Halep provides blueprint for Zarazua

 - Alex Sharp

Zarazua and Kostyuk join a collection of players advancing to their first Roland-Garros main draw

Renata Zarazua, Roland Garros 2020, qualifying final round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

For players of a diminutive stature looking to maximise their weapons, Simona Halep is pretty much the perfect model to replicate. 

Renata Zarazua, a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Daniela Seguel on Friday in the final round of qualifying, has studied countless videos of 2018 Roland-Garros champion Halep to help guide her to a maiden Grand Slam main draw spot in Paris.

“I like Halep a lot. She is someone I look up to. I love her game style, how she acts on court. I think sometimes you have to refer to someone and she’s perfect for that, watching some videos and see why they’re so good,” revealed the Mexican, who stands at 1.60m tall.

“That’s why when I have time off I watch her. She’s a similar height, so it’s nice to see how she deals with challenges.”

The 22-year-old has tennis heritage in the family, dating back to her great uncle Vicente, a 1968 gold medallist in doubles at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and with 16 Davis Cup ties to his name.

Now Zarazua is writing her own page in the family history as the first Mexican woman to reach a major main draw since Angelica Gavaldon at Australian Open 2000. The results had been ringing in prior to lockdown as a semi-finalist on home soil in Acapulco back in February. 

“I feel very happy. Not a lot of people would have expected this to happen. I’ve always believed in myself and I’ve been working really hard to get these kind of results,” continued the Florida resident. “I’m just proud to be representing Mexico in the main draw.”

Rewind to 2018 and Zarazua didn’t grab her opportunity in three first hurdle exits in major qualifying.

“Two years ago I think I was just so happy to be involved, it’s bad, I felt ‘I’ve made it,’” admitted the world No.178. “This time I’m more prepared for my favourite Slam.”

Signal of intent

Earlier this month, Marta Kostyuk shot back into prominence by taking eventual US Open champion Naomi Osaka to a decider.

Now the teenager has sent out a signal of intent in Paris, after successfully qualifying for the Roland-Garros main draw for the first time in her career.

“I think I obviously can do some damage here. A lot of players are afraid of me, they know I can play very well. It’s a great feeling to have to be honest,” insisted the 18-year-old, happy to compete as favourite or by taking the ‘underdog’ tag.

“I don’t mind either way. I just need to refresh and reset, it’s like a new tournament now.”

The Ukrainian “figured it out” over the net from No.22 seed Kurumi Nara 6-0, 1-6, 6-2 in the final round of qualifying on Friday.

“I didn’t go crazy even though I lost the second set. I think I’ve got a bit calmer over time. My life has changed, I’ve been through things and I grew up. It’s now much more easy for me to stay focused, to not be upset or disappointed. I’m just happy right now.”

2012 finalist Sara Errani has her runners-up plate and women’s doubles title trophy from that summer in Paris on display at her parent's house.

Roland-Garros remains a “special” place for the Italian, who replicated her 2017 campaign to battle through qualifying with a 6-3, 7-5 result over Tereza Martincova.

“It was really tough to close the match,” said Errani, who relinquished two match points in the second set at 5-3. “I’m proud to be back.

“I’ve always had the passion for tennis to drive me on. Things in your life can distract you, but now I’m strong. I’ve played so many matches here and I can’t wait for another.”

Sara Errani, Roland Garros 2020, qualifying final round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Around the grounds, Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska continued her sublime clay-court form to reach the main draw of Roland-Garros for the first time. The 23-year-old navigated past Chinese youngster Wang Xinyu 6-2, 6-4.  

Former junior world No.1 Clara Tauson similarly broke new ground, securing a Grand Slam debut courtesy of defeating Ivana Jorovic 7-6(5), 6-4. Monica Niculescu struck an underarm serve to close out a compelling 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 triumph over Vera Zvonareva.

Meanwhile, Mayar Sherif is another to herald history on Friday. The world No.172 backed up an impressive victory over Caty McNally to surpass Italy’s Giulia Gatto-Monticone 6-1, 6-3 in emphatic fashion. 

Sherif has become the first woman representing Egypt to feature in a Slam main draw.

Mayar Sherif, Roland-Garros 2020, qualifying final round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT