Serena and Venus pair up
As Caroline Dolehide and Bianca Andreescu prevailed, fellow teens Marta Kostyuk and Diane Parry exited women's qualifying.
Sunshine, humidity and the odd splash of rainfall creates perfect growing conditions for the horticulturalists tending the adjoining Jardins des Serres d'Auteuil botanical gardens, and the same ambience goes for players aiming to boost their stature by progressing through qualifying on the beautifully tended red clay of Roland-Garros.
Caroline Dolehide, 19, who signalled her potential by taking a set off world No.1 Simona Halep at Indian Wells, continued to grow tall and impress by winning a tenaciously fought battle with Marie Bouzkova, 4-6 6-3 7-5. Over the course of two hours and 35 minutes, spectators on Court 7 were treated to a display of power laced with finesse from the kick-serving teen from Chicago who is never afraid to go for a winner.
“I definitely think all the practice I’ve done in the last few weeks has paid off,” she said, acknowledging the variety of shots she conjured to edge out a resilient Czech opponent. “Not getting into Rome meant I had a great week with my coach. I know that 90 per cent of my matches go to three sets. Today I trusted in my fitness and implemented everything we’d been working on.”
Dolehide’s style is reminiscent of Sam Stosur – a compliment she accepts appreciatively. It turns out that in Rome she had a hit with the Australian 2010 French Open finalist. “I grew up admiring four players, Venus, Serena, Maria Sharapova and Sam. Her kick is out of this world – so it was an awesome experience,” she said. Like Stosur, Dolehide feels an infinity to the Paris clay. “Oh my gosh, I love it here.” Her next test comes in the form of Irina Bara, who knocked out No. 4 seed Anna Blinkova.
On Court 16, Marta Kostyuk, the 15-year-old wunderkind from Ukraine, was felled in straight sets by Martina Trevisan. Her tearful exit at the hands of the Italian stalwart was a reminder of how tough it is for youngsters to establish themselves on the big stage. Kostyuk arrived in Paris on the back of three losses in Madrid, Prague and Stuttgart, talking with feeling about her loss of confidence and the difficulty of living up to the pressure of emulating her exploits at the Australian Open, where she became the youngest since Martina Hingis to reach the third round of a Grand Slam.
Another teenager mentioned in the same breath as big names in the women’s game is Bianca Andreescu of Canada. Until last month, the 17-year-old was coached by Nathalie Tauziat, a veteran of 18 consecutive appearances at Roland-Garros (1984-2001), who always praised Andreescu’s ambition. Of Romanian descent, the young Bianca grew up idolising Halep, and it was the world No.1 who advised her to go professional rather than loitering too long in the juniors.
Good advice, it seems, as Andreescu took only 64 minutes to earn a 6-1 6-3 victory over Viktoriya Tomova with a string of astutely set-up winners. “Clay suits me, and I’ve gained a lot of experience since I started to play on bigger stages,” she said, assuring observers that the hefty bandage on her right thigh is purely preventative as she left “to recover, chill, eat pasta and watch some Netflix”.
Andreescu will next meet Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands, who emerged the victor of a three-set rollercoaster against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.
The soundtrack to the third game on Court 18 told the story: lots of audible effort from Francesca Schiavone, followed by raucous cheers as the 2010 French Open champion continued her run towards what could be an 18th consecutive appearance at Roland-Garros. She beat Jamie Loeb 6-1 6-4 to stand one win from the main draw.
For the home crowd, Harmony Tan was the sole victor, beating Fangzhou Liu to earn a match-up with the experienced Spaniard Georgina Garcia Perez. Fifteen-year-old local sensation Diane Parry went out in straight sets.