As the dust settles on the first three days of the French Open, WTA Insider re-examines the draw and highlights the stories and stats you might have missed.
In Celebration of Carla Suárez Navarro
Few would take issue with the following statement: Carla Suárez Navarro is the most beloved member of the WTA locker room. A soft-spoken tour veteran who began her career in 2003, Suárez Navarro's charisma was in her kindness and her character. She rarely speaks above a whisper but is always the first to say hello. Her greetings were never flippant or canned. When Carla asks you how you're doing, she really wants to know. She has the best 'goodbye wink' in the game.
As the 32-year-old made her return to tour at Roland Garros after beating Hodgkin's Lymphoma, eyes were glued to TVs around the world. Before the tournament, Suárez Navarro confirmed this would be her final French Open, as she began a farewell tour that she plans to finish at the US Open this fall.
Suárez Navarro would swing her swashbuckling one-handed backhand to within a game of defeating Sloane Stephens. She served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but couldn't close it out, and Stephens found her big forehand and eventually edged her in three tough sets, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4. Stephens was ever gracious at the net and afterward, knowing full well this was a moment to celebrate an incredible athlete and pillar of WTA citizenship.
"Obviously she's been through a lot and we're all happy that she's better and healthy and being able to play again, which I think obviously is the most important thing," Stephens said. "Just having her around again, she's obviously been a staple on tour for so long. We all love her and love having her around. I think that was nice to see her, nice to see a familiar face after the pandemic and everything she's been through."
But Suárez Navarro couldn't hide her disappointment after the match. As much as she has discussed her excitement for the positive vibes surrounding her last go-around, the Spaniard is as dogged a competitor as you will find. She did not come to Roland Garros just to get a tour of the new facilities.
"At the beginning of the match I was really nervous," Suárez Navarro said. "I feel a lot on my serve. But then I feel good. I really enjoyed. I have a little bit of crowd, and I really enjoyed. But then I was so sad when they [had] to leave [Paris has a 9pm curfew for spectators]. Well, it was difficult. I [thought] about that yesterday when I was fourth match [on] that court, sometimes it can happen.
"But, well, after the match, I'm not happy with the result, you know. I have 5-4, my serve, and then tiebreak to close the match.
"But, well, maybe with the time I see this different but now I'm not too happy. I was here to win that match."
Comeback Queens: Danielle Collins, Marta Kostyuk, Ann Li
Hats off to three women who had tough roads to Roland Garros for varying reasons, only to make their mark in the first rounds.
Just eight months ago, Danielle Collins was battling her way to her first French Open quarterfinal. She started the 2021 season well, tallying a dominating victory over Barty in Adelaide. Collins underwent surgery for endometriosis in April and revealed to The Telegraph that the procedure removed a cyst "the size of a tennis ball" from her ovary.
Danielle Collins says she’s been shocked by how much better she has felt physically after undergoing surgery for endometriosis. Hopes to bring awareness to the disorder.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) May 30, 2021
"I think just being able to talk about it with other women is empowering.” #RG21 pic.twitter.com/RfritzHPq5
Playing her first match since the procedure, Collins was back to her competitive ways, digging deep to defeat Wang Xiyu, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
For 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk, her road to Roland Garros also involved overcoming health issues. After starting the season with a fantastic run to the semifinals in Abu Dhabi, Kostyuk's season has been undermined by bad luck, including contracting Covid in the spring.
"I never did a proper scan of my lungs, but I'm sure it was bad because I wasn't really able to breathe," Kostyuk said. "I couldn't really walk when I was home because I was always out of breath. All I could do was lay in bed and try and recover, so it wasn't good.
"After Istanbul and Fed Cup, I was trying to get in a rhythm but I was so stressed inside me that my body was not really handling everything. I was trying my best. I passed the qualies in Rome, made semis in Istanbul, but I wasn't there. My game wasn't there. I wasn't aggressive. My body was very heavy. I was always inflamed. I had all these health issues that we found out later about that I had to fix."
Drawn against No.12 seed and former champion Garbiñe Muguruza in the first round, Kostyuk earned the first Top 20 win of her career, winning 6-1, 6-4.
Lastly, America's Ann Li started the season incredibly well, making the Grampians Trophy final, third round of the Australian Open and the semifinals in Monterrey. But an abdominal injury sustained in Mexico left her sidelined.
Blink and you may have missed Li's first match since March. Playing in her Roland Garros debut, the 20-year-old needed just 46 minutes to defeat Margarita Gasparyan, 6-0, 6-1.
Impressive in Defeat: Kaja Juvan and Liang En-Shuo
Slovenia's Kaja Juvan had herself a day Monday. She gave her best friend a pre-match birthday hug (see below), took to Chatrier to play said best friend, who happens to be the defending champion, bounced back from a first-set bagel to take more games off Iga Swiatek in a set than anyone was able to do during her 2020 title run, hugged and debriefed the match with her at the net and then stuck around to sing Happy Birthday with Marion Bartoli and the crowd.
As Juvan spoke to Swiatek at the net, the on-court microphones picked up the 19-year-old, who is ranked No.101, say that it was the most fun she's had on court in eight months. Juvan contracted Covid in March and has struggled with her physicality since. Now working with Philippe Dehaes (former coach to Daria Kasatkina) it was great to see her unleash her game in the second set against Swiatek and impress.
Another young player who impressed: Chinese Taipei's Liang En-Shuo. The 20-year-old was the junior Australian Open champion in 2020 and worked her way through qualifying to make her Grand Slam debut. In front of a boisterous French crowd, Liang pushed France's No.1 Fiona Ferro in a 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 loss. Built low with a heavy forehand and strong work in and out of the corners, there was a lot to like about Liang's game.
Osaka, Andreescu, and Kvitova out, Barty under injury cloud
The top half of the draw saw 14 of the 16 seeds advance to the second round, including the two pre-tournament favorites to make the semifinals in No.1 Ashleigh Barty and defending champion Swiatek. While Swiatek kicked off her title defense with a 6-0, 7-5 win over Juvan, Barty arrived to her first match against Bernarda Pera with her left upper leg taped. After scrapping through a three-set win, Barty revealed she suffered an acute injury over the weekend to her left hip and acknowledged it would be an uphill climb from here on out.
"That was a massive part of today was accepting the fact that, yes, I may not be absolutely 100% but I'm certainly good enough to go out there and fight and do the best I can and give myself a chance to win matches," Barty said.
"I'm not going to hide behind the fact I'm not quite 100% but I can guarantee that I will go out there with the right attitude every day and be really accepting of that and give it a crack no matter what. It's going to be tough now without a doubt.
"We're here, we're fighting, we're in with a chance and that's all we can do."
Match management will be key from here on out. Barty will face Poland's Magda Linette in the second round, with the winner to face either Ons Jabeur or Astra Sharma. Barty is also in the doubles draw with Jennifer Brady.
The bottom half of the draw saw three seismic developments in withdrawals of No.2 Naomi Osaka and No.11 seed Petra Kvitova, who both withdrew after their first-round wins, and No.6 seed Bianca Andreescu's tough three-set loss to Tamara Zidansek in the longest match of the opening round.
The Osaka-Andreescu quarter was already the land of opportunity when the draw came out and it is now even more so with the top seeds out. The highest seeds remaining in that quarter are No.10 Belinda Bencic, who faces Daria Kasatkina in the second round, and No.20 and 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova. Charleston champion Veronika Kudermetova and Belgrade champion Paula Badosa remain the in-form players in the quarter.
Notable Second-Round Matches
Bottom Half (Wednesday): Victoria Azarenka vs. Clara Tauson, Leylah Fernandez vs. Madison Keys, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Ajla Tomljanovic, Belinda Bencic vs. Daria Kasatkina
Top Half (Thursday): Astra Sharma vs. Ons Jabeur, Karolina Pliskova vs. Sloane Stephens, Elina Svitolina vs. Ann Li
20: Consecutive games won by Iga Swiatek. The streak began with the final game of her semifinal win over Coco Gauff in Rome and was ended when Kaja Juvan won a game in the second set of their first-round match in Paris.
2: Seeds out of the top half. No.11 Muguruza bowed out to Marta Kostyuk and No.22 and 2019 quarterfinalist Petra Martic lost to Camila Giorgi.
6: Seeds out of the bottom half. In addition to the post-win withdrawals of Osaka and Kvitova, No.6 seed Bianca Andreescu, No.16 seed Kiki Bertens, No.19 seed Johanna Konta, and No.26 seed Angelique Kerber bowed out.
2: Second-round matches that are also rematches from recent WTA finals. Ons Jabeur will be seeking her revenge - her words - against MUSC Women's Health Open champion Astra Sharma, and Wang Qiang will get another crack at Emilia-Romagna Open champion Coco Gauff.
12: American women in the second round of Roland Garros, the most since 13 advanced in 1991.
2: Match-point saving wins in the first round. Petra Kvitova did so to defeat Greet Minnen, 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-1, and Anett Kontaveit saved match point to beat Viktorija Golubic, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-0.