French Open Nursery Report: WTA Day One

Sergey ZikovSenior Analyst IMay 24, 2009

The first flurry of action from Roland Garros is in the books. Some top seeds had to get through adversity to advance while several unknowns made a name for themselves.

Let's take a look at some of the rising stars.

Lauren Embree, an 18-year-old American and University of Florida recruit, was dismissed in the first round by No. 11 Nadia Petrova, 6-1, 6-2. Embree appeared overpowered at times and just didn't seem to have enough tools in her arsenal to seriously challenge the Russian heavyweight.

After a decisive 6-1 first set in favor of Petrova, a bloodied and determined Embree showed a lot in the second set. She knew she was outmatched, yet she continued to scrap for every point she could get. The scorecard doesn't show the fight in her.

Petrova dictated the ground strokes, hitting 27 winners to Embree's three. The American, playing a very defensive-based game, seemed more comfortable returning serve.

Embree, as the wild-card entry, was playing in her first career Slam event. She also showed the crowd of Susan Lenglen court that even the 628th-ranked player in the world could show some heart and resilience.

Talk about making a statement. Dutch rising star Arantxa Rus showed her worth, demolishing French veteran Olivia Sanchez in a straight-set affair, 6-1, 6-1. For anyone at Court Two who stuck around after the Ouanna-Granollers marathon match, they couldn't help thinking of a certain Spanish left-hander.

The lanky lefty Rus utilized her length and ridiculous Western forehand to control points. Not bad for someone making their Roland Garros debut. Arantxa ran through qualifying, taking out two ranked foes and never dropping a set.

It's no secret why clay is her favorite surface.

She smacked eight aces, 22 winners, and broke Sanchez five times.

Speaking of qualifiers. 21-year-old Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova pulled the upset of the tournament to date, knocking out No. 19 Kaia Kanepi. In a match that was insanely close otherwise, it was Kanepi's errors that did her in. It has to be a major disappointment, as the Estonian booked an appearance in the quarterfinals last year.

Shvedova took the match, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-2, but was aided by 11 double faults by Kanepi.

In a sloppy match that saw 14 total service breaks, the first set itself took over an hour and ten minutes. A wildly entertaining contest that nobody had a clue where it was going next.

Shvedova came back in the first set after failing to put it away and dominated in the tiebreak. Kanepi came out much more determined in the second set, playing like the player who went to the quarters last year, but after receiving a medical timeout, she wasn't the same player.

Shvedova closed out the match, jumping all over every error by Kanepi. She will face off next against another young phenom, Rus, in what should be an incredibly entertaining showdown.

No. 9 Victoria Azarenka had her fair share of small challenges on Court One against crafty Italian veteran Roberta Vinci, but the hotshot Belarussian found a way to advance, 6-4, 6-2.

She committed 15 first-set errors, which allowed Vinci to come back and make it a contest. At 5-4 Azarenka, Vinci even had triple break point, but Vika focused and won the next five straight points to secure the set.

Azarenka rode the momentum into the second set, where she controlled the points much better than she did in the opening stanza. She made the most of her opportunities, and her power was just too much for Vinci.

Despite the Italian trying to fight back into the match by using her serve, Azarenka began to just chop returns back into play, then proceed to dictate with her forehand.


A Look Ahead to Day Two

Caroline Wozniacki will be fourth up on Court One, facing Russian Vera Dushevina. Wozniacki holds a 3-0 advantage, with one win coming on clay a few weeks ago. Wozniacki could be very dominant here, if her backhand is clicking.

Agnieszka Radwanska plays third on Court Three, where she will take on 33-year-old Paraguayan Rossana De Los Rios. Radwanska dominated their only meeting on clay, but the French Open is a much different atmosphere, as everyone is aware. Expect a lot of drop shots and change of pace from Radwanska senior.

The German Howitzer Sabine Lisicki will joust with Lucie Safarova on Court Six. The pair have never met on clay, but Lisicki can beat anybody in the game when she is on fire.

Check back tomorrow for some more updates!