At Roland-Garros full of surprises, the tennis prodigy does good

PARIS (AP) – Grand Slam losses of high-ranking, well-known and accomplished players against lower-ranked, lesser-known and less accomplished opponents – and there have been so many at the French Open women’s draw where only three of the top 10 seeds remain after just two rounds – provides a rare opportunity for these unheralded winners to enjoy the limelight.

So here is Leolia Jeanjean: 26 years old; from Montpellier, France; ranked 227th; a wild-card entry after having never participated in the Slam; apparently destined as a child for big things in tennis, so much so that there were sponsorship deals before she was high school age, until a knee injury derails things. She left the sport for a few years and eventually moved to the United States, where she played college tennis at Baylor, then Arkansas, then Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, while continuing her studies in finance. At Lynn, she went undefeated in both singles and doubles, so it occurred to her that a professional career might be worth a try.

Good choice for Jeanjean. Bad for his opponents so far at Roland Garros, including Karolina Pliskova, two-time major finalist and the No. 8 seed, who couldn’t offer much resistance on Thursday and was beaten 6-2, 6-2 by Jeanjean on Thursday.

“Even I don’t have an explanation. I don’t even realize what’s going on,” Jeanjean said. “It’s my first Grand Slam. I thought I would have lost in the first round in straight sets – and I found myself beating a top 10 player. So honestly I have nothing more to say I don’t really know how that’s possible.

A year ago around this time, she was ranked outside the top 800 and earning hundreds of dollars at low-level International Tennis Federation events. Whatever happens in her next game, she will leave Paris with at least 125,000 euros ($135,000).

“When I stopped playing when I was young, I just wanted to give myself another chance,” Jeanjean said. “Because in my head, ever since I was good when I was 14, 15, I’m like, ‘Why can’t I be good 10 years later? That’s why, yeah, I (took a) chance. And for now it works. »

When asked if he too was giddy by it all, Jeanjean’s coach for three months, Thomas Delgado, quickly replied, bluntly: “No.” And then he laughed, before continuing: “Well, yes, I am. … On the one hand, I’m surprised that she did it. But on the other hand, I knew that she could.

Later in the day, No.9 Danielle Collins, an Australian Open runner-up in January, also left, knocked out by Shelby Rogers, 50th, 6-4, 6-3 in a match between the Americans. .

Pliskova and Collins joined the five top-10 seeds in the bottom half of the draw: No. 2 Barbora Krejcikova – the 2021 champion who was beaten in the first round on Monday, then also retired from doubles, because she tested positive for COVID-19 – No. 4 Maria Sakkari, No. 5 Anett Kontaveit, No. 6 Ons Jabeur and No. 10 Garbiñe Muguruza were all gone on Wednesday.

The remaining trio, all in the top half of the group, won second-round matches on Thursday: No. 1 Iga Swiatek ran her winning streak to 30 games, the longest in women’s tennis since Serena Williams played 34 games in 2013, beating Alison Riske 6-0, 6-2; No. 3 Paula Badosa recovered from a half-match timeout to edge past Kaja Juvan 7-5, 3-6, 6-2; No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka beat Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-3.

“I could be like, ‘Wow, that’s good, because they’re losing.’ But in this case, I’m more like, OK, be careful, because anything can happen,” said Badosa, a quarter-finalist in Paris a year ago. “You saw it today.”

The men’s draw certainly saw some excitement – ​​including five-set wins after losing match point to No. 3 Alexander Zverev and No. 6 Carlos Alcaraz on Wednesday – but the top nine seeds 10 who finished their matches before Thursday night all reached the third round.

Number 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, runner-up at Roland Garros a year ago, faced qualifier Zdenek Kolar at night.

Pliskova was ranked No. 1 and was a runner-up at Wimbledon last year and the US Open in 2016. She also reached the French Open semi-finals in 2017.

But Pliskova found the ground conditions “a bit too brutal,” due to chill in the air with the temperature in the low 60s Fahrenheit (teenagers Celsius) and the clay underfoot made a little sticky thanks to a morning drizzle.

“One thing is, of course, how I played,” Pliskova said, “and I think (the other) thing is how she played.”

Jeanjean trailed 2-1 early on before winning nine consecutive games, displaying some of the strategic intelligence that Delgado hailed as one of her greatest attributes, saying: “She knows where to play, how to play, when to play.”

Has always. Caroline Garcia, a French player who was once ranked No. 4, knew Jeanjean at the time. They were doubles teammates at a series of youth events in Mexico, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Italy in 2010, when Garcia was 16 and Jeanjean was 14.

“She was like the best of the best when she was 10, 12, and everyone thought she was going to be amazing. And then she completely disappeared. … Now she’s coming back,” Garcia said, “and she can prove to everyone, like, if you believe in it, you can do it.


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