PARIS, France - Two-time semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky and 15-year-old Cori Gauff were among the most noteworthy first-round winners as Roland Garros qualifying got under way in Paris - while former World No.32 Romina Oprandi provided a blast from the past, winning her first Grand Slam match since 2015.
Former World No.9 Bacsinszky, who reached the last four in the main draw in 2015 and 2017, had only just missed the main draw cut by four spots - but, playing Grand Slam qualifying for the first time since Wimbledon 2014, made serene progress 6-3, 6-4 over Fanny Stollar yesterday. Meanwhile, last year's girls' winner Gauff justified the tournament's decision to award a wildcard to the junior champion for the first time: the American World No.320 became the youngest player, at 15 years and two months, to win a Grand Slam match since Martina Hingis at the 1995 Australian Open with her 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Ankita Raina.
Gauff's victory sets up a tantalizing second-round tilt against another talented, fast-rising teenager: 18-year-old No.21 seed Kaja Juvan, the Youth Olympic Games gold medallist, who needed just 42 minutes to dismiss Susanne Celik 6-1, 6-0. Fellow teenage wildcard 16-year-old Elsa Jacquemot also scored a blow for youth with a 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Basak Eraydin; 18-year-old No.13 seed Olga Danilovic made her way past Sabina Sharipova 6-1, 5-7, 6-3; and No.11 seed Whitney Osuigwe, Gauff's predecessor as Roland Garros junior champion, displayed impressive tenacity in a 2-6, 7-6(3), 7-5 comeback win over wildcard Myrtille Georges. The 17-year-old American, frequently overpowered by the local favorite, was three times a break down in the second set and trailed 0-3 in the decider, but showed real grit to cling on as her opponent faltered at the business end of both sets.
It wasn't just teenagers making noise around Roland Garros, though. Former World No.32 Romina Oprandi, on the comeback from surgery on her shoulder - the latest in a long line of injuries that have plagued the 33-year-old's career - was playing her first match since winning an ITF W15 title in Antalya last September, and competing in Grand Slam qualifying for the first time since Roland Garros 2016. Yet she delivered an impeccable performance as if she had never left, bamboozling Ylena In-Albon with an array of dropshots to take their all-Swiss derby 6-3, 6-1. Oprandi, whose career-best major showing was a third-round run at the 2012 Australian Open, next faces No.19 seed Varvara Lepchenko - whom she last played in 2011.
In a round of mixed fortunes for Switzerland, the biggest shock so far was suffered by No.2 seed Jil Teichmann, the surprise Prague champion three weeks ago. In the 21-year-old's first match since then, she was able to last just one hour and nine minutes against Great Britain's Katie Swan, who ran off a 6-4, 6-2 win. Similarly, strong claycourt form could not help No.4 seed Stefanie Voegele in another Swiss stunner: a finalist two weeks ago at the strong ITF W80 in Cagnes-sur-Mer, Voegele was felled 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 by Xu Shilin, the 21-year-old Chinese former junior World No.1 making her debut in Paris.
Form also meant little for Voegele's conqueror in the Cagnes-sur-Mer final: No.6 seed Christina McHale had won eight of her last nine matches coming into Roland Garros, but was defeated 7-5, 7-6(6) by American compatriot Francesca Di Lorenzo, who is becoming something of a Grand Slam nemesis, having also ousted McHale from last year's US Open in the first round.
Among those sustaining recent momentum, however, were No.1 seed Bernarda Pera and 18-year-old Wang Xiyu. Pera, a semifinalist in Prague and champion of last week's ITF W100 in Trnava, disposed of wildcard Alizé Lim 6-1, 6-3 in one hour and seven minutes; US Open junior champion Wang, meanwhile, had only completed her title run at last week's La Bisbal d'Emporda ITF W60 on Monday due to rain in Spain, but showed no ill effects from having to hustle quickly to Paris as she needed just one hour and one minute to rout Danielle Lao 6-1, 6-1 and set up a second-round clash with Swan.
The heart of Grand Slam qualifying is in its epics, though, and a number of ferocious contests have thrilled the crowds already. Roland Garros debutantes Liudmila Samsonova and Martina Di Giuseppe battled it out for three hours and four minutes, with the 20-year-old Russian finding a hot streak with her powerful groundstrokes to seize victory 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-6(2); while emotions ran high in the final match of the first day, an all-American derby between No.23 seed Sachia Vickery and Claire Liu which the former gritted out 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(10), having saved three match points in a nailbiting final-set tiebreak. Appropriately enough, Samsonova and Vickery will now play each other in a bid to reach the final qualifying round.
Elsewhere, Kurumi Nara triumphed in a seesaw encounter over Katarzyna Kawa 6-2, 1-6, 7-5: from 0-1 down in the deciding set, the Japanese former World No.32 eked out five deuce tussles to move to a 5-1 lead - before losing 16 of the next 17 points as Kawa leveled at 5-5. Righting the ship just in time, though, Nara rediscovered momentum at the dénouement of the match, reeling off eight of the final nine points for victory and a second-round tilt against Bacsinszky.
There was heartbreak today for wildcard Tessah Andrianjafitrimo, though: buoyed by a celebratory atmosphere on Court 14 as the crowd chanted her name, the 20-year-old delivered stellar defensive work to build a 5-1 final set lead - only to see it slip away, along with two match points, as Canada's Rebecca Marino came back to deny Andrianjafitrimo 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-5. Ill fortune also continues to dog Beatriz Haddad Maia: the Brazilian 22-year-old has already had more than her share of injuries so far in her career, and was struck by another today. Having squandered a match point for a straight-sets win over Katarina Zavatska, the No.16 seed was forced to retire while leading the 19-year-old Ukrainian 6-3, 5-7, 3-2.
Meanwhile, former World No.14 Peng Shuai's poor season continued: relegated to Grand Slam qualifying for the first time since 2004, the 33-year-old slipped to a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-0 loss to Slovakia's Rebecca Sramkova, with Peng's 2019 win-loss record now just 1-6 as a result.