Canadian wildcard Rebecca Marino thrilled the Centre Court fans at the Omnium Banque Nationale on Monday night, stunning 2016 runner-up Madison Keys of the United States 6-3 6-3, in their opening-round clash.
Marino, currently ranked World No.220, is making her first appearance in the Omnium Banque Nationale main draw since 2011. But the powerful play, which pulled the Canadian into the Top 40 10 years ago was still evident a decade later, as she swept past No.16 seed Keys in just an hour and six minutes.
"Obviously I'm really excited to come away with the win there," Marino told the press after her win. "Keys is a really strong player with a big serve, a big forehand. I knew it would be a really tough match going in there.
"But I know I also have an equally big serve and big forehand, so I just had to give it my best shot. Got a couple breaks of serve, and that was pretty much it. Really happy I capitalized on the opportunity of winning that match, and excited for the next one."
In 2013, Marino started a five-year break from her tennis career before returning to action in 2018. This season, 30-year-old Marino qualified for the Australian Open to play her first Grand Slam main draw since 2013.
Marino has now notched another milestone during her comeback, obtaining her first win over a Top 50 player in nearly a decade with her victory over Keys. The Canadian converted four of her eight break points to ease past the former World No.7 and earn a spot in the second round.
"I think it was the right decision at the time for me to step away from the game," Marino said. "I know some people didn't understand it at the time, but I'm really proud of the decisions I made because it made me feel like a completely whole individual, and it made me rediscover my love and passion for the sport. I think it shows when I play."
Marino controlled the first set with her powerful serve, fending off both of the two break points she faced while drawing errors from 2017 US Open finalist Keys. At 2-1, Marino converted her third break point of that game to grasp a lead she would not relinquish, and she finished off the set with an ace.
Keys reined in her powerful groundstrokes enough to blast her way to an early break and a 2-0 lead in the second set, but Marino struck back with aplomb right away, using a forehand return winner into the corner to break back at love.
Marino continued to put pressure on Keys with perfectly placed service blasts and groundstrokes which were struck early and deep. The homeland hope was rewarded with two more breaks, one in the final game, to seal her biggest victory since her comeback three years ago, and her first main-draw win at this event.
"This win means a lot," Marino said. "It's been a long journey back from not only coming out of retirement, but also coming back from a big injury last year in 2019. I knew this would be a really good chance to sneak up on some players and get some wins if I could just play the game that I want to play."
No.13 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia also breezed into the second round of the Omnium Banque Nationale on Monday, dispatching French qualifier Clara Burel, 6-1, 6-3.
Jabeur fell in qualifying in her only previous appearance at the tournament in 2019, but she had very little trouble in her main-draw debut this time around, ousting World No.101 Burel in their first meeting after just 55 minutes of play.
Currently perched at her career-high ranking of World No.22 after winning a historic first title in Birmingham and reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals, Jabeur notched her 34th match-win of the season by converting five of her eight break points while only dropping serve once.
Jabeur combined sturdy return winners with deft dropshots, as is her custom, en route to a commanding 4-0 lead in the opening set. Jabeur had to save two break points at 4-1, but pulled herself out of that jam before collecting another break to wrap up the one-set lead.
Another 4-0 lead for Jabeur was whittled down more successfully in the second set by Burel, who clawed one break back and pulled within two games at 5-3. However, Jabeur smoothly served out the match with minimal fuss to claim her spot in round two.