A first-round matchup between former Top 3 players at Roland Garros saw 2018 finalist Sloane Stephens take out No.16 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-4 in 1 hour and 24 minutes.
She was joined in the second round by 2021 finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who also raced past Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 6-2 in 70 minutes; and 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova, who dismissed Alycia Parks 6-4, 6-0 in 71 minutes.
And in the last match of the day, 2017 champion and No.17 seed Jelena Ostapenko booked her spot in the second round with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Tereza Martincova in 1 hour and 43 minutes.
Stephens extended her head-to-head against Pliskova to 5-1 overall and 2-1 on clay. Their last meeting was also at Roland Garros, with Stephens winning 7-5, 6-1 in the 2021 second round.
Red clay has enabled the American to turn around her season in recent weeks. Stephens' 2023 record through Madrid was just 5-9, but the following week she captured the Saint-Malo WTA 125 title, defeating Elina Svitolina en route. Last week, the 30-year-old reached her first tour-level semifinal in 15 months in Rabat; she has now won 10 of her last 12 matches.
French Open Day 1 results
- Muchova upsets Sakkari; Fernandez defeats Linette at Roland Garros
- Sabalenka defeats Kostyuk in French Open first round
Stephens, who described Court Philippe-Chatrier as her "favorite in the world" in the on-court interview afterwards, is third only to Serena and Venus Williams for most match wins at Roland Garros this century among American women. She will next face No.41-ranked Varvara Gracheva, who overcame Dalma Galfi 6-4, 2-6, 6-1. Stephens and Gracheva have split two meetings this year; Gracheva leads the overall head-to-head 2-1.
33 - This Century, only Serena Williams (64) and Venus Williams (40) have won more main draw matches at the Roland Garros than Sloane Stephens (33) among American female players. Feeling.#RolandGarros📷 | @rolandgarros @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/r1vb1HZFbT— OptaAce (@OptaAce) May 29, 2023
Match moments: Pliskova, whose clay preparation has been marred by a knee injury that forced her out of Madrid, was slow to get going. A one-sided first set saw her lose just her second 6-0 set at Grand Slam level, and first since defeating Yanina Wickmayer 6-2, 0-6, 8-6 in the first round of Wimbledon 2016. During it, the Czech committed 11 unforced errors and won just seven points on serve.
Stephens, by contrast, was able to consistently steer the ball into awkward positions for Pliskova, and found 10 winners to five unforced errors.
Pliskova's woes continued in the second set, and after a pair of double faults she faced a break point to fall behind 3-1. But in the nick of time, she came up with a pair of superb drop shots to escape. Hitting with greater power and intent, Pliskova seemed on the verge of levelling the match when she broke Stephens to lead 4-3.
But No.30-ranked Stephens quelled this comeback attempt, putting away a neat volley to break back for 4-4. Serving to stay in the match, Pliskova relapsed into her first-set form, sending a routine backhand long -- her 31st unforced error of the day -- on Stephens' first match point.
Pavlyuchenkova wins first Grand Slam match of comeback: This time last year, Pavlyuchenkova was in Paris gearing up to make her return at Roland Garros. A group of her friends had flown in to watch. But a last-minute withdrawal, due to the knee injury that would sideline her for the rest of 2022, forced a change of plan.
"I stayed with them, and we did a lot of things that we wouldn't be able to do," Pavlyuchenkova said after defeating Fruhvirtova. "So they actually said, 'It's funny, we're actually happy you're not playing. Because then it's normal and we been completely outgoing and doing things.'"
Now, the former World No.11's comeback has begun to gather pace.
The 31-year-old won her first tour-level matches of her return in Madrid and Rome, and last week upset Magda Linette to reach the Strasbourg quarterfinals. That was her first Top 30 win since defeating Elena Rybakina in the 2021 Roland Garros quarterfinals.
Now ranked No.333, Pavlyuchenkova has carried that form into Paris. She dominated the 18-year-old Fruhvirtova from the outset, dropping just four points in the first five games.
That set the tone for a match in which Pavlyuchenkova struck 26 winners to 14 unforced errors, and took advantage of 11 double faults from the World No.59. Pavlyuchenkova advances to a second-round date -- and first-time encounter -- with No.15 seed Liudmila Samsonova.
For Pavlyuchenkova, she also has something more to prove.
"My goal is not only to come back to tennis and just participate," she said. "I obviously want to be a better version of myself than even when I was two years ago in the peak of my career."
Vondrousova races past Parks: Another former Parisian runner-up on the comeback trail is Vondrousova, who was out of the game for six months last year due to wrist surgery.
The Czech has been in promising form this year, reaching the last 16 at three WTA 1000 events -- Indian Wells, Miami and Rome. She trailed Parks by an early break at 2-0, but after coming through a three-deuce tussle to break back, took control of the match from there.
Vondrousova's anticipation and defense were particularly impressive, and the American was unable to keep up, ultimately tallying 40 unforced errors. Parks fell away in the second set, during which she won just five points. Vondrousova will next face No.9 seed Daria Kasatkina for the fifth time at pro level.
Ostapenko moves forward: Ostapenko has gone one further in Paris than Stephens, Pavlyuchenkova, or Vondrousova -- the Latvian won the Roland Garros title in 2017 as an unseeded player. However, Ostapenko has yet to reach the French Open Round of 16 since that run.
On Monday, Ostapenko had to battle from deficits of 4-0 and 5-2 in the second set against No.93 Martincova. However, Ostapenko notched five consecutive games to wrap up the match in straight sets, saving a set point at 5-3 in the process.
In the second round, Ostapenko will have her first meeting with 21-year-old American Peyton Stearns, who claimed her first Grand Slam main-draw win by beating Katerina Siniakova 7-6(7), 6-2 on Monday.