Sloane Stephens and Donna Vekic Star in Upsets at French Open

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Welcome to Last Word On Sports’ first daily French Open women’s recap. Today’s edition features first round matches spanning the opening two days of the tournament.

In a women’s draw rife with possibilities, the first two days of the 2015 French Open provided relatively little drama. Defending champion Maria Sharapova handled what could have been a tricky opening opponent with ease, while Ana Ivanovic battled from a set down to temporarily defy those who put her on early round upset alert. Tennis fans at Roland Garros did get to see Sloane Stephens and Donna Vekic star in upsets over Venus Williams and Caroline Garcia respectively, while #14 seed Agnieszka Radwanska fell to Annika Beck.

Other seeded players advancing included: Simona Halep, Carla Suarez Navarro, Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka, Karolina Pliskova, and Sara Errani.

The Good

(7) Ana Ivanovic d. Yaroslava Shvedova

Score: 4-6 6-2 6-0

The 2008 champion turned back a tricky first round challenge from Yaroslava Shvedova and her own checkered history on Court Suzanne Lenglen. Given her unsteady form in 2015, this was a welcomed win for the #7 seed. Shevdova is no slouch; the two-time quarterfinalist at Roland Garros was a popular pick to score an early upset.

Ivanovic d. Shvedova Highlights

(2) Maria Sharapova d. Kaia Kanepi

Score: 6-2 6-4

The defending champion made it through her opening match with little trouble against Kaia Kanepi, an opponent who was thought to be potentially dangerous when Sharapova drew her on Friday. Instead, Sharapova was able to navigate the match unscathed, the only major hindrance being her own health. The #2 seed left the court without granting an on-court interview as she sought to preserve her voice. The French crowd responded as they do best: booing their defending champion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=datquF4EuR8

Sam Stosur d. Madison Brengle

Score: 6-1 6-3

Coming off a title in Strasbourg last week, Sam Stosur turned what could have been a dicey match into a straightforward affair. Madison Brengle announced herself to the tennis world this year with a string of deep runs to reach the WTA top 40. The momentum gained from a final in Hobart and a fourth round at the Australian Open seems to have dried up for the American now.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni d. Lauren Davis

Score: 6-3 3-6 6-3

The feel-good story of Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s second career added another chapter with an opening round win at Roland Garros. The former teen phenom reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open last year and followed that with a win in Quebec City. While a win against #63 Lauren Davis doesn’t come as a big surprise, it’s yet another step towards the top 50 for Lucic-Baroni.

The Bad

Annika Beck d. (14) Agnieszka Radwanska

Score: 6-2 3-6 6-1

The horror show that has been Aga Radwanska’s 2015 season continued today as the #14 seed fell to Annika Beck in the first round. The German player, ranked #83, had only won three matches on the season before today (3-13). Radwanska managed to lose to one of the few player on the WTA tour whose 2015 struggles surpassed her own. After parting ways with Martina Navratilova a month ago, this might just be rock bottom for the Polish Ninja.

Donna Vekic  d. (31) Caroline Garcia

Score: 6-3 3-6 2-6

Whether or not Caroline Garcia wilted under the home crowd spotlight, as some headlines might suggest, we’ll never know. What’s certain is that this was a match she should not have lost. Ana Ivanovic can rest better knowing that her recent nemesis is no longer a potential obstacle in the third round. Since Ivanovic won their first meeting in last year’s French Open first round, Garcia has taken their subsequent three tussles, including a straight-sets win on clay in Stuttgart. A second successive first round loss at her home Slam is a heavy disappointment for the young Frenchwoman.

Virginie Razanno d. Veronica Cepede Royg

Score: 2-6 6-4 6-2

Virginie Razzano really stepped in it today. The Frenchwoman – after suffering a spate of double faults through the second set – opted to deploy an underhand serve. Then, after a fault on match point, Razzano issued her eighth double fault while again trying the underhand serve. Hissing, jeering and a few boos ensued as the French crowd showed they are equal opportunity when it comes to admonishing players. Not a good look at all!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4w6N9GFKwc

Match of the Day

Sloane Stephens d. (15) Venus Williams

Score: 7-6 6-1

Sloane Stephens is no stranger to the added spotlight that comes with playing a Williams sister. She has played five high-profile matches against Serena over the past three seasons, but today’s opening round at Roland Garros saw her face Venus for the first time. In the most hotly anticipated first rounder, Stephens played consistent tennis from start to finish, employing her signature backhand down the line in key situations to best the elder Williams.

Venus held leads in the first set at 2-0 and again up a mini-break in the tiebreak, but was unable to keep Stephens at bay. While trading blistering groundstrokes and generating scorching pace from the clay court, both players managed a high level of tennis for the first 13 games of the match. The difference in the first set was the breakdown of Venus’ forehand at the same time Stephens found the right spots from her backhand wing.

Those expecting a see-saw affair spanning three sets were disappointed as Stephens found even more consistency in the second set, eventually securing a double break at 5-1 before closing out the 7-time Slam champion. Heather Watson awaits Stephens in the second round with another meeting with Serena potentially in the fourth.

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