DAY 3 of the 2021 Roland Garros women’s draw produced some huge result, as Carla Suarez Navarro made her triumphant return to tennis following cancer treatment, while Ash Barty was tested in her opening round clash and Petra Kvitova pulled out ahead of her second round matchup with an ankle injury.
“Unfortunately, after an MRI and much discussion with my team, I have made the tough decision that it would be unwise to play on it,” Kvitova confirmed on social media. “It’s incredibly bad luck, but I will stay strong and do my best to recover in time for the grass-court season.”
Suarez Navarro put up an impressive fight against Sloane Stephens in her first outing for the year since undergoing treatment, but despite an excellent first set was unable to complete a victory as the American fought hard in the second and third to take out the 3-6 7-6 6-4 win.
“Was a long time, really tough moments, tough months,” Suárez Navarro said. “But, well, every time I had on my mind that I want to be here, I want to come back. Roland Garros is one of my favourite tournaments, so [it was] really clear that my first tournament will be this one.”
“I tried to prepare myself for my best tennis that I can,” Suárez Navarro said. “Obviously I need more time, but I think I had a good time this week practicing, I have good level in my match. Of course I feel tired at the end. I know that if I don’t close the match in two sets, it will be so difficult for me. But I’m really proud, too, of myself and really happy to have the chance to play here one last time.”
“She’s a great player, so she obviously is going to come out and play some really good tennis,” Stephens said. “I thought she played her normal Carla tennis, up on the baseline with that one-handed backhand. I thought she played like she normally does. She brought it to me today, and I thought she played a great match.”
“Obviously she’s been through a lot and we’re all happy that she’s better and healthy and being able to play again, which I think obviously is the most important thing.
“We all love her and love having her around.”
No seeds fell on the day, however it was a close shave for two with world number one Barty taken to three by American Bernarda Pera, and requiring medical attention between the second and third sets, while Karolina Muchova suffered a slump in the first before dominating the remainder of her three setter with Andrea Petkovic.
“It’s so special to be back. I was disappointed not to be able to play last year, but this court is incredible for me, it’s very close to my heart and it’s very nice to be able to play here in front of fans,” Barty said post-match.
“You can’t win a match if you give up, so today was about going out there and not giving up.”
Barty required two hours flat to shake Pera in a 6-4 3-6 6-2 result, with her excellent unforced error count (25-49) paving the way despite Pera dominating the winner count 36-18.
“I think every match that I play in, every different experience, whether it’s an opponent or a physical challenge, I feel like you learn to overcome it and you learn to accept it,” she said.
“That was a massive part of today, was accepting the fact that, yes, I may not be absolutely 100 per cent but I’m certainly good enough to go out there and fight and do the best I can and give myself a chance to win matches.”
All the remaining seeds proceeded to the second round, with Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, Jennifer Brady and Maria Sakkari leading the pack, while a couple of top 30 talents in young gun Coco Gauff and Tunisian Ons Jabeur trail and 32nd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova downed Venus Williams in 56 minutes.
Plenty of exciting talent also heads into the second round, as two more Americans in Ann Li and qualifier Varvara Lapchenko, as well as a couple of Frenchwomen in Fiona Ferro and Kristina Mladenovic claimed wins, while Pliskova’s twin sister Kristyna fell to compatriot Barbora Krejcikova, and a second Australian in Astra Sharma heads to the second round. The remaining winners on the final day of first round action were in-form Pole Magda Linette, Italian Jasmine Paolini and Chinese talent Wang Qiang.
ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:
 Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Bernarda Pera (USA) 6-4 3-6 6-2
 Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated [Q] Oceane Babel (FRA) 6-2 7-5
 Karolina Pliskova (UKR) defeated Donna Vekic (CRO) 7-5 6-4
 Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 6-3 6-3
 Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated [Q] Katarina Zavatska (UKR) 6-4 6-1
 Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Andrea Petkovic (GER) 1-6 6-3 6-4
 Coco Gauff (USA) defeated [Q] Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) 7-6 6-4
 Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 7-5 6-2
 Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Venus Williams (USA) 6-3 6-1
Fiona Ferro (FRA) defeated [Q] Liang En-Shuo (TPE) 6-1 1-6 6-4
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) defeated [Q] Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-4 6-0
Sloane Stephens (USA) defeated Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) 3-6 7-6 6-4
Magda Linette (POL) defeated [WC] Chloe Paquet (FRA) 6-3 6-3
Wang Qiang (CHN) defeated Hsieh Su-wei (TPE) 2-6 6-4 7-6
Ann Li (USA) defeated Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 6-0 6-1
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 5-7 6-4 6-2
Jasmine Paolini (ITA) defeated [Q] Stefanie Voegele (SUI) 6-7 7-6 6-0
[WC] Astra Sharma (AUS) defeated [Q] Irina Bara (ROU) 7-6 6-2
[Q] Varvara Lepchenko (USA) defeated Zhang Shuai (CHN) 6-3 6-3
Picture credit: Julien Crosnier/FFT