There was an impressive turnout for the third day of Roland Garros qualifying, as the top picture here clearly shows.
Things weren’t quite as busy on distant Court 15, with basically just six seats available on three two-person benches. But what was impressive there was Rebecca Marino putting on a master class on how to play heavy-hitting tennis on a clay court.
The stats sheet was startling proof of that as she hit 25 winners to just two for her opponent Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine. The result was a one-sided 6-1, 6-2 outcome and a match that lasted barely an hour at 63 minutes.
That followed Marino’s opening round when she needed a little longer, an hour and 26 minutes, to beat Paula Ormaechea of Argentina 6-4, 6-3.
“I felt a lot more comfortable out there today, and more definitive in my game,” Marino said. “It was nice to have that first one under my belt coming out today.”
There were similarities in the two matches – in both Marino lost her opening service game but quickly turned things around to lead 4-1. The difference was that, on Tuesday, she let Ormaechea back in and it was soon 4-all. But against Zavatska there was no letting up – leaving the world No. 210 showing her frustration late in the first set as can be seen in the picture below.
“I felt at the beginning of the first and second set, she was in it,” Marino said of her 22-year-old opponent. “I got the break on her serve and I felt like she started falling apart a little bit. I tried to just keep hammering at that and not let her get an edge back. The toilet-break tactic kind of thing (five minutes by Zavatska at the end of set one), I knew she was going to try to fight in that second set. I just kept my head down and kept at it. It’s nice that I played her before coming in (a 6-3, 6-2 victory in the Miami Open qualifying in March), knowing what she would kind of be about. So I think I had an edge there.”
She may also have an edge in her next match when she plays little-known Seone Mendez, a 23-year-old Australian ranked No. 223. Marino defeated her 7-5, 6-1 in the quarter-finals of the $60,000 ITF event in Mexico in March.
“We played in Irapuato, which is at elevation, so I don’t know if it’s a fair gauge of how she played,” Marino said. “I won that match. She’s going to be quite good on clay – she’s a little smaller and moves really well. I think she trains on clay quite often so I’m prepared for a battle and I’ll do my homework before I get out there again.”
Mendez has a career-high ranking of No. 198 (March, 2020) compared to No. 38 in July, 2011, for Marino. “She’s definitely making a breakthrough this year,” a wary Marino added about Mendez. “Everything is on the line no matter what your history is – it’s the final round of qualifying and everyone wants it just as much. It’s a matter of who goes and takes it.”
For Friday’s match-up with Mendez, Marino may get a little higher profile court than the one she had at the far west end of the grounds against Zavatska.
“It’s just tough to view for people,” Marino said about the virtually zero-seat capacity of Court 15. Those people included Canadian Billie Jean King Cup captain Heidi El Tabakh. “It’s beside a practice court. But a court’s a court in the end, right? There are lines and you’ve got to get the work done. It doesn’t matter if you’re on Court 15 or in Suzanne Lenglen – you’ve got to get through the match.”
The sun has been shining in the City of Light this week – with the temperature rising to 29 degrees Celsius on Wednesday.
“I love it,” Marino said about the toasty temperatures. “I don’t find it too hot or anything and the clay is playing very nicely – super happy with the conditions right now.”
There’s a decent chance of thunderstorms on Friday, which might signal a break in France’s hot, very dry spring thus far in 2022.
IT’S ‘DRAWING’ CLOSER
The draw for the 2022 Roland Garros women’s and men’s singles takes place Thursday at 7 p.m. on the tournament site.
A Canadian may be at the forefront of speculation when the names (actually numbers on tokens) are picked out of the two trophies. That would be current No. 72 Bianca Andreescu. She could be chosen to play anyone from red-hot world No. 1 Iga Swiatek to a qualifier who might be ranked over 200.
“I think she’s a dark horse in the draw and everybody has to watch out,” Marino said. “They know that she’s there.”
Other interesting women could be the talented Ukrainian No. 36 Anhelina Kalinina, who hits amazing angles, and a player who has a pedigree but not the performances on clay-court surfaces, No. 38 Naomi Osaka.
Among the men, the most dangerous player might be former No. 7-ranked David Goffin (November 2017), who is in form although ranked No. 48. There are a couple of lesser-knowns who are playing well – No. 38 Sebastien Baez of Argentina and 19-year-old Danish player, No. 40-ranked Holger Rune.
RAFA ON DISPLAY
Rafael Nadal had his first practice on Court Philippe Chatrier on Wednesday evening – in front of a couple of thousand qualifying-day fans who were allowed in and treated to watching the 13-time champion test his always troublesome left foot. The signs were promising during his initial outing.