PARIS, France - Agnieszka Radwanska was forced to come back from a set down to beat qualifier Alison Van Uytvanck 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-3 in the second round of Roland Garros.
The Belgian may be the World No.113, but her ranking belies her ability and accomplishments. The last time she played here, in 2015, she was a surprise quarterfinalist - matching the number of times Radwanska has reached the French Open quarterfinals - and reached a career high of No.41 later that year.
When forced to miss the following year's French Open due to an ankle injury, Van Uytvanck fell out of the Top 100 - and her physical woes didn't end there, as she underwent right wrist surgery in the 2016 off-season and had to miss the start of 2017.
Roland Garros marks just her sixth tournament of the year, and prior to it the 23-year-old had won just four matches this season.
But the Belgian got off to a brilliant start, showcasing both her aggressive strategy and her variety of shot. Within the first four games, she had struck winners off both wings, on return, at net - both via a powerful drive volley and a leaping, athletic backhand angled volley - and with multiple dropshots that were too much even for the speedy Radwanska.
The Pole's strokes were landing short, and though she saved three points to go down a double break at 1-3, an ensuing medical time-out had spectators worrying about the status of the foot injury that had kept her out of Madrid and Rome.
Though Van Uytvanck's purple patch faded - the Belgian's forehand and dropshots began to misfire, and she failed to serve the set out at 5-3 - her aggressive mindset did not. The qualifier played a superb tiebreak, with her instincts at net on full display, to take the first set - in which she had struck 21 winners.
But Radwanska has built a career on her ability to go to Plan B, Plan C and beyond. The second set saw the Pole attack the net with renewed vigor, shutting off Van Uytvanck's lines of attack and winning 13 of 15 points in the forecourt. The No.9 seed broke twice to take an efficient second set 6-2 in 41 minutes.
The opening stages of the decider seemed to be setting the scene for a tight battle as a rejuvenated Van Uytvanck came out with all guns blazing. But though the Belgian was still able to conjure up highlights-reel winners, they had become more sporadic - and punctuated by too many wild mistakes.
Once Radwanska broke for 2-1, she held her momentum comfortably towards the finish line, raising her first serve percentage to 75% to maintain her lead. Van Uytvanck continued to battle bravely, but serving to stay in the match a netted backhand on the No.9 seed's first match point - her 46th unforced error of the day - put an end to her Roland Garros campaign.
Afterwards, Radwanska paid tribute to her opponent's fine play: "Definitely she started very well, and I think on clay she can really do a lot of things on court. She was mixing up a lot of shots and good serve, good kick. You know, she can really hit the balls well."
The Pole also acknowledged how Van Uytvanck had forced her to raise her own level, stating: "I think I was playing better and better through the match, and I think that was the key from my side... After this first set I really knew I had to play my game, not wait for her mistakes, because, you know, didn't come much of those."
As for question marks over her foot, Radwanska confirmed that the injury had improved: "I feel 100% on court. That's the most important thing."