Twelve months ago, Paula Badosa just made the cut to be seeded at the French Open and made it all the way to the quarterfinals. Seeded No.3 this year, she's a title favorite, and she played like it to beat France's Fiona Ferro in Tuesday's first round.
Badosa needed only 54 minutes to dispatch Ferro in her return to Court Philippe-Chatrier, never facing break point in a 6-2, 6-0 victory.
Badosa couldn't have hoped for a better start for her first Grand Slam tournament as a Top 5 seed. The Spaniard served five aces and hit 25 winners against Ferro, a former Top 40 player who's now ranked No.130 and was in the main draw as a wildcard.
After early exits in both Madrid and Rome ahead of the French Open, Badosa was candid with reporters in her pre-tournament press conference that she's on the hunt for confidence. She found it some in victory, and later revealed that she felt Ferro's game played right into her hands.
"Every match helps. Every minute on court helps," Badosa said. "I think her game helped me, as well, because I could play quite a long rally, so I could feel myself there.
"I'm happy that nobody noticed how nervous I was on court ... I'm happy that I managed the nerves pretty well. At the beginning I was very nervous, to be honest. I was moving a little bit slow, and I needed a few games to get used to all the situation, but I'm happy that I managed that very well."
After failing to earn consecutive wins in Madrid and Rome, Badosa's through to an intriguing second-round meeting against Slovenia's Kaja Juvan, who was runner-up to Angelique Kerber in Strasbourg last week. Juvan edged qualifier Oksana Selekhmeteva, who was one-half of the winner junior girls' doubles champions in Paris last year, in her first round.
Juvan saved three set points in the first set and rallied from 5-0 down in the second set to win 7-5, 7-6(4).
Pegula staves off surge from Wang Qiang
While Badosa sprinted to victory, No.11 seed Jessica Pegula had to fight until the end. Leading Wang Qiang, 6-2, 5-1, the American's path to her third French Open victory grew complicated.
In all, Pegula needed 10 match points to seal a 6-2, 6-4 win and reach Round 2.
"I felt like she totally changed her game from like 6-1, 5-1 and maybe I played a little bit of a loose game at 5-1 serving for it," Pegula said. "On the clay I feel like you have so much more time and you don't get a lot of free points, so if someone starts playing well, it can get really tricky. She just started stepping in and started ripping ... We had some really great match points and even to finish."
After losing in Round 1 in 2019 and 2020 in Paris, Pegula reached the third round last year. To do so again, she'll have to defeat Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina for the third time this year.
At the Australian Open, Pegula rallied from a set down to beat Kalinina in Round 1 en route to her second straight quarterfinal in Melbourne. In Miami, she beat Kalinina in abridged fashion when the Ukrainian retired after losing the first set 6-0, and she also advanced past her via a walkover in Rome.
"I think she can be especially tricky on clay, I don't think we have played on clay yet, so that will be interesting," Pegula said. "She's going to be really tough, but I think if I can get through it that will give me a lot of confidence moving forward.
"I think she's definitely a little bit of a floater at this tournament, so we'll just see how it goes. I've played her enough, so at least that helps, I have some, I'm aware of how to play her, what my going-in strategy [is] and stuff like that, of what I need to do, which helps. It's definitely going to be tough and I think it will be a good match."