A marquee first-round clash at Roland Garros saw No.27 seed Amanda Anisimova defeat Naomi Osaka 7-5, 6-4 in 1 hour and 30 minutes, taking the former World No.1 out of a second major tournament this year.
At the Australian Open in January, Anisimova saved two match points before ousting defending champion Osaka 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 in the third round. The American did not need to go the distance in their Parisian reprise; though it was tightly contested all the way, Anisimova managed to keep herself in the lead for the most part.
The result continues Anisimova's solid form over the past two months. She has yet to lose before the last eight of a clay-court tournament in 2022, having reached the semifinals in Charleston and quarterfinals in Madrid and Rome.
By contrast, Osaka ends her clay swing with a 1-2 record, having played only two tournaments after an ankle injury forced her to withdraw from Rome.
Anisimova will next play qualifier Donna Vekic, whom she previously defeated 7-6(4), 7-6(6) in the 2020 Rome first round, their sole prior encounter.
By the numbers: As in Melbourne, the first serve was key for both players. Anisimova had landed 68% of her first deliveries against Osaka at the Australian Open, and was even better here with a 71% first serve percentage. By contrast, Osaka had kept their January clash close largely thanks to landing 61% of her first serves - a number that plummeted to 45% in the rematch.
In both matches, Anisimova was better able to protect her second serve, winning 61% of those points in Australia and 58% in France. Osaka was able to win 52% of the points behind hers in January and only 41% here, with a troubling eight double faults contributing significantly to her downfall.
In both matches, Anisimova was superior off the ground, demonstrating higher rally tolerance and greater variety of shot. In Australia, she tallied 46 winners to Osaka's 21; here, her total was 27 to Osaka's 13.
Match management: Four of the first six games of the match were breaks of serve. Both players stretched the other out of their comfort zone with ferocious hitting and fine use of angles, and as they sought to gain the upper hand each threw in more variety than usual. Anisimova won the first point of the match with a perfect dropshot; Osaka came up with some nice touch at net.
At 5-5, Osaka fended off a pair of break points and was a point from taking the lead after Anisimova netted a smash. But a backhand from the four-time major champion drifted long, and a double fault gifted the break to Anisimova anyway.
Anisimova, a semifinalist at Roland Garros in 2019, took full advantage with an emphatic hold to seal the first set. At 3-3 in the second set, she pounced again. Osaka again squandered a game point, netting a forehand despite Anisimova resorting to sliced backhands following a broken string, and double faulted down break point for a second time.
Anisimova extricated herself from a 0-40 hole to hold for 5-3, and successfully served out the win, nailing a backhand screamer down the line on her third match point.
In Anisimova's words: "It was very difficult [with] a lot of anticipation over the last couple of days. I was trying not to think about it too much, but going into the match, I did feel like the stress and the nerves a bit, because it is a very tough first round. I'm just happy with how I was able to manage it and get through it.
"I would say the conditions were tough today, because of the rain it was very heavy. But I just was trying to stay aggressive and keep going for my flat shots, because that's what I thought would help me get the win today."
Osaka on her ankle injury: "I took a painkiller before my match. I still kind of felt it a little, which I'm going to see what happens when it wears off.
"I prepared myself to feel it, so that wasn't really the wearing part. It was just annoying to me because the last time I played her, our serves were really important. And coming into this tournament I didn't serve a lot, because we wanted to wait until last minute to protect my Achilles.
"The difference was, for me, match play. I only played two matches on clay this year. I wish I could have played more. Like, I stayed in Europe for longer to be able to prepare for this tournament. So it is a bit disappointing, but I'm happy with how my attitude was, because the last match that we played in Australia I was getting a bit more upset with myself. So I think I progressed in that part."
Azarenka survives surging Bogdan
One of the highest-quality openers saw No.15 seed Victoria Azarenka withstand Ana Bogdan 6-7(7), 7-6(1), 6-2 in 2 hours and 58 minutes to set up a second-round tilt against Andrea Petkovic.
In a match characterised by absurdly intense hitting that electrified Court 14, No.93-ranked Bogdan came up with several spectacular winners to steal the first set from Azarenka, having trailed by a 5-2 double break and then by 6-3 in the tiebreak. The Romanian levelled at 5-5 with a dropshot-pass combination, broke again for 6-6 with a backhand banger down the line and saved the first set point by nailing a backhand pass off a full-power Azarenka drive volley.
Bogdan maintained her form following a rain delay at 3-3 in the second set, and served for the match at 6-5. But Azarenka managed to break back, then delivered a near-flawless tiebreak that featured some majestic shotmaking of her own. In total, Bogdan fired 40 winners to Azarenka's 44.
The former World No.1 rolled through the decider as Bogdan's errors started to mount, but the hug at the net after she converted her first match point - and Azarenka applauding her opponent off the court - was indicative of the contest's quality.
Kvitova, Trevisan also advance in early matches
No.32 seed Petra Kvitova snapped a four-match losing streak to post her first 2022 clay-court win 7-6(0), 6-1 over Anna Bondar. The Czech, a semifinalist at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2020, initially struggled to gain the upper hand over the smooth-hitting Hungarian.
No.61-ranked Bondar served for the first set at 5-3, but netted a forehand on set point. A double fault and an absurdly angled Kvitova return later, and the former World No.2 finally took control. Kvitova whitewashed Bondar in a dominant tiebreak, and rolled through the second set.
Elsewhere, Rabat champion Martina Trevisan extended her winning streak to six with an emphatic 6-0, 6-2 defeat of Harriet Dart. The Italian, a quarterfinalist here in 2020, had collected her first Hologic WTA Tour title last week at the age of 28.
Zheng Qinwen, 19, enjoyed a successful Roland Garros debut, overpowering Maryna Zanevska 6-3, 6-1 in 71 minutes; and former World No.20 Daria Saville's comeback season continued apace with a 6-1, 6-2 win over qualifier Valentini Grammatikopoulou in 72 minutes. Saville will next face Kvitova, while Zheng will take on either No.19 seed Simona Halep or lucky loser Nastasja Schunk.