07 Jun 2017

Marta Paigina upsets No. 1 Anastasia Potapova

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Photo: Susan MullaneMarta Paigina (RUS)

PARIS - In an all-Russian round-of-16 lineup, it was the 18-year-old Marta Paigina who was the new face on the scene, while the 16-year-old Anastasia Potapova was the familiar world No. 1.

That factor didn’t really disturb Paigina, who is ranked 1189th in the juniors and is playing in the Roland Garros junior girls’ draw courtesy of her 330th ranking on the WTA Tour computer. And she had good reason not to be bothered by Potapova’s stature as she showed in winning their encounter 26 63 63.

“She’s No. 1 and everyone knows that so they asked if I am not afraid,” Paigina said. “But, no, I was not afraid. I just played my tennis. For her age, she is playing good here.”

Paigina is tall and lanky and was so very early on in her teens. That led to a decision for her to mostly forego playing the juniors, choosing to head straight into the pros on the ITF circuit.

The only other Grand Slam junior event she’s played was at the 2016 US Open where she lost in the first round. She couldn’t find a comfort level at Flushing Meadows where the grounds are busy and noisy just like New York.

“When I was young I was already a tall girl so I had to decide whether I wanted to play juniors or pros,” she said. “I started to play $10,000 and my first $10,000 I was in the finals, so I was so excited and I was just 15-years-old. By the end of the year I won a $10,000.”

While Paigina is just visiting a junior tournament for a change of pace, an attempt to find an affinity for playing on clay, her least favorite surface, her quarterfinal opponent, 16-year-old Iga Swiatek of Poland, is still quite involved in playing the juniors.

The fifth-seeded Swiatek earned passage to the quarterfinals by posting an unblemished 60 60 win over Swiss qualifier Ylena In-Albon. The match was so brief - 38-minutes - and required so little energy that Swiatek couldn’t really even explain anything important about the outing.

“I’m really happy because last year I was in the quarterfinals, too, so I hope I will have a better result this year,” Swiatek said. “It was a really quick match and I was so focused, and I played really well. This is the first time I have a 60 60 match at a Grand Slam.”

This Roland Garros marks Swiatek’s fifth Grand Slam junior tournament with her best result reaching the quarterfinals here last year. While Swiatek does play at ITF Pro Circuit level events - she’s won two $15,000 tournaments - she’s done very well playing with her peers.

This year, Swiatek won the AGL Loy Yang Traralgon Junior International title in January and was a finalist ahead of arriving in Paris at the Trofeo Bonfiglio in Paris.

She came to notice last September when she led Poland to its first Junior Fed Cup title. While she is eligible to play the Junior Fed Cup again - it is a 16-and-under team competition - she isn’t sure whether she will or not, saying, “It’s tough to win it two years in a row.”

And for one junior - 16-year-old Bianca Andreescu of Canada - this French Open is planned to be her last junior tournament.

The third-seeded Andreescu, who won a 62 62 round-of-16 match against Sofya Lansere of Russia, will try to savor this final junior Grand Slam. This is her eighth time playing at a Grand Slam and her best results have been two semifinal showings at the 2016 US Open and 2017 Australian Open.

“What’s more important right now for me is to play more pro tournaments because I did pretty well in the last couple of Grand Slams,” said Andreescu, who reached that decision with her coach, 1998 Wimbledon finalist Nathalie Tauziat. “I’m just going to try and play my heart out here and get the win.”

Andreescu’s biggest achievement this season has been to make a successful debut playing Fed Cup for Canada. This is definitely the big-time and she more than lived up to the demands, posting a 5-1 record in singles and 2-0 record in doubles in two outings played.

Her Fed Cup achievements weren’t ignored either. Fans voted her to be a recipient of the prestigious Fed Cup Heart award that the ITF presents.

“It was a really good opportunity for me to play Fed Cup for Canada,” Andreescu said. “Just being part of the team was so amazing. The atmosphere was really high energy and I got to know more of the Canadian players.

“And getting the win at home was so amazing. I’ve never had that feeling before,” she added, smiling.

Andreescu will play sixth seed Claire Liu of USA in the quarterfinals.