When 17-year-old qualifier Linda Noskova took the first set from No.12 seed Emma Raducanu in their first-round match, statisticians were sent scurrying to the record book. The last time a qualifier upset a player seeded that high in a major? You have to go all the way back to, well, eight months ago, when Raducanu defeated No.11 Belinda Bencic at the US Open.
Raducanu, of course, famously went on to win that event as an 18-year-old. Now, she’s become the established hierarchy – and with the Hologic WTA Tour youth movement clearly underway, that is an exceedingly uncomfortable position. It’s easy to overlook the fact that this is only the 19-year-old British player’s first Roland Garros main draw, fourth Grand Slam and 16th overall tour-level event.
“Honestly, I have no expectations of myself,” she said in her on-court interview. “I’m just really happy to be competing here after Rome. I fought hard to be here in the second round. Just looking forward to trying to stay as long as possible, really.”
Noskova, the 2021 Roland Garros junior champion, showed unnatural poise in her first major main draw and hit 48 winners, twice Raducanu’s total. Raducanu, gritty and resourceful, broke Noskova’s serve seven times. Raducanu meets Aliaksandra Sasnovich in a second-round match on Wednesday.
Nine teenagers began the tournament and, incredibly, four others join Raducanu in the bottom half’s second round. No.17 Leylah Fernandez, 19, gets Katerina Siniakova. No.18 seed Coco Gauff, 18, is the youngest left and will play Alison Van Uytvanck. The upset of the tournament so far goes to 19-year-old Diane Parry of France, who sent defending champion and No.2 seed Barbora Krejcikova home. Parry faces Camila Osorio. French wildcard Elsa Jacquemot, also 19 and coming off her first major victory, plays No.21 Angelique Kerber.
With the instant departures of Krejcikova, No.5 Anett Kontaveit, No.6 Ons Jabeur and No.10 Garbiñe Muguruza, the bottom half is already wide open. Two qualifiers also made it through: Donna Vekic and Olga Danilovic, will test No. 27 seed Amanda Anisimova and No.23 Jil Teichmann, respectively.
For someone who played her first WTA-level match on clay only a month ago in Stuttgart, Raducanu has made the adjustment quickly. She’s 5-3 so far and there have been no signs of the back injury that had bothered her for weeks. Clay, she said, has inspired more variety in her game.
“I think that something that the clay has taught is how to experiment, play with the ball and the court dimensions,” Raducanu told reporters in a pre-tournament interview. “I think the drop shot is a pretty good shot to use in the game, especially on clay where people might sit back a little bit.
“I think that I have definitely come a long way and probably progressed faster than expected of myself in the last few weeks. To be honest, I think I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would.”
Sasnovich won the only match between them, in straight sets, in the Round of 64 at last year’s Indian Wells.
No.14 Belinda Bencic versus Bianca Andreescu: After six months away from the game, Andreescu has been progressing nicely, winning one match in Stuttgart, two in Madrid and three in Rome – where she fell to World No.1 Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinals. Will it be four in Paris?
After dispatching qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure 3-6, 7-5, 6-0, Andreescu meets No.14 seed Belinda Bencic in a contest that features two big-game players. Bencic won the singles gold medal last year at the Tokyo Olympics and Andreescu was the 2019 US Open champion. The only time these two crossed paths, Andreescu beat Bencic 7-6 (3), 7-5 in the semifinals on the way to that first major. While Andreescu is ranked only No.72, she’ll be ready for this one.
“Are your nerves out of the way now?” a reporter asked Andreescu after rallying from down a set to Bonaventure.
“I really hope so,” she said. “I think for me every first match of a tournament is a bit shaky in a way because of my nerves, and like holding your ground, trying to find foot and trying to figure out the environment and all that. So I hope that this match will definitely help me prepare for the next one.”
By the numbers
Kaia Kanepi, who plays Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil in Wednesday’s second round, upset No.10 seed Muguruza in the first round, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Technically, it was an upset, but those who follow Kanepi’s long and winding career know she is always capable of surprise. Aryna Sabalenka was the Australian Open’s No.2 seed back in January – and lost to Kanepi in a third-set tiebreak.
In the clutch category of most career wins against seeded players in the first three round of Grand Slams, among active players, the first three are Serena Williams (29), Venus Williams (22) and Victoria Azarenka (21). The 36-year-old Estonian is fourth, with 19. But while the other three are all former World No.1s, Kanepi’s best ranking is No.15, achieved nearly a decade ago.
“I do get nervous,” Kanepi told reporters. “It’s not easy to play a tough opponent in the first round, but I think I enjoy playing Grand Slams more and I think the motivation is higher than smaller tournaments. I try to be more focused and not too emotional when I play in Slams.”
And finally …
Maria Sakkari, at No.4, the highest seed left in the bottom half, has a potentially difficult match against 25-year-old Czech Republic player Karolina Muchova. After an abdominal injury knocked her out of action for six months, Muchova returned in Miami and won two matches before granting a walkover to Naomi Osaka. Muchova is 2-2 on clay this season and a former Australian Open semifinalist and two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist.