zarazua said. "So I'm just really happy for the opportunity to play her and I'm going to enjoy and do my game and just have the confidence knowing it's another chance for myself against a good player."
In the meantime, Zarazua and her team should consider upgrading her phone's data plan in the event she pulls off the upset.
"It was funny because when I qualified my phone actually shut down," she said. "I don't know if they could watch it on the TV, but something happened at that moment when I qualified and they all sent the messages at the same time and my phone shut down.
"I haven't answered all the messages, but I know I've been getting a few and I'm very happy for that."