The early days of a tennis major are always laced with a few surprises. This year’s French Open is no exception. While rare, World No. 1 Angelique Kerber’s opening round loss was not that much of a shock. Here are a few lesser known names that have made noise.
Ons Jabeur- This is the unlikeliest of all the early round surprises. The 22-year-old from Tunisia lost in the final round of qualifying, but was chosen at random to replace a player in the main draw who pulled out due to injury.
Jabeur is certainly making the most of her “lucky loser” status. She has earned the first two Grand Slam main draw victories of her career. This included a second-round shocker over former Roland Garros semifinalist and current top 10 player Dominika Cibulková. She will face 30th seed Timea Bacsinszky in the round of 32.
She certainly has a chance to keep her Cinderella run going. After seeing her play, it is impossible not to wonder what in the world a player with the kind of talent Jabeur has displayed is doing losing in the final round of qualifying.
Chloe Paquet– This upset did not get much attention, but with all the drama surrounding the French Open wildcards this year, it is at least worthy of a mention. Most of the French wildcards went out with a whimper on home soil either in qualifying or the main draw.
World No. 258 Chloe Paquet was the lone notable exception. She upset top 50 player Kristýna Plíšková in the opening round. Kristýna is the less heralded left-handed sister of World No. 2 Karolina Plíšková. She had just achieved a career-high ranking. While the big hitting style of each Plíšková sister does not translate all that well to clay, it is fair to say no one saw this coming.
Paquet’s fairy tale came to an end in round two at the hands of 28th seeded compatriot Caroline Garcia. The way this sport works, we may never hear Paquet’s name again. Even if that turns out to be the case, she will always have an awesome story to tell.
Renzo Olivo– This 25-year-old journeyman has spent most of his career languishing in obscurity ranked between 80 and 150 in the world. However, he was thrown into the spotlight when drawn to play wildly popular and talented Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the opening round.
The Argentine played the role of villain perfectly stunning the twelfth seed in four sets over two days. Tsonga just won a title last week. So, he had been in good form. It was just one of those days for both players. A great one for Olivo, and a nightmare for Tsonga.
The win was just the second in the career of Olivo when it comes to Grand Slam main draw play. This story ended in the second round at the hands of up-and-coming British player Kyle Edmund. However, for a guy like Olivo who knows he is never going to be a top-flight player, a moment like the one he had at this event is why you get up in the morning and hit the practice court.
Verónica Cepede Royg- We have already covered the tennis hotbed that is Tunisia. Now, it is time for Paraguay. Cepede Royg had never reached a Grand Slam main draw, much less won a match in one prior to this event.
Ranked just inside the top 100 for the first time, she did not have to qualify for this event. Even so, she was handed a very tricky draw. She started by defeating former French Open finalist Lucie Šafářová who has been struggling lately.
Backing that up with a win over 16th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was the real stunner. Pavlyuchenkova has been very consistent all year long and seemed ready for a long-awaited major breakthrough, but it was not to be.
Cepede Royg’s third-round opponent is a surprise as well, Mariana Duque of Colombia. With the exception of Garbiñe Muguruza, South America has had very minimal impact on women’s tennis for most of the last 15 years. So, this is unprecedented.
The big names will likely have their moments in the Paris sun as field thins out. However, the first week of this French Open has been about the underdog even more so than usual.