Vekic, Tsurenko find perspective in victories

 - Dan Imhoff

Croatian stages qualifying comeback in Paris as Ukrainian takes out 2012 runner-up

Donna Vekic, Roland Garros 2022, qualifying second round© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

Donna Vekic concedes patience does not immediately spring to mind when listing her greatest attributes.

After finally cracking the top 20 two-and-a-half years ago however, she has needed it in spades.

The road back has been gradual since right knee surgery curtailed last season.

Vekic’s persistence was rewarded on Wednesday when she secured back-to-back wins for only the second time this year in a 6-0, 3-6, 7-5 ledger against American Louisa Chirico.

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“I haven't played in months so to be back playing pain-free and to be winning matches is good,” Vekic, whose best result in Paris was a fourth-round appearance three years ago, said.

“I know I'm still a long way from my level but I think any kind of wins are going to help me get there.”

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the Croatian appeared in a hurry to reach the final round of Roland-Garros qualifying when she bolted through the opening set in just 29 minutes.

World No.231 Chirico was intent on playing spoiler and having levelled sets she went on to serve for the match at 5-3.

Vekic’s resolve shone as she peeled off the final four games to prevail after two hours and 12 minutes to set a showdown with Anastasia Gasanova.

Any suggestions of impatience were quickly laid to rest, at least for today.

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“Patience has never been my virtue and I think just realising the things that I have to do and that it's going to take time to get back to my level and actually accepting that is maybe still something I'm struggling with,” she said.

“Throughout my career I've had some ups and downs definitely.

“I've always been quick to get up from those downs, but I've never really had to deal with an injury, so that's something different for sure and something I had to learn to accept.”

Tsurenko draws inspiration from home

Acceptance of situations beyond her control has become an unfortunately familiar battle for Lesia Tsurenko in 2022.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian easily accounted for 2012 Roland-Garros runner-up Sara Errani 6-1, 6-2 to book a final-round clash with Japan’s Yuki Naito.

Since qualifying in January for the Australian Open, where she faced eventual champion Ashleigh Barty in the opening round, a recurring elbow injury has hindered the former world No.23.

It paled in comparison to the struggle ahead of her when in March she put out a plea for a new training base, unable to return home due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Lesia Tsurenko, Roland Garros 2022, qualifying second round© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

Having endured a lengthy journey from Spain, via Poland to collect her car from the Ukrainian border, Tsurenko’s plan to base herself in Munich was quickly foiled due to snow.

The Piatti Academy in Bordighera, on the Italian Riviera, eventually became her new home away from home.

“My friend Marta Kostyuk is training there so I thought OK at least I go to some place where I have some friends,” Tsurenko said.

“We get to Italy and the academy is amazing. The people are amazing. They are taking really good care of me.”

Perspective has served the 32-year-old well in competition during recent months.

There was even a slither of a silver lining as a result of the shift in priorities.

“I'll be honest, I almost lost the feeling of being nervous before a match,” Tsurenko said.

“I lost the feeling that the match is important, so for me it doesn't matter if I lose or win… It took me some time to get used to this feeling and to find this balance between I don't care and I have to care a little bit just to play.

“This is how I feel now. I don't feel much pressure on me and I just go and enjoy playing tennis… Now for me it's about balancing all these emotions and trying to feel like today is a good day.”

In other women’s second-round qualifying matches, Finland’s Anastasia Kulikova saw off top seed Anastasia Potapova, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3, while second seed Jule Niemeier eased past Frenchwoman Jessika Ponchet 6-0, 6-4.

Chinese third seed Zhu Lin and fifth-seeded Romanian Irina Bara also advanced.