The first round of the 2021 French Open is officially in the books. Tuesday’s order of play was a much calmer affair as all ten seeds in action advanced to the second round. I was feeling on a bit of a downer this morning with the Osaka news. I’m struggling to articulate my thoughts on it all other than just feeling sad about how it all unfolded. And now Petra has withdrawn 😭😭😭. Read on for Monday’s diary from Paris where the focus is on celebrating the return of Carla Suárez Navarro.
Day 3️⃣ Highlights
Sloane Stephens d. Carla Suárez Navarro, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-4
Watching Sloane embrace Carla at the end of a super battle was a moment 😭. Just seeing Suárez Navarro back on a tennis court after everything she’s been through was the highlight of the tournament so far. I didn’t have any expectations and the win was Suárez Navarro simply stepping out onto court. I thought the Spaniard played a great match and was timing the ball beautifully. That backhand! Suárez Navarro was so close to the win as she served for the match at 6-3 *5-4 and had *30-0 before Stephens reeled off four straight points.
It was an up-and-down match from Stephens. Some moments were encouraging, hitting the ball with real ferocity and really digging in in some tough moments, but her level was patchy. I just have so much admiration for Carla. Even after losing that close second set, she kept on fighting. Suárez Navarro had a bit of a second wind to recover an early break in the third set and get back to 4-4 before Stephens won the final two games. Sloane was so gracious at the end, going in for the hug and clapping Carla off. Hopefully we’ll get to see Carla again as part of her farewell tour ❤ .
(25) Ons Jabeur d. Yulia Putintseva, 7-5 6-2
First watch of the day was my match of the first quarter. This looked like a close match on paper and Jabeur and Putintseva both offer up something different so I was naturally drawn. It was a rather majestic start to the match. In the first few games, practically every other point was a drop shot 😍.
The first set materialised into a topsy-turvy affair. From Jabeur 3-1 to Putintseva 4-3 to Jabeur 7-5. Putintseva failed to serve out the set at *5-4 and then Jabeur took hold of the reins, dominating on serve and dictating with the forehand, to win eight straight games.
Unsurprisingly, Putintseva was frustrated at the end of the first set. The second set was an odd one as Putintseva was strangely subdued and just couldn’t get anything going. Putintseva did get one of the breaks back deep into the second set but it was shortlived. Jabeur broke for the win with a neat passing shot winner. Tough match on paper for Jabeur, even more so as she hadn’t played since Madrid due to a leg injury. Next up is a Charleston final rematch with Astra Sharma.
(1) Ash Barty d. Bernarda Pera, 6-4 3-6 6-2
In her first match in Paris since winning the title in 2019, Barty was pushed the distance and came through in unconvincing fashion. Barty came out with strapping on her thigh and appeared bothered by a lower back/leg injury which she took a medical time-out for between the second and third sets. Barty later expanded in press (via WTA Insider) that her hip flared up at the weekend.
Pera is a dangerous player and took control of the match in the second set as Barty became increasingly passive. Barty’s backhand was landing short which allowed Pera to go on the offence. I think Barty was there for the taking but Pera, as has often been the case, rather disintegrated towards the end with some wild errors. Since the resumption of the tour from COVID, Pera has played 20 three set matches and won just five of them. Barty saved two break points at 1-1 in the third set with first serves in play, secured the break and then served her way out of trouble in professional fashion, classic Ash style. So early into the tournament, I guess a win is a win, but that injury does sound like a concern.
Best of the rest 🎾
Anett Kontaveit saved a match point to beat Viktorija Golubic, 6-7(4) 7-6(5) 6-0. Plucky tennis from Kontaveit who didn’t back off when on the brink of defeat.
Karolina Muchova edged out Andrea Petkovic with a gritty three set win, 1-6 6-3 6-4. Feel for Petkovic who played a brilliant match and was super aggressive in the first set.
Elina Svitolina rallied from 2-5 down in the second set to beat a spirited effort from the 17-year-old French wild card, Oceane Babel, 6-2 7-5. Svitolina ended strongly after a bizarre start to the second set.
Coco Gauff and Aleksandra Krunic played an 83 minute (!) opening set. Gauff saved four set points in the first set and just about held onto win in straight sets, 7-6(11) 6-4.
The champion in Strasbourg, Barbora Krejcikova, battled back from a set and 1-3 down to beat Kristyna Pliskova, 5-7 6-4 6-2.
Favourite snap 📸
Loving Jimmie’s shots this week as ever.
Recommended media 📺
Player messages for Carla. I needed this content.
Recommended reading 📚
Thanks to Graham for sharing this article by Jonathan Liew at The Guardian. It’s a very interesting take with a spotlight on press conferences.
Tennis news 📰
As alluded to above, Petra Kvitova has withdrawn from Roland Garros due to an ankle injury picked up post-match while doing press 😭. I have EVERYTHING crossed that Petra will be OK for the grass.
Day 4 watchlist 📺
(15) Victoria Azarenka vs. Clara Tauson
(23) Madison Keys vs. Leylah Fernandez
(10) Belinda Bencic vs. Daria Kasatkina