Kiki Bertens orchestrated one of the major upsets of this 2016 French Open, beating the world #3 Angelique Kerber in the first round. Ranked 58th, only the most bold prognosticators could have predicted the tournament she would go on to have at Roland Garros. All told, she beat four seeded players -- Kerber, Kasatkina, Keys, and Bacsinszky -- on her way to the semifinals. Her tournament ended in a hard fought, straight sets loss to Serena Williams.
To be certain, these type of results occur all the time at all four Grand Slams and at tour-level events. Still, Bertens' dream run in Paris is a reminder to pay attention to seemingly inconsequential first round results; these easy-to-overlook first rounders might feature a player who will go on to have a big effect on the event, or the history of tennis years later.
Sometimes the story is an unheralded player who goes on the run of their life, as Bertens did this year. Other matches represent a changing of the guard, as an established player meets an unknown player who will become accomplished in their own right. Then there are times when a match overlooked in its time assumes greater meaning as time goes on, when considered within the context of tennis history.
Here are a few of these matches that have taken place during the first round at Roland Garros, dating as far back as 1976.
1976: (8) Panatta d. Hutka 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, 0-6, 12-10
Adriano Panatta beat Pavel Hutka in a long 5-set match to open his 1976 French Open campaign. Seeded 8th, Panatta would go on to win Roland Garros that year, his sole Grand Slam title. Notably, Panatta beat two-time defending champion Bjorn Borg in the quarterfinals. It was his second victory over Borg at the French Open (1973), and he would remain the only player to ever beat Borg at Roland Garros. Had Panatta not rallied from a fourth set bagel, Borg might be a seven-time champion in Paris.
1977: (Q) McEnroe d. Gardner 6-3 6-4 6-0
John McEnroe is one of the all-time great men's tennis players. Moreover, he's cultivated a reputation as one of the game's all-time personalities. He made his Grand Slam debut at the 1977 French Open after making his way through qualifying. He followed a straight sets first round win with a five-set loss to Phil Dent. McEnroe would go on to win seven Slam singles titles and a further nine in doubles. Dent, for his part, won four ATP titles and made the 1974 Australian Open final. He is also known in tennis circles as the father of Taylor Dent, who too won four ATP singles titles.
1984: (1) Navratilova d. Tauziat 6-1, 6-2
Martina Navratilova was in the midst of the greatest stretch of tennis during her career. Between the 1981 and 1987 U.S. Opens, Navratilova made at least the finals in 24 of the 27 Slams she entered, winning 14. Meanwhile, Tauziat was playing in her first ever main draw at a Grand Slam. It would be another 14 years before Tauziat reached her first and only Slam final at Wimbledon, and her career high ranking of #3 two years after that. Throughout her career, Tauziat played Navratilova in one singles and two doubles finals, losing all three. Overall, Navratilova led their head-to-head 9-1.
1989: (3) Edberg d. Vajda 6-2, 6-0, 1-6, 6-3
Stefan Edberg completed a fairly straightforward first round win against Marián Vajda in 1989. The match itself wasn't noteworthy. But, Vajda was the first opponent for Edberg in a tournament that would end in a finals loss to a 17-year-old Michael Chang, the youngest male champion in Grand Slam history. Vajda won only two career titles, never won more than two matches at a Grand Slam, and achieved a career high singles ranking of #34. He is now best known as the longstanding coach of current world #1 Novak Djokovic.
1998: (Q) Safin d. Agassi 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2
By 1998, Andre Agassi was on the comeback trail from one of the most public falls from grace in tennis history. In his third Slam back, Agassi faced Marat Safin in the first round of the French Open. The qualifier, in his first Grand Slam tournament, handed Agassi his first ever opening round loss in Paris. Safin would go on to reach the fourth round, before losing to Pioline in five sets. Safin would eventually claim the #1 ranking and two Slam titles of his own. Agassi returned to Roland Garros in 1999 to complete his career Grand Slam, the start of what can be termed his "second career" on the ATP Tour.
1998: (13) Kournikova d. Mauresmo 6-2, 6-4
Fresh off her career best Slam performance (SF) the previous year at Wimbledon, Anna Kournikova entered the 1998 French Open as the #13 seed. First up, she defeated Amelie Mauresmo, a qualifier, in Mauresmo's first ever main draw appearance at a Grand Slam event. Kournikova, two years younger than Mauresmo at the time, was already a celebrity and well-known tennis name. But, it would be Mauresmo who would go on to have the better career. The Frenchwoman made it to the final four in Slams eight times, and converted two of those appearances into titles at the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006.
1999: (3) Rafter d. (WC) Federer 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2
Two months before ascending to world #1, Patrick Rafter faced off against future 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the first round of the 1999 French Open. In his first ever main draw appearance at a Slam, the wild card Federer took the opening set before Rafter rallied for a four-set victory. The pair would meet two more times before Rafter hung up his racquet -- both in 2001 -- with Rafter completing a perfect 3-0 career record against the burgeoning Federer.
2010: (7) Stosur d. (Q) Halep 7-5, 6-1
In her first ever Grand Slam main draw appearance, Simona Halep lost in straight sets to the seventh seeded Stosur. The Australian would go on to make her first Slam final, before capturing the U.S. Open the following year - her sole Grand Slam singles title. Six years later, Stosur repeated the feat in the fourth round of the just concluded 2016 edition in Paris. Halep, now the higher ranked and more regarded player, was unable to withstand a vintage performance from Stosur, who would go on to reach her fifth Slam semifinal.
The following is a list of notable tennis players who all made their first appearance in a Roland Garros main draw via qualifying: Juan Martin del Potro, Marin Cilic, Andrea Petkovic, Sloane Stephens, Darren Cahill, Michael Chang, Steffi Graf, Thomas Muster, Conchita Martinez, Cedric Pioline, Todd Martin, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Albert Costa, Marcelo Rios, Gustavo Kuerten, Justine Henin, Feliciano Lopez, Vera Zvonareva, Maria Sharapova, Nicolas Almagro, Novak Djokovic.
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