PARIS, France - Round 1 of the 2019 French Open is in the books after three days of riveting play. WTA Insider dumps out the Notebook on the best of the opening days at Roland Garros.
Naomi, Simona, Serena come through their first tests.
There was plenty of drama on Court Philippe Chatrier in the first round, as No.1 Naomi Osaka, defending champion Simona Halep, and 23-time major champion Serena Williams all needed three sets to get their fraught first wins under their belts.
Playing her first ever match on Chatrier, Osaka came back from the brink by breaking Anna Karolina Schmiedlova as the Slovakian served for the win twice, to win 0-6, 7-6(4), 6-1. Osaka extended her record to 12-1 in the first round of the Slams, with her only loss coming in 2017 to Alison Van Uytvanck.
Returning to Chatrier for the first time since lifting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, defending champion Halep had to hold off a very good Ajla Tomljanovic, who has now taken Halep to three sets in both their meetings. The Aussie successfully pounded her way into a third set, but could not hold her level. Halep came through with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 win and a solid level of play for her first match.
Serena found her fight quickly after losing her opening set to Russia's Vitalia Diatchenko 6-2. Three points into the second set, Serena let out a delayed scream of frustration, which seemed to settle her nerves and summon her game. The American won 12 of the last 13 games of the match and looked sharp by the end of the match.
Said Serena: "Usually I do that at a point or after a shot, and I just was so frustrated at that point, because I have been training well. The past week and a half has been really good, and, God, it was, like, This isn't the Serena I have been practicing with or that I see every day," she said, laughing.
"I was just so frustrated. I just let out this roar, and here I am."
Here she is, indeed. Speaking fluent French, no less:
Including No.6 Petra Kvitova's withdrawal due to a left forearm injury, seven seeds bowed out in the first round. A vast majority of these losses came from seeds who have struggled with either injury or form ahead of the tournament.
The highest seed out is No.5 Angelique Kerber, who picked up a foot injury in Madrid and was forced to skip Rome as well. Similarly, No.13 Caroline Wozniacki injured her left calf a few days before Madrid and came into Paris having retired from her last two matches. No.18 Julia Goerges saw her clay season interrupted by a back injury, and was knocked out by the always dangerous seed slayer, Kaia Kanepi.
No.30 Mihaela Buzarnescu and No.32 Aliaksandra Sasnovich also lost, with Sasnovich losing 8-6 in the third to Lugano champion Polona Hercog. And No.17 Anett Kontaveit bowed out in three sets to the talented young Czech Karolina Muchova, who made the Prague final just weeks ago.
In all, it was probably Kvitova's sudden withdrawal that was the most surprising seed to make an early exit.
The Audacity of Youth
Eight teenagers started the main draw and six won through to the second round: Marketa Vondrousova, Bianca Andreescu, Amanda Anisimova, Iga Swiatek, Anastasia Potapova, and 16-year-old French wildcard Diane Parry, who became the youngest Frenchwoman to win a main draw match at Roland Garros since Alizé Cornet.
This is the most teenagers to advance to the second round at Roland Garros since 2013, but it continues a trend of young success at the Slams this season. Six teenagers also advanced to the second round at the Australian Open in January.
Bagel or Bust?
The last time a woman rallied for a win after dropping the first set 0-6 at the French Open was in 2015. It happened twice that year, with Magdalena Rybarikova defeating Olivia Rogowska 0-6, 7-5, 6-2 and Alison Van Uytvanck defeating Zarina Diyas 0-6, 6-1, 6-4.
The "Bagel Rally" already happened twice in the first round this year in Paris. Veronica Kudermetova knocked out Caroline Wozniacki 0-6, 6-3, 6-3, and No.1 Naomi Osaka came back to defeat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 0-6, 7-6(4), 6-1.
While Russia's big stars are either missing (Maria Sharapova) or lost early (Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova) two younger Russians bolted into the spotlight in Round 1 by knocking out the two highest seeds to be dismissed.
18-year-old Potapova showed off her big-hitting and feisty competitive instincts to defeat Kerber, while 22-year-old Kudermetova put her all-court game on display to oust Wozniacki. There's a lot to like in both their games. 20-year-old qualifier Anna Blinkova also scored a tough win, defeating Margarita Gasparyan 6-3, 4-6, 8-6.
And in a big win for a quarterfinalist here last year, No.21 Daria Kasatkina came through with a straight-set win over Italian qualifier Jasmine Paolini.
Game, Set, Stat by SAP:
In addition to extending her incredible record in the first round of majors to 70-1, Serena's win over Diatchenko was her 800th career main draw win. It was also her 336th main draw win at the Slams. There are only 14 other active players with more than 335 career main draw wins across all tournaments.
Eight players survived their first-round matches without getting broken on serve: Kiki Bertens, Madison Keys, Donna Vekic, Danielle Collins, Irina Camelia Begu, Zhang Shuai, Kristina Kucova, and Lauren Davis.
Naomi Osaka fired a tournament-best 10 aces in her comeback win and also struck the fastest serve of the tournament so far, a 117.5 mph bomb.
Best Match: Bianca Andreescu d. Marie Bouzkova, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Playing in her first match on clay this season, seeded for the first time at a Slam, and making her French Open main draw debut, Andreescu was locked in a physical tug-of-war with lucky loser Marie Bouzkova for over three hours, a match that was played over two days after being suspended for light. At 3 hours and 2 minutes, it was the longest match of the opening round.
The two generated 40 break points between them and exchanged a total of 17 breaks of serve, with Andreescu finally coming through after firing 58 winners to 60 unforced errors. Bouzkova, a 20-year-old Czech who looks primed for her Top 100 breakthrough sooner rather than later, played indefatigable defense and kept Andreescu at bay for as long as she could, saving 16 of 25 break points with 24 winners and 32 unforced errors.
While other dramatic first round matches may have involved bigger names on bigger courts, this was a riveting battle out on Court 14 and a great test of Andreescu's fitness after spending the last month rehabbing from a shoulder injury.
Serena Williams on her match-kit, which features the words Champion, Mother, Queen, and Goddess in French:
"Yeah. It is a lot to carry, but so is being Serena Williams."
Second Round Matches to Circle:
Bottom Half (Plays Wednesday):
Elina Svitolina vs. Kateryna Kozlova
Belinda Bencic vs. Laura Siegemund
Kiki Bertens vs. Viktoria Kuzmova
Anastasia Potapova vs. Marketa Vondrousova
Petra Martic vs. Kristina Mladenovic
Top Half (Plays Thursday):
Naomi Osaka vs. Victoria Azarenka
Bianca Andreescu vs. Sofia Kenin
Hsieh Su-Wei vs. Andrea Petkovic
Ashleigh Barty vs. Danielle Collins
Daria Kasatkina vs. Monica Puig
Wang Qiang vs. Iga Swiatek
Aryna Sabalenka vs. Amanda Anisimova