Czech teens show grit in Paris qualifying debuts

 - Dan Imhoff

Fruhvirtova, Bejlek keep Grand Slam main draw hopes on track with comeback triumphs

Brenda Fruhvirtova, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying first round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

A shrug and a wry grin is the closest Czech whiz kid Brenda Fruhvirtova comes to letting her frustration show in her maiden Roland-Garros qualifying outing.

There is no shortage of attention surrounding the 16-year-old’s progression as the younger sister of rapidly rising Linda Fruhvirtova.

It makes the stakes that bit higher when the chips are down against Croatian world No.230 Antonia Ruzic in her Paris debut on Tuesday.

Fans soon spill from all vantage points on Court 10 as the second-youngest player in the top 300 – one of only two 16-year-olds – coolly rides the ebbs and flows to eke out a 3-6, 2-6, 7-6(10-2) triumph.

From a set down, Fruhvirtova eventually broke as her opponent served for the match deep in the third and saved her finest for the brink, fending off a match point to keep the teenage dream alive after two hours and 24 minutes.

This unflappable mindset it seemed, came all too naturally.

“It was a really, really intense and tough match but I would say I'm most of the time like that (calm) in the matches so it was pretty much normal for me,” Fruhvirtova said.

“I'm just trying to stay positive even if I'm down and down match (point). I'm just trying to fight for every point and I'm glad that I won today because it means a lot to win this tight match.”

It kept afloat her hopes of qualifying for her second straight major following her feats at this year’s Australian Open and the chance to join 56th-ranked Linda in the main draw.

“Today was just the first round of qualies, so there are still two more to go,” she said. “For sure it would mean a lot but yeah, I'm just trying not to think about it yet.”

The world No.146 last year went on a tear, bagging eight ITF titles, including five straight on clay – a run in which she notched 27 straight match wins.

While the tour’s age eligibility rule limits the number of tournaments she is able to contest before turning 18, Fruhvirtova is in no great rush.

That que sera attitude has been serving her well.

“It's very hard because last year I went really up in the rankings and I still have a limit of tournaments because of my age so it's pretty much a pressure for me but I'm just trying to enjoy as much as I can and not to think about the rankings,” she said ahead of a second-round qualifying meeting with Liechtenstein’s Kathinka von Deichmann.

“What's supposed to happen will happen, I guess. Of course, I feel the pressure but I'm trying to go with it.”

Sara Bejlek, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying first round© Remy Chautard/FFT

Fellow Czech teenager Sara Bejlek earlier kept her bid alive of qualifying for a third straight major with a 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-4 comeback against Dutchwoman Arianne Hartono.

The 17-year-old – the third-youngest player in the top 300 behind Mirra Andreeva and Fruhvirtova – spent time training at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, USA following her Australian Open debut.

“It was perfect. There were a lot of other players there and I'm happy that I could practise there because she's such a legend and it's always good to meet them,” last year's girls' doubles champion and girls' singles semi-finalist said. “It was good preparation for my tournaments.”

The world No.180 set a second-round clash with Canadian Carol Zhao but like her compatriot, Fruhvirtova, she was not about to let her mind wander too far ahead.

“Of course every Slam is perfect and it's moving me a little bit closer every win,” Bejlek said. “We'll see how I play the next match. I'm on the start of the career and I have a lot of matches before me, so I'll give my maximum every time and we will see.”

A semi-finalist at Roland-Garros in 2021, Slovenian Tamara Zidansek survived a tight tussle with Uzbekistani Nigina Abduraimova.

The fourth seed’s 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-2 victory secured a showdown with Anastasia Zakharova.

Polish lefty Maja Chwalinska had few difficulties seeing off Italian second seed Lucrezia Stefanini, 6-2, 6-1, while French 2020 girls’ singles champion Elsa Jacquemot also advanced, 6-2, 6-2 over Argentine Paula Ormaechea.

Danish former world No.33 Clara Tauson’s comeback from injury continued while Croatian 17-year-old Petra Marcinko also won through.

Tamara Zidansek, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying first round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT