Highlights: Azarenka vs Siniakova
Andrea Petkovic struck 23 winners to prevail past the 29th seed on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
A year ago Andrea Petkovic left Roland Garros at the very first stage after a three-set tussle with Varvara Lepchenko.
Meanwhile, Kristina Mladenovic conjured up an enthralling French Open campaign, dethroning 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza en route to a quarter-final finish.
12 months on and the picture has shifted drastically.
“I've learned a lot from the last couple years, and I feel like a much mentally stronger player,” insisted Petkovic, having clinched one of her most memorable victories.
The world No.107 utilised her wealth of experience to prevail past the home charge 7-6(10) 6-2 on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.
The match up leapt from the draw sheets on Thursday evening. Petkovic is a captivating character and Mladenovic brings patriotism to the court in abundance.
Adding to the intrigue, Petkovic headed into court with a 4-0 favourable head-to-head record with Mladenovic.
The enduringly popular German went the distance with Mladenovic in 2014, when she formulated a majestic run to the semi-finals in Paris.
Since then Petkovic returned to the top 10, but then battled with fluctuating form and injuries - so much so that the 30-year-old had posted just two Tour-level victories in 2018 prior to meeting Mladenovic.
It was a performance more befitting her 2014 French Open run. Petkovic was in sizzling form, keeping apace with the No.29 seed as the ardent crowd created a cauldron of support for Mladenovic.
Remarkably, from 3-6 down in the tie-break, Petkovic won three consecutive points to eventually snatch a thrilling opener.
Petkovic was so absorbed in the ‘zone’ that she forgot the scoreline and momentarily forget to change ends at 6-6 in the tie-break. The German finished on 23 winners, a snapshot of a full-throttle performance.
Mladenovic dug deep into her reserves, dismissing three match points in the second set. However, Petkovic would not be denied.
"I think I played solid and I did what I had to do," said Petkovic. "The thing that bothers her most about my game is that I return really well and neutralize her serve. That was difficult for me today because we're playing on clay and she has a really good kick serve.
"But I knew what I had to do, stuck with the game plan and what I know has worked in the past. There were a lot of emotions because it was an important win for me and I know it was a difficult moment for her."
An instant reward for Petkovic is a return to the top 100 (at least No.91 after Roland-Garros), but she is eager to build on this special showing in the second round against either Nuremberg champion Johanna Larsson or the returning Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
"This was an important match for me. I'd lost three heartbreakers in the first round where I didn't play awful but couldn't close it out,” continued Petkovic. “Here I was again, on a big court with a lot of emotions at an important tournament. I'm going to try and be satisfied for a day before I start thinking about what comes next."
While it was pure elation for Petkovic at match point, Mladenovic was presented with a painful reminder that her game needs to be revitalised as she falls to a projected No.54 in the rankings.
"I was expecting a difficult match, because I never found a way to win Andrea in singles," Mladenovic told reporters. "I think she likes the way I hit my shots. We all know what the good points and the bad points of other players, but I don't really know hers.”
Building on her Roland Garros heroics last year, the Frenchwoman rose into the Top 10 by October 2017. The 25-year-old then relinquished all momentum by suffering 15 straight singles matches, which was finally broken with a final run in St Petersburg in February.
However, the home charge isn’t ready to panic and is willing to put in the hard yards to recapture her on-court prowess.
“I'm not going to question everything and go too far deep. I think that there are clear details that I know about and that explain what happened, so I'll just continue to work on it,” stated the 29th seed, urging a positive mentality. “These seasons are very long, and I think that you just have to continue to work and learn from your failures.
“You can't write the script yourself every time. I would have liked to remain here, but whatever happens, it still is my favorite tournament. I still have very good memories and very good feelings. Today didn't work, but I enjoyed trying to do my best and fighting as I did today. So we will try another time.”