Katarina Zavatska and Olga Danilovic both showed emotion and grit on Day 2 of Roland Garros qualifying, pulling through two of the hardest-fought encounters of the first round.
Zavatska crouched on the clay to let the moment sink in after quelling Lucrezia Stefanini 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 in 2 hours and 51 minutes, while Danilovic let out a roar of triumph after coming from two points of defeat to upset No.23 seed Rebeka Masarova 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 in 2 hours and 32 minutes.
Zavatska and Danilovic, both former Top 15 juniors, have recently returned to action after being sidelined due to health problems. Danilovic, 21, did not play for nine months after being diagnosed with a virus at last year's US Open. The Serb made her comeback two weeks ago at the Koper ITF W60, where she reached the quarterfinals. Against erstwhile junior foe Masarova, she needed four set points to close out the second set and had to come from a break down in the decider.
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Zavatska, 22, took a six-month break following Portoroz last September, returning in Miami this March. As the Ukrainian attempts to regain the form that took her to the edge of the Top 100 at the start of 2020, she has also had to deal with the invasion of her homeland.
At Ukraine's Billie Jean King Cup tie against the USA in April, Zavatska made an impact both on and off court. She upset Shelby Rogers for her first Top 50 victory, and spoke eloquently about the impact that the war has had on her.
"Every day I'm calling to my parents, my family, to ask them if they're alive," said Zavatska at the tie. "What I can do is to play tournaments to earn money, to send this to my family to help them because nobody has a job right now there. Everybody is just home. They have nothing to do to earn.
"Day by day for me the court was the only place where I could live my life because there was a ball, there was a racquet, and I just have to hit it and not think about it."
In a gruelling encounter with Stefanini, Zavatska repeatedly reached the brink of victory, only to be pegged back by the valiant Italian. No.157-ranked Stefanini clubbed her double-handed groundstrokes on both sides with ferocity, and Zavatska was unable to close out a 4-2 lead in the second set, or 4-0 and 5-2 leads in the third.
But Zavatska steadied herself in the closing stages, finding two excellent winners to take control of the final game before Stefanini coughed up her eighth double fault down match point.
Elsewhere, Vanderbilt graduate Fernanda Contreras Gomez made a memorable Grand Slam qualifying debut, taking out Caty McNally 3-6, 6-3, 7-6. The No.224-ranked Mexican dominated with her forehand during the first-to-10 deciding tiebreak, and did not let an awkward fall three points from victory put her off her stride.
The highest seed to fall was No.15 Laura Pigossi, who reached her first WTA final in Bogota last month but lost on her Roland Garros debut 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 to German teenager Nastasja Schunk in 2 hours and 19 minutes. Schunk was the 2021 Wimbledon junior runner-up, and has rocketed from No.972 to her current No.167 over the past 13 months. Last week, the 18-year-old reached her biggest pro final at the Wiesbaden ITF W100, scoring her first Top 100 win en route over Jule Niemeier.
Former World No.9 CoCo Vandeweghe, whose comeback from complex regional pain syndrome took a positive step forward in Charleston when she upset Jessica Pegula en route to the quarterfinals, was also stopped at the first hurdle. No.232-ranked German Katharina Gerlach's single-handed backhand was purring as she took out Vandeweghe 7-6(4), 6-4.
Brazil's Carolina Alves, 26, scored her first Grand Slam qualifying win with a 6-3, 7-5 upset of 2020 Australian Open junior champion Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva. Alves is fresh off a run to the Saint-Gaudens ITF W60 final last week, and maintained her form to take out the 16-year-old Andorran.
Alves' conqueror in the Saint-Gaudens final, No.26 seed Ylena In-Albon, could not do likewise. The Swiss player fell 6-3, 6-3 to No.242-ranked Yuriko Miyazaki in 72 minutes, with the Briton's forehand and net play helping to tally 24 winners in total.
Another first-time major qualifying winner was 22-year-old Ipek Oz, who had become the first Turkish player to win a WTA main draw match in five years when she reached the second round of Bogota in April. Oz, who cracked the Top 200 for the first time this week after winning the Bastad ITF W25, shook off the loss of a tight first set to defeat No.30 seed Daria Snigur 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-2.
Former World No.73 Veronica Cepede Royg, who reached the fourth round of Roland Garros in 2017, triumphed in the longest match of the day 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 over Anastasia Tikhonova in 2 hours and 52 minutes. The 30-year-old Paraguayan was competing for the first time since the Australian Open in January.
Oceane Babel, 18, won a gruelling battle of French wildcards over Alice Rame 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. The No.654-ranked teenager pushed Elina Svitolina to a 6-2, 7-5 scoreline as a main-draw wildcard last year, and scored her first Grand Slam qualifying victory in 2 hours and 11 minutes.