In a clash of former Top 30 players in the final round of Roland Garros qualifying, No.18 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova overturned a 1-5 second-set deficit to stun No.1 seed Vera Zvonareva 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Three weeks ago, Zvonareva, 36, had dispatched Schmiedlova with ease 6-2, 6-1 in Madrid qualifying. The Russian former World No.2 appeared on course to duplicate that scoreline, out-manoeuvring Schmiedlova for the first half of the match.
Schmiedlova, who defeated Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka in the main draw of Roland Garros last year, managed to battle through three deuces to hold for 2-5. Though Zvonareva was visibly frustrated at failing to seal the win there, she still had a comfortable lead.
But Schmiedlova, who reached her career high of World No.26 in October 2015, suddenly hit her stride. The 26-year-old began playing some of her finest and most aggressive tennis, conjuring up a dazzling series of sharp angles from every corner of the court.
The Slovak reeled off six straight games, and 22 of the last 26 points of the set, to level the score without facing a match point. In the decider, she pulled off another comeback from 1-3 down, winning the last five games of the match, and 20 of the last 25 points.
Welcome to the main draw, ladies 👏— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 27, 2021
🇨🇴 Osorio Serrano
🇸🇰 Schmiedlova#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/uakUCpd3Kw
Junior champions Osorio Serrano, Liang progress
On a day when eight of the 16 qualifiers were set, former junior Grand Slam champions Maria Camila Osorio Serrano and Liang En-Shuo graduated to the main event for the first time in their careers. Osorio Serrano advanced when Monica Niculescu retired trailing 6-3, 4-3 due to a lower back injury, while Liang needed only 62 minutes to dispatch No.31 seed Harriet Dart 6-2, 6-2.
No.11 seed Osorio Serrano, the 2019 US Open girls' titlist, has surged in 2021. The Colombian has rocketed from World No.180 at the start of April to a current career high of World No.98 after lifting her maiden WTA trophy in Bogota, then backing it up with semifinal showings in Charleston and Belgrade.
Interview: Osorio Serrano on emotion, Colombian inspiration and never giving up
In that time, the 19-year-old has gained a reputation for her fighting spirit - something helped by her problem-solving ability and range of options in her game. For the second match in a row, she fell behind an early break against Niculescu. But once Osorio Serrano had got to grips with the Romanian's idiosyncrasies, she began coming out on top of the many cat-and-mouse exchanges before Niculescu was unable to continue.
Liang, who won the 2018 Australian Open junior crown and made the quarterfinals of her WTA debut in Nanchang in the same year, has flown under the radar to date. The 20-year-old from Chinese Taipei hit a career high of World No.150 in May 2019, but has slipped back to World No.295 after going 0-4 on clay in 2021 prior to this week.
But Liang was rarely troubled against Dart, dominating play with her forehand. From 0-2 down in the second set, she rattled off the last six games of the match, dropping only six more points to the Briton.
Keep dreaming, keep working 💪— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 27, 2021
At 29-years-old, it's a first Grand Slam main draw for Ekaterine Gorgodze 🇬🇪#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/uRbAfVLoqB
Gorgodze makes Grand Slam debut at age of 29
After Ekaterine Gorgodze sealed match point against Nuria Parrizas Diaz for a 6-3, 6-4 win that put her into a Grand Slam main draw for the first time, the Georgian buried her face in her hands and was overcome with emotion courtside with her team.
It was no wonder. Gorgodze, 29, had played her first tournament all the way back in 2006, reaching the final of an ITF $10K event at home in Tbilisi on her pro debut at the age of 14. Fifteen years of toiling on the ITF World Tour followed - in that time, Gorgodze competed in just three WTA main draws, and lost first round in each.
Gorgodze's opponent was in a similar position: Parrizas Diaz is also 29 years old, and was also seeking her Grand Slam debut. It was Gorgodze who held her nerve to become the fifth Georgian woman in the main draw of a major. She follows Leila Meskhi (who began her career playing for the Soviet Union), Anna Tatishvili (who switched flag to the USA midway through her career), Sofia Shapatava and Mariam Bolkvadze.
Krunic returns to main stage, Kalinina continues winning streak
Thursday's qualifiers were rounded out by four players returning to the main draw of a Grand Slam. Former World No.39 Aleksandra Krunic had not competed in any WTA-level main draw since Tashkent 2019, but has rediscovered her form after winning the Belgrade doubles title last week. The Serb defeated No.27 seed Olga Govortsova 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and 13 minutes.
No.29 seed Anhelina Kalinina extended her winning streak to 13 and season record to 19-4 with a clinical 6-4, 6-1 win over Jaqueline Cristian. The Ukrainian won back-to-back ITF titles in Oeiras and Zagreb last month, and has continued her momentum to qualify without losing a set. It will be a Roland Garros debut for Kalinina, who previously competed at the 2018 and 2020 US Opens.
No.17 seed Greet Minnen has successfully navigated qualifying in both majors of 2021 so far. The Belgian booked her place in her fifth consecutive Grand Slam main draw with a 7-5, 6-4 defeat of Ellen Perez.
Former World No.19 Varvara Lepchenko played her first major as a qualifier at the 2006 US Open, beating Catalina Castaño in the first round before falling to Marion Bartoli. Fifteen years on, the 35-year-old American sealed a spot in her 45th Grand Slam main draw, upsetting No.7 seed Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-1, 6-3 in just 70 minutes.