2021 French Open, Sunday R1 Highlights: Kvitova survives opening round scare, saves a match point!

On a glorious sunny day in Paris, main draw action began at the 2021 French Open. It was a sharp contrast to day 1 of last year’s Roland Garros where the conditions were utterly miserable! Day 1 had just the one seeded upset on the women’s side, an unexpected nailbiter and plenty of off-court drama. Read on for Sunday’s diary…

Day 1️⃣ Highlights

(2) Naomi Osaka d. Patricia Maria Tig, 6-4 7-6(4)

Considering the recent hysteria around Osaka after she announced that she would not be doing tournament press at Roland Garros, this was a solid opening performance. Osaka’s announcement has been a huge talking point. Everyone has had their say on Twitter and now all the players are being asked about it in press. There’s another layer to the story with today’s announcement from the Slam tournaments. I’m not going to delve any deeper because i’m finding it all rather exhausting but you can read everything in the tweets below. It has propelled Osaka into the news and brought a lot of attention her way which i’m not sure is what she would have wanted? The more I thought about it, the more I felt Tig had a great chance at the upset…

There were a few wobbles and missed opportunities but on the whole, I thought Osaka played a decent match.  It almost felt like Osaka went back-to-basics with this performance as it was all about using the serve and return to get the first strike in play. Osaka won 31 of 35 points behind her first serve and was aggressive on return, particularly in the first set with Melbourne vibes. Tig was more proactive in the second set and competed admirably to force the second set into a tiebreak. Osaka just about held on with some terrific depth on her groundstrokes in the final two points of the match.

I have no idea what’s going to happen with Osaka as this tournament progresses so I guess let’s watch this space. On the tennis front, i’m definitely circling that potential third rounder with Paula Badosa.

(11) Petra Kvitova d. Greet Minnen, 6-7(3) 7-6(5) 6-1

The most exciting match of the day was one that I hadn’t even circled for drama or upset potential. Oh my goodness Petra! Kvitova survived an almighty scare, saving a match point to deny Greet Minnen the win of her career.

As you’d expect, a lot of what happened was decided on Kvitova’s racquet. Minnen failed to serve out the opener at *5-4 as Kvitova conjured up spectacular back-to-back return winners to break. Kvitova was completely out of position for the second of those. Kvitova then folded in the first set tiebreak with back-to-back double faults at *3-4. Not exactly ideal. Kvitova’s serve was suspect on the big points as she missed an opportunity to serve out the second set, getting broken on another double fault.

The upset sirens were ringing out loud as Minnen had a match point at *6-5 *40-30. Minnen managed to get a Kvitova serve out wide back in play and worked her way back into the rally. Kvitova bravely held on as she saved the match point with a backhand winner. The second set tiebreak was touch and go. Kvitova landed another winner on set point, requiring an umpire overrule. Kvitova cruised through the decider.

I felt for Minnen who played a great match and didn’t budge for two sets. So close to the upset. Kvitova lives to fight another day. We’ve seen before how saving match points can be such a big deal. Watch out for the Petra!

(15) Victoria Azarenka d. Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-4 2-6 6-3

Meeting for the 11th time, Azarenka prevailed over Kuznetsova in an enjoyable, lopsided contest. I didn’t really know what to expect from this match. I guess the streaky nature made sense because we’ve seen so little of Azarenka and Kuznetsova over the past two months. Azarenka hasn’t played since Madrid due to a back injury, while this was actually Kuznetsova’s first match on clay in 2021.

Azarenka overcame a wobbly serving display in the second set and took control of the decider as Kuznetsova showed some of that match rust as her forehand faltered. I especially enjoyed the first set which featured some stellar returning and well-constructed points. Azarenka said in her post-match interview that she’s not been feeling any pain for three weeks which was great to hear. Next up is Clara Tauson in the second round. Count me in for that one.

Best of the rest 🎾

Anhelina Kalinina caused the first seeded upset of the tournament, beating the number 26 seed, Angelique Kerber, 6-2 6-4. Delving a little deeper, Kalinina was riding a 13 match winning streak heading into this match after winning ITF titles in Oeiras and Zagreb, and then not dropping set in French Open qualifying. Make that 14 straight wins.

In one of the many 50-50 first round matches and what felt like a defining match-up in the fourth quarter, the number 29 seed, Veronika Kudermetova beat Amanda Anisimova, 7-6(5) 6-1.

Elena Vesnina won her first match in singles since giving birth to her first child. Vesnina routed Olga Govortsova, 6-0 6-1 in just 58 minutes!

Favourite snap 📸

Gorgeous shot shared last week.

Recommended media 📺


Recommended reading 📚

This is a great piece on Danielle Collins in the Telegraph who recently revealed on her Instagram page that she had surgery for Endometriosis. If not already with the Telegraph, you’ll need to sign up to the free trial to read it. It’s extraordinary when you look back at some of Collins’s results over the past year or two and to consider she was going through all this. Collins has always been quite a divisive character with some of her on-court antics. I feel like this puts some of that into perspective. Respect to Danielle for everything she’s been through and for sharing her story too.

Day 2 watchlist 📺

(4) Sofia Kenin vs. Jelena Ostapenko

(12) Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Marta Kostyuk

(8) Iga Swiatek vs. Kaja Juvan

Laura Siegemund vs. Caroline Garcia

(10) Belinda Bencic vs. Nadia Podoroska

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