French Open Day 1 Recap: Kvitova Trusts Her Backhand Under Pressure, Kerber Falls Again

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The only Grand Slam to kick things off on Sunday, the French Open has already held a total of 20 women’s singles matches on Day 1. The highest seed to contest was Naomi Osaka, who managed to come through with a solid victory over Patricia Maria Tig. Who managed to perform better than expected and who flopped on day 1 of the 2021 Roland Garros?

French Open Day 1 Recap

Who impressed?

Playing in her third event since becoming a mother, Elena Vesnina scored her first win in over three years, taking out Olga Govortsova 6-1 6-0. The Russian was unable to secure even a set in two tournaments leading up to this year’s Roland Garros, although she was also faced with two very tough draws (Veronika Kudermetova and Laura Siegemund). Nevertheless, the 34-year-old showed she still has some tennis left in her. Petra Kvitova in Round 2 should give us a much better idea of where Vesnina’s game is right now.

29th seed and Charleston champion Veronika Kudermetova was very solid in dismissing the semifinalist from two years ago, Amanda Anisimova. This opening round blockbuster was viewed by many as a toss-up, but once the Russian edged the first set in an extremely tight tie-breaker, she managed to take the momentum and pounce on Anisimova to finish the match 7-6 6-1.

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Leylah Annie Fernandez was expected to start off her campaign from a tough nut to crack in the name of Anastasia Potapova. The 2019 Roland Garros girls’ singles champion was absolutely stellar throughout, taking out the Russian in little less than an hour, 6-2 6-1. Discounting a double fault, she blasted 17 winners to just five unforced errors.

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Angelique Kerber went out in the first round of the French Open for the fifth time in six years. The German was playing quite well in the warm-ups, yet running into very dangerous opponents early. She certainly wasn’t ready to conquer Paris, though, as she lost 2-6 4-6 to Anhelina Kalinina. Kerber almost pulled out the second set from 0-5 down but ultimately succumbed to the Ukrainian in only 88 minutes. Kalinina is now on a 14-match win streak, having captured titles at ITF events in Oeiras and Zagreb, and qualified for the main draw of Roland Garros. The 24-year-old was the runner-up at US Open juniors back in 2014.

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This a team-effort nomination, but Aryna Sabalenka versus Ana Konjuh seemed like such a blockbuster on paper. The two ladies usually crush the ball with their fearless, powerful hitting. And they did, to be fair. But in the battle for baseline dominance, there was barely any accuracy. The Belarusian pulled off double as many winners and rightfully secured an uninspiring 6-4 6-3 victory.

Match of the day

One of the most impressive qualifying campaigns was pulled off by Greet Minnen, who only dropped one set to former World No. 30 Urszula Radwanska. Faced with a nightmare of a draw in the opening round, the Belgian was just a point away from defeating Petra Kvitova. Not playing her best tennis up until that moment, it was when the two-time Wimbledon champion really showcased her winning mindset. A big serve out wide allowed Kvitova to stay in the driver’s seat and she found a backhand cross-court winner on the sixth shot in the rally. In her press conference after the match, the Czech called it “her daily bread since she was a kid.” This shot proved to be extremely important as Kvitova visibly raised her level for the deciding set and allowed Minnen just one more game.

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