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WATCH: Krejcikova has been largely off court since reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals in Febuary.

No tournament more demands preparation than Roland Garros. A player is guaranteed to be fresh for the Australian Open. Wimbledon rewards fleet-footed competitive instincts. And by the time the pros arrive at the US Open, all have had their share of match play.

But when it comes to the clay, there are no shortcuts. Just ask defending champion Barbora Krejcikova, who today lost in the first round of this year’s tournament to Frenchwoman Diane Parry, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.

At one point trailing 6-1, 2-0, the 97th-ranked Parry—the world’s best junior in 2019—went on to win 12 of the next 15 games to earn her first WTA match win of the year. “Yes, I'm very happy, because I have had wonderful emotions on the court,” said Parry. “But I try not to get too fired up. I try to think one match at a time.”

Surprise defined Krejcikova’s unseeded title run a year ago. Curiosity was today’s watch-word, a right elbow injury having kept the second-seeded Krecjikova away from competition since February. “You know, I just think I just collapsed physically,” said Krejcikova, “and, I mean, it was tough because I didn't play the matches. Usually the matches are different than the practices, and I tried to prepare the best way I could.”

Then there was Parry. Having only cracked the Top 100 this March, how would she handle the challenge that accompanies being a French hopeful competing at her homeland major, particularly on a rainy day, inside a roof-enclosed Court Philippe-Chatrier?

The early stages were not encouraging. Up against a top tenner for the first time in her career, Parry won just two of the first 18 points. Her movements were constricted in all categories, from footwork to racquet. One groundstroke after another flew long, wide or into the net. “Yes, it was rough,” said Parry. “You want to do well, because I was playing in front of a lot of people I knew, and I was playing No. 2 worldwide. The titleholder of the French Open. So, I wanted to play well. Maybe I overplayed somehow, but it was needed, and this is what I realized throughout the match.”

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I just think I just collapsed physically...and, I mean, it was tough because I didn't play the matches. Usually the matches are different than the practices, and I tried to prepare the best way I could. Barbora Krejcikova

So badly was Parry playing that it was hard to gauge Krejcikova’s form. Yes, there were flurries, including the liquid-smooth forehand and accurate serving that had so impressed the world during last year’s title campaign, including an ace to close out the first set. But as just about every tennis player has learned the hard way, such a lopsided early score line can be a delusion. In most cases, it’s only a matter of time before the true competitive tussle begins.

Then there came the kind of unplanned moment that holds potential to redirect the energy of a match. With Krejcikova seemingly on the path to a quick victory, spectators began to make their way into Chatrier for the next match, starring Rafael Nadal. Three games into the second set, many were eager to take their seats—so many that, as Krejcikova prepared to serve at 2-1, there came a longer than usual delay. Were Krejcikova as match-tough as desired, it hardly would have mattered. But in this case, the interruption triggered a subtle shift. Down break point, Krejcikova struck a forehand into the net. “I just felt that, we started to play rallies, and I was there, like for those shots, I started to be a little late,” said Krejcikova.

Meanwhile, Parry’s spirits picked up. After the first set, she had nowhere to go but up. “Towards the end of the first set, I managed to find my grooves in terms of my shots, my intensity,” said Parry. “And during the second set I managed to hold my own, and I felt that it was getting better and better, that it was bothering her.” Back in contention at 2-2, at 30-15, Parry stepped into the court and hit an elegant, crisp one-handed backhand down-the-line for a winner, a shot reminiscent of one of her role models, tournament director Amelie Mauresmo. Two points later, a massive Parry forehand put her in the lead.

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Parry defied the odds to stun an out-of-sorts Krejcikova and win her first Grand Slam match.

Parry defied the odds to stun an out-of-sorts Krejcikova and win her first Grand Slam match.

By this stage, the rust in Krejcikova began to show—netted drop shots and groundstrokes, lackluster serves, sluggish movement. Down 2-5, love-40, she fought off two set points but on the third, double-faulted. Parry had won 16 of 21 points. Off went Krejcikova to the bathroom. “I was expecting it,” said Parry. “Very often when someone loses a set like this, and is not in the best of shapes, we want to have a small break to focus back on the match. So I was expecting this. Whether it was long or not, well, yes and no, because of course we want to get on the rhythm and it's important to keep focused, not to slow down too much, not to lose the intensity.”

As the third set got underway, it was difficult to determine who had momentum. Even when Krejcikova once again took a 2-0 lead, she hardly looked dominant. Parry broke at love to even the set, following that up with another love hold. Most interesting about Parry’s hold at 2-all was that all four points were won courtesy of Krejcikova errors. Surely this sent an encouraging signal to Parry: With Krejcikova scratching for form, it wasn’t mandatory to hit scintillating winners. What mattered more was to play self-contained, focused tennis.

This Parry did superbly. With Krejcikova serving at 3-4, 30-all, a deep crosscourt return brought Parry to break point. At that pivotal moment, Krejcikova constructed the point well enough to earn a highly makeable forehand volley—only to strike it well long of the baseline. Though Parry went down love-30 in the 5-3 game, she got back on track with an ace wide, followed by a trio of Krejcikova errors, the final one a netted backhand on match point. The message from Roland Garros was vivid: No rust allowed.