Celebrations start early for Schiavone

 - Dan Imhoff

The 2010 champ is into the main draw at Roland-Garros for an 18th year as Dulgheru and Peterson qualify.

Roland-Garros 2018, Francesca Schiavone, qualifications©Cedric Lecocq / FFT

Francesca Schiavone sees no reason to hold off popping the cork on that celebratory bottle of wine after the former champion’s progression to an 18th Roland-Garros main draw on Thursday.

And she’s not alone.

The peppy Italian, with a spring in her step and a smile painted across her face, bounded to the net where there was no hiding what an emotional 6-0 6-1 victory over Evgeniya Rodina meant.

The small but packed Court 6 crowd rose in approval, a contrast to the resounding ovations she received on the adjacent Court-Philippe-Chatrier after back-to-back finals in 2010 and 2011.

“Yeah I’ll be having wine with my friends. I’m starting to drink too much Bordeaux,” she laughed. “So I have to stop otherwise I’m going drunk. I’m very happy. The body I have to recover, but it will be OK.”

Hours later, under fading light and in heavier, rainy conditions, former world No.26 Alexandra Dulgheru was plotting a main draw return of her own.

It was a match in stark contrast to the veteran Italian’s; a 6-1 5-7 7-6(7) result over German Tamara Korpatsch, a match in which she stormed back from 2-5 down in the decider before she saved a match point in the tie-break to prevail.

The Romanian agreed a wine was in order.

“Probably for me too because this is the first time that I’ve passed qualies in a Grand Slam,” Dulgheru said.

“Trust me it’s easier to play main draw than to play qualifying back to back. Everyone is hungry to go into the main draw and eager to win and you don’t get days off. Honestly, it’s surreal for me.”

Not since reaching the final in Rabat more than a year ago had the 38-year-old Schiavone strung together three match wins.

It had been a long and searching stretch – battling it out in Challenger events, bouncing back from injuries and crises of confidence, desperate to prove that flicking passion for competition still burned strong enough to warrant putting her ailing body through the rigours of another season on tour.

Until this week, Schiavone had lost all six matches she had played this year.

“Yeah it’s fantastic. It’s a big present for me. It’s a tough moment so to enjoy this is amazing,” Schiavone said.

She had no idea the last time she had pulled off a trifecta of match wins.

“No,” she beamed inquisitively. “I don’t remember, that’s why I’m very, very happy.”

Francesca Schiavone sourire qualifications©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Dulgheru, 10 years Schiavone’s junior, does not have to go back so far to remember the last time she strung together three match victories, having reached a final on clay in an ITF event in France earlier this month.

Her road back has been far more plagued, however.

Her last Grand Slam main draw was Wimbledon in 2015. Only this year did she return to contest Australian Open qualifying.

“I’ve had three surgeries, many other injuries that held me back,” she said. “I knew there was nothing I could do about it but I knew my level was good enough to be playing main draw.

“It’s not fun for a sportsperson to be held back. I can’t gain back the years that I lost but I thought you know what? Just enjoy it.”

Second seed Rebecca Peterson booked her place in just her second Grand Slam main draw after surging back to see off Belgian Ysaline Bonaventure 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.

While only 22, the Swede had endured a stop-start couple of years with injury concerns. But a narrow defeat to her compatriot and good friend Johanna Larsson in the first round in Marrakech last month sparked an unexpected run of form on the clay, which included an ITF title run in France.

 “I had played a really tough match against Johanna and even from that match it gave me a bit of confidence going into the week after and winning that title. It obviously meant a lot,” Peterson said.

“Now this feels amazing. This is my first main draw in Roland-Garros.”

Four women booked their berths in their first Grand Slam in the final round of qualifying.

Italy’s Deborah Chiesa sprung an upset on No.3 seed Arantxa Rus, 7-6(5), 6-2, with Spain’s Georgina Garcia Perez, Czech Barbora Kerjcikova and American teenager Caroline Dolehide also breaking through.

Another American, Grace Min, sixth-seed Swiss Viktorija Golubic, Poland’s Magdalena Frech and Colombian Mariana Duque-Marino all rebounded from a set down to advance to the main draw.