French Open: Former finalists Stephens, Pavlyuchenkova advance; Svitolina makes winning return

Paris, May 29 (IANS): Former finalists Sloane Stephens, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Marketa Vondrousova started their respective campaigns on a winning note while Ukraines Elina Svitolina made a victorious comeback to Grand Slam action at the French Open on Monday.

The 2018 finalist Sloane Stephens took out No.16 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-4 in 1 hour and 24 minutes in a first-round matchup between two former Top 3 players in women's singles.

The 2021 finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova soon joined her in the second round, racing past Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 6-2 in 70 minutes while the 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova dismissed Alycia Parks 6-4, 6-0 in 71 minutes to start her campaign on a positive note.

The former World No.3 Svitolina made a victorious comeback to Grand Slam action by toppling No.26 seed Martina Trevisan of Italy 6-2, 6-2 to book a spot in the second round of the clay-court major.

In her first Grand Slam event since the 2022 Australian Open, Svitolina continued her resurgent return from maternity leave by ousting last year's Roland Garros semifinalist Trevisan after just 70 minutes of play. Trevisan was also a Roland Garros quarterfinalist in 2020.

It was a dominant display by Svitolina, who is now 10-0 in first-round matches at the French Open. Three-time Roland Garros quarterfinalist Svitolina never faced a break point against Trevisan, who cracked the Top 20 earlier this year.

Minutes apart, Madison Keys and Kayla Day both secured passage to the second round of women's singles, where they will square off in an all-American showdown.

Keys, the No.20 seed, beat Estonian Kaia Kanepi 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, while qualifier Day ousted French wildcard Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-1.

Playing against former World No.1 Pliskova, Sloane Stephens raced to a 6-0 lead inside 33 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Stephens extended her head-to-head against Pliskova to 5-1 overall and 2-1 on clay. Their last meeting was also at Roland Garros, with Stephens winning 7-5, 6-1 in the 2021 second round.

Pliskova, whose clay preparation has been marred by a knee injury that forced her out of Madrid, was slow to get going. A one-sided first set saw her lose just her second 6-0 set at the Grand Slam level, and first since defeating Yanina Wickmayer 6-2, 0-6, 8-6 in the first round of Wimbledon 2016. During it, the Czech committed 11 unforced errors and won just seven points on serve.

Stephens, by contrast, was able to consistently steer the ball into awkward positions for Pliskova and found 10 winners to five unforced errors.

Pliskova's woes continued in the second set, and after a pair of double faults, she faced a break point to fall behind 3-1. But in the nick of time, she came up with a pair of superb drop shots to escape. Hitting with greater power and intent, Pliskova seemed on the verge of levelling the match when she broke Stephens to lead 4-3.

But No.30-ranked Stephens quelled this comeback attempt, putting away a neat volley to break back for 4-4. Serving to stay in the match, Pliskova relapsed into her first-set form, sending a routine backhand long -- her 31st unforced error of the day -- on Stephens' first match point.



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Title: French Open: Former finalists Stephens, Pavlyuchenkova advance; Svitolina makes winning return

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