Earning a spot into the main draw of a Grand Slam is a victory in and of itself, and can do wonders for a player’s confidence as they prepare for their next challenge.
With the start of the French Open fast approaching, here are five players who will look to keep their momentum going and potentially catch some of their higher-ranked peers off-guard early on.
Going into 2019, Sandgren was faced with a pressure-packed situation early on: the prospect of defending his quarterfinal points at the Australian Open from the year prior. He did well to relieve some of that by winning his first career title in Auckland, but he fell short in Melbourne. The next few months were lackluster, but he picked up his game during the U.S. Challenger swing on clay and carried that form over to Roland Garros, where he swept through qualifying as the top seed without losing a set. The American has an opportunity to make a statement right off the bat as he faces Radu Albot, one of the year’s breakout performers, in the first round.
It’s been a few weeks since Pera experienced the proverbial agony of defeat: Prior to her three qualifying round wins in Paris, the American won an ITF title in Slovakia that brought her back into the Top 100. While that result came too late to spare her from qualifying for the French Open, it could be a blessing in disguise as she’ll enter main-draw play accustomed to match conditions already. If she gets past Kateryna Kozlova first, Pera would face the winner of the Venus Williams-Elina Svitolina blockbuster.
When Pera won in Slovakia, her opponent in the final was Blinkova, who, after an up-and-down run after the start of the year, is peaking at the right time. First up for the 20-year-old Russian in her French Open debut is Margarita Gasparyan, and if she were to get past that, she could potentially square off against Caroline Garcia—the 24th seed—in the second round.
With the men’s game skewing to the older side, one more veteran is raring to make a charge through the main draw: Garcia-Lopez has found a place in the field for the 16th straight year. While his record at the French Open hasn’t particularly been noteworthy, the Spaniard did reach the fourth round in 2014 for his best performance at a Slam to that point. Comfortable on all surfaces, three of Garcia-Lopez’s five titles have come on clay, and he could make things difficult for Fabio Fognini, the ninth seed, should they meet in the second round.
5. Rudolf Molleker
While his rise has been nothing short of meteoric, Felix Auger-Aliassime isn’t the only teenager making waves on the ATP Tour: Mollekar, 18, has fought through the qualifying rounds for the second straight major. A year ago around this time, the German triumphed on home soil at the Challenger stop in Heilbronn, showing that he’d be one to watch on the clay. Molleker will open up play at Roland Garros against fellow NextGen talent Alexander Bublik, with the winner going up against Dominic Thiem or Tommy Paul in the second round.