PARIS (AP) — Mirra Andreeva is the latest teen sensation in tennis, a 16-year-old Russian who is the youngest player to win a match in the women’s main draw at the French Open since 2005.
Do the math: That’s before she was born.
The 143rd-ranked Andreeva made her way through qualifying rounds last week without dropping a set to earn her debut berth in the women’s bracket at a Grand Slam tournament — and she still is making things look easy so far at Roland Garros. A 6-1, 6-2 victory over Diane Perry of France in 77 minutes on Thursday put her in the third round; that followed a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Alison Riske-Amritraj of the U.S. that lasted 56 minutes.
Next up will be a contest against 2022 French Open runner-up Coco Gauff, who beat Julia Grabher 6-2, 6-3. Gauff, a 19-year-old American, is seeded No. 6 and made her initial breakthrough by beating Venus Williams en route to the fourth round at Wimbledon at age 14.
Gauff is one of just 12 seeded women left in the field, the fewest to reach the third round at Roland Garros since the number of seeds expanded to 32 in 2002.
Andreeva and Gauff have practiced together, but that won’t mean much Saturday.
“The practice and the match is different, so I might also play different,” Andreeva said. “I don’t know. Who knows?”
She’s played terrifically clean tennis so far, including making a total of 15 unforced errors to 38 for Parry and winning 14 of 21 points that lasted at least nine strokes.
“Really solid for her age. She did everything better than me today,” said the 79th-ranked Parry, who made it to the third round at two majors last season. “She doesn’t miss a lot. Like nothing. You never have an easy point. It’s always a long rally.”
Before arriving in Paris, Andreeva showed what she can do by eliminating three players ranked in the Top 40 at the clay-court Madrid Open.
She was asked Thursday during a news conference filled with one-liners: What’s the secret to success at such a young age?
“Maybe, as my coach says, to not be like a diva. To stay humble all the time,” said Andreeva, whose older sister, Erika, lost in the first round at Roland Garros this week.
And then Andreeva demonstrated what she meant by disputing the very premise of the question.
“I don’t think that I have a lot of success now,” she said, resting her cheek on her right hand. “I didn’t win any tournaments. I just play.”
Yes, Andreeva has lofty aims. Asked to define what her dreams are in her sport, she mentioned that Novak Djokovic has 22 Grand Slam titles.
“So I want to go,” Andreeva said, “until 25.”
Out of the mouths of babes, eh?
Andreeva is supposed to occupy herself with homework for her online courses — “Chemistry is so bad,” came the lament — and a reporter wanted to know how she spends her idle moment.
“I don’t have any hobbies. I think I’m like a usual teenager. I love to watch some TV series when I have free time,” Andreeva said, before offering one of a handful of punch lines over the course of her news conference: “I also have to do my school, but let’s be honest, I don’t do it sometimes.”
Her favorite tennis players amount to a three-way tie among Roger Federer (“He’s always been my No. 1”), Rafael Nadal (“I don’t know why, but in my head, everything turned” when Nadal won his 14th championship at Roland Garros last year) and Djokovic (“I don’t want to offend Novak”).
In the match before Andreeva vs. Perry at Court Simonne Mathieu, another qualifier made it to the third round when Kayla Day, a Californian ranked 138th, knocked out No. 20 Madison Keys 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Keys, the runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Open and a semifinalist at the 2018 French Open, made 74 unforced errors, 51 more than Day.
Day, 23, is playing in a major tournament for the first time since 2017 after a litany of injuries — she listed a torn thigh muscle, a fractured foot, torn hip labrums and a bout with mononucleosis.
“Every time I tried coming back,” Day said, “it just felt like something else would happen.”
The exits by seeded women continued with Bernarda Pera defeating No. 22 Donna Vekic 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, although No. 1 Iga Swiatek, No. 4 Elena Rybakina and No. 7 Ons Jabeur all advanced in straight sets.
The men’s bracket saw the departure of No. 8 Jannik Sinner with a wild 6-7 (0), 7-6 (7), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5 loss across nearly 5 1/2 hours against 79th-ranked Daniel Altmaier, and No. 18 Alex de Minaur was eliminated by Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3.
No. 4 Casper Ruud, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 15 Borna Coric all won.
Sinner held two match points while serving for the victory at 5-4 in the fourth set but couldn’t convert either. Altmaier came all the way back to end things with a 111 mph ace on his fifth match point.
“I don’t know if you can call it a historical match,” Altmaier said as he wiped away tears, “but I think it was one to remember.”
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