Qualifying preview: Hitting the reset button

Talent and athleticism can only get you so far: it needs a very special mindset to cope with life at the top

Camila Osorio, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying first round© Philippe Montigny/FFT
 - Alix Ramsay

It is hard work carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders when you are only 20. And that is how life felt for Camila Osorio last year.

She was Colombia’s bright young hope with a WTA title to her name and the No.33 rung on the world rankings ladder to call her own. So far so good.

But the problem with being so good so young is that people expect you to be that good all the time. No matter that she may have been injured (and injuries are an occupational hazard for any athlete) or may not have been feeling at her best, everyone back at home expected her to win every point and every match.

And when she didn’t (losing being the other occupational hazard for every athlete), she took a pasting on social media as her ranking plummeted. Enough was enough; she did not want to go on like this.

“Some people can be rude,” she told WTA Insider; and rather than put up with other people’s lack of manners, she deleted all her social media accounts. Relieved of that pressure, she set about concentrating on herself, her game and ridding herself of the raft of niggling injuries that had plagued her for several years.

Refreshed and ready to start again this year, the results have been much better – a semi-final finish in Lyon, a good win over Caroline Garcia in Rome and a right royal battle (albeit a losing battle) with Aryna Sabalenka in Madrid. Even when she picked up a leg injury in Monterrey in February, she did not worry. Taking her time and letting the leg heal fully, she did not put any pressure on herself. She would only play when she was good and ready.

Now, at Roland Garros, she faces Sesil Karatantcheva, the 33-year-old from Bulgaria on Court 3. Karatantcheva was once the world No.35 but that was back in 2005. Today she has no official ranking as she is just taking her first steps back on the tour after a four-year break (she stopped to have a baby). Two women at opposite ends of the career but with the same goal: to enjoy their time on court and not to worry about the consequences.

“I'm so happy to be healthy,” Karatantcheva said. “I'm enjoying every second. I have no pressure at all. I'm just having fun."

Sesil Karatantcheva, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying first round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Three to watch

Court 2: Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) v Nicolas Moreno De Alboran (USA)

Is that Aleksandar Vukic? It must be Roland-Garros qualifying, then… You can almost set your watch by the 27-year-old Australian. Every year he comes here and tries to claim his place in the main draw (and he did it, too, three years ago). But win or lose, he will not be beaten. A late bloomer by tennis standards, he trained in Spain as a teenager but was soon burnt out and opted to go to college in the US instead. But he could not kick the tennis habit so back he came to the tour. “It's insane what you feel on court,” he said. “As long as I can feel that, then I'm happy."


Aleksandar Vukic, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying first round© Andre Ferreira/FFT

Court 11: Clara Tauson (DEN) v Petra Marcinko (CRO)

To say that Clara Tauson hit the ground running as a professional barely does her justice. She was 17 when she set out on her first year on tour and within months, she had racked up two titles and cracked the world ‘s top 50. By the start of last year, she was the world No.33 but that was when she was stopped in her tracks by a back injury. Recently, she has been plying her trade in the lower-level tournaments but when she has had her chance to play with the bigger names at the bigger events, she has grabbed it with both hands. With the ambition of playing like Petra Kvitova (big serve and thumping ground strokes) she is aiming for the top once again.

Clara Tauson, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying first round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Court 13: Liam Broady (GBR) v Emilio Nava (USA)

God loves a trier, so the saying goes, and when it comes to Roland-Garros, Liam Broady is certainly a trier. This is his sixth trip to the qualifying tournament here and so far, he has only reached the main draw once. Clay is not his natural surface – with his favourite shot being his volley, he prefers a hard court – but that will not stop him. Today he faces a man ranked 98 places below him at No.238 in the world and one who until this week had only played one tour-level clay-court match in his life. And lost it. Emilio Nava will certainly give it his best shot but against a trier like Broady, it may not be enough.

Liam Broady, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying first round© Loïc Wacziak/FFT