On a stop-start opening day of Roland Garros qualifying, Grand Slam finalists Vera Zvonareva and Sara Errani were among the favourites who wasted no time in winning their first rounds.
No.1 seed Zvonareva kicked off action with an impressively clean 6-1, 6-2 win over Francesca Jones. Zvonareva, whose season has been highlighted by a St. Petersburg semifinal showing and a third-round finish in Rome, returned to the Top 100 one week ago. The Russian's career-best performance in Paris was her quarterfinal run in 2003.
No.5 seed Errani, the Roland Garros runner-up in 2012, showed off her tenacity to post a 6-3, 7-5 defeat of Sachia Vickery. The Italian, who reached the quarterfinals in Parma last week, trailed Vickery 0-3 in both sets. However, she overturned both deficits via a series of extended baseline exchanges and long deuce tussles.
Grabher upsets Bolsova, Gorgodze ousts Zarazua
The biggest upset of the day came with World No.194 Julia Grabher's 6-2, 6-3 defeat of No.2 seed Aliona Bolsova. The Austrian has been in fine form this year, capturing her biggest title to date at the Bellinzona ITF W60 last month, and her win over World No.107 Bolsova is the best of her career by ranking.
The Bellinzona tournament was also the spark for Ekaterine Gorgodze to turn her year around. The Georgian lost her first seven matches of 2021 before reaching the semifinals in the ITF event. Here in Paris, she came through a two-hour, 33-minute battle to defeat No.28 seed Renata Zarazua 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Gorgodze just about held on during a nail-biting dénouement. The 29-year-old saw a 5-2 final-set lead chipped away by the valiant Zarazua, who also saved five match points in a series of long, gruelling rallies. But Gorgodze would finally get over the line on her sixth go.
Dulgheru wins on return to major stage
Romania's Alexandra Dulgheru has had an injury-afflicted career, but the talent that took her to World No.26 back in 2011 is still there. Playing her first Grand Slam qualifying event since 2018, Dulgheru dispatched No.12 seed Wang Yafan 6-3, 6-1 in one hour and 28 minutes.
Dulgheru has spoken about how her passion for art has helped her while she was sidelined from sport, but her tennis career is a work she hasn't completed yet. Unranked at the start of the year, she started her comeback in ITF W15 tournaments - but a run to the Saint-Gaudens ITF W60 final two weeks ago has already lifted her to World No.444.
Another Romanian former Top 30 player, Monica Niculescu, is more likely to be seen on the doubles court - or captaining her country's Billie Jean King Cup squad - than in singles action these days. Indeed, Niculescu had lost all of her eight singles matches in 2021 prior to Paris.
But she proved that her trademark forehand slice can still be as troublesome as ever, carving her way past No.19 seed Ysaline Bonaventure 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in one hour and 59 minutes.
Sherif survives stern Chwalinska test
No.13 seed Mayar Sherif was pushed all the way by teenage shotmaker Maja Chwalinska before progressing 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in two hours and 47 minutes. Poland's Chwalinska has strong pedigree, having partnered Iga Swiatek to the Australian Open girls' doubles final in 2017.
Her rise hasn't been as swift as her star compatriot, but Chwalinska's delicate touch has long marked her as one to watch. Here, the 19-year-old's courtcraft and array of spins forced Sherif to bring some of her own best tennis to triumph in a high-quality encounter.
Les premières victoires françaises de ce #RolandGarros 🇫🇷@ArthurFils1, Manuel Guinard et Lois Boisson avancent au deuxième tour des qualifications ✅ pic.twitter.com/weg9MbX67e— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 24, 2021
Wildcards Boisson, Monnet make impression
Local teenage wildcards Lois Boisson and Carole Monnet both sprang surprises to reach the second round.
World No.914 Boisson was competing in her first ever Grand Slam tournament. The 17-year-old seemed to have faded after a lightning start against Eva Guerrero Alvarez, but recovered to close out the No.227-ranked Spaniard 6-0, 4-6, 6-3.
Monnet, 19, already has experience of a Roland Garros upset, having defeated Whitney Osuigwe on her debut in the qualifying rounds last year. The World No.381 needed just 64 minutes to oust Isabella Shinikova 6-3, 6-3 this time round.