Defiant Vera declares, 'I've still got it'

 - Alex Sharp

Former world No.2 justifies her top billing to soar into the Roland-Garros qualifying second round

Vera Zvonareva, Roland Garros 2021, qualifying first round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

The fire is still burning bright as former world No.2 Vera Zvonareva continues to drive back towards the upper echelons of the sport.

The Roland-Garros qualifying top seed, a runner-up in 2010 at Wimbledon and the US Open, commanded proceedings on Monday to navigate past Great Britain's Francesca Jones 6-1, 6-2 into round two in Paris.

Back in the top 100 and arriving in the French capital following a last-16 run in Rome, Zvonareva believes she belongs back in the big time.


“It mean’s I’ve still got it, I still have the fight and the passion. I still love the sport and I’m still capable of playing at the highest level,” declared the current world No.96.

“I know the level I can play. Every day I’m working towards that and we’ll see where that journey is going to take me.”

Rallying in Rome

The 36-year-old qualified in Rome, before toppling Petra Kvitova for her first top-10 victory in over a decade. Belief is building just at the right time for the Russian.  

“Definitely. It was important for me to play quite a few matches on the clay. I’ve missed so many clay-court seasons in my career due to different injuries,” added Zvonareva, who faces Georgian Mariam Bolkvadze next. “Obviously they gave me a lot of confidence.”

She points to the unwavering “hard work and dedication” which has propelled her back up the rankings and hopes previous Parisian triumphs can inspire another deep run in the French capital.

“I remember mainly my first ever Grand Slam main draw (2002) here at Roland-Garros. I qualified, made it to the fourth round, lost to Serena Williams in three sets eventually,” stated the Russian, who fell at the third qualifying hurdle on Parisian clay last autumn.


“It was a great run and I have special memories from playing in Paris and of course I want to make more, to do as well as I did in the past, maybe better. I’m still trying.” 

There was a second success for Georgian fans with Ekaterine Gorgodze overcoming Mexican 28th seed Renata Zarazua 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 earlier on Monday.

Cairo strong

Meanwhile, Egypt's Mayar Sherif endured numerous rain delays and fought back from a set down to overcome 19-year-old Polish lefty Maja Chwalinska 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a two-hour, 47-minute affair.

Sherif, ranked 120 in the world and seeded 13 in qualifying, made history last year in Paris when she became the first Egyptian woman to feature in a Grand Slam main draw after blasting through her qualifiers without dropping a set.

The Cairene stretched No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova to three sets before succumbing in the opening round and is looking to advance to the main draw at a third consecutive major.

The 25-year-old Sherif will take on Romanian world No.152 Jacqueline Cristian next.

Mayar Sherif, Roland Garros 2021, qualifying first round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Elsewhere, 2012 finalist Sara Errani managed to edge past American Sachia Vickery in straight sets 6-3, 7-5 to book an encounter with Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz.

A main-draw ticket edged closer for seventh seed Anna-Lena Friedsam following an efficient 6-0, 6-3 passage past Chilean Daniela Seguel.

No.18 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova is also up and running courtesy of a 6-1, 6-2 scoreline over China’s Fang Ying Xun.

Belgium’s 17th seed Greet Minnen fought back 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 to nullify the threat of Urszula Radwanska and advance into the second round.