Liang channels Li Na to qualify, Schmiedlova pulls off 'miracle'

 - Alex Sharp

Liang En-Shuo, Maria Camila Osorio Serrano and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova have all booked main draw spots.

Liang En-Shuo, Roland Garros 2021, qualifying third round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

It is 10 years since Li Na triumphed at Roland-Garros, becoming the first Asian to win a Grand Slam singles trophy.

Chinese Taipei youngster Liang En-Shuo was one of millions glued to their TV sets witnessing history on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

On Thursday, the 20-year-old booked her place in the Roland-Garros main draw, hoping to follow in the footsteps of her idol thanks to a final-round qualifying win over Brit Harriet Dart.

“I watched the final in my home. It was a big step for Asian players I think,” said Liang, who met the two-time major winner at the ITF Junior Masters in 2018.

“It really inspired me to play, that my future could be tennis because her winning a Grand Slam showed me the way.”

In her seventh attempt at qualifying for a Grand Slam main draw, Liang landed an emphatic 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Dart.


“It feels unreal for me. I’m very proud to qualify for a Grand Slam, this is a very big moment for me,” the world No.243 said.

Liang lifted the junior singles and doubles titles at the 2018 Australian Open and has since been working up to the WTA level. Left wrist surgery in April last season dented her progress, but she feels “totally back” now to display her full repertoire in the main draw.

“I don’t think about the level I can reach. I just try my best and play my own style,” she said. “I want to enjoy this experience whoever I play next.”

Earlier on Thursday, Maria Camila Osorio Serrano clinched a maiden Grand Slam main draw berth, leading 6-3, 4-3 before Romanian Monica Niculescu retired.

There were also tears of joy for Georgia, when 29-year-old Ekaterine Gorgodze posted a 6-3, 6-4 win over Nuria Parrizas Diaz to reach her maiden Grand Slam main draw.

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova hailed a “miracle” having carved out a captivating 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 comeback to oust former world No.2 Vera Zvonareva.

It’s tough to believe, I don’t think I’ve ever completed a comeback like that before. Especially here, my favourite tournament, final round of qualies, I’m so happy,” declared the 26-year-old.

“[At] 1-5 down in the second set I didn’t really believe, but I will remember this match for the rest of my life because its a very special day and special win for me.”

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Roland Garros 2021, qualifying third round© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

The world No.112 was also a break down at 1-3 in the decider but played some scintillating shots to overpower the top seed in two hours and 30 minutes.

It was in stark contrast to her 6-2, 6-1 dismissal at the hands of Zvonareva in Madrid qualifying earlier this month.

“It could have been the same story today, it was a bit of a miracle. I think I played really well, she’s one of the most difficult players I could have faced this week,” the Slovakian said. 

“I was brave, played my game and it’s one of the best matches I’ve ever played, it was such a big fight.”


Schmiedlova achieved her joint-best showing at a Grand Slam in Paris last autumn, reaching the third round off the back of two standout wins.

“When I was a junior I played finals here (2012) and more recently I won some of the biggest matches of my life here last year, beating Venus (Williams) and (Victoria) Azarenka. Every year it seems special here,” she said.

“I’ve played on all the show courts here, that hasn’t happened at the other Slams.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played on such a beautiful arena as Philippe-Chatrier. It’s my favourite centre court ever. I’d love to play there or the beautiful Court Simonne-Mathieu again.”

Greet Minnen, Roland Garros 2021 qualifying third round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Meanwhile 17th seed Greet Minnen edged Australian Ellen Perez 7-5, 6-4 to prolong her stay at Roland-Garros.

“It feels really good. Last year I wasn’t too happy with my performance in Paris, so this makes up for it,” said the world No.98, who fell to qualifying sensation Nadia Podoroska in the opening round last autumn.

“I think it definitely helps (to play qualifying). You have those matches under your belt, you have a feel of the conditions, the surface and you have some confidence from three wins at a top level.

“It depends who you get drawn but I have to go out there believing myself. You have to fight for every point, that’s all you can do. If I play a top seed I’ll give everything, I believe I can beat those players on my day."