Photo: Susan MullaneAntonia Lottner (GER)
Four years ago, Antonia Lottner came to Paris with her family to visit the French Open and watched a young Russian, Irina Khromacheva, strutting her stuff on the clay, vowing one day to be like her and play on the big stage.
On Sunday, Lottner was true to her word but with a twist as the 15-year-old German qualifier opened the junior event at Roland Garros with a massive upset as she knocked out Khromacheva with a stunning performance.
“I was really excited about my match and was looking forward to playing today, but I didn’t expect anything,” Lottner said after her 62 61 triumph. “I was just trying to get into the match, to enjoy it and get experience and then I won. I’m really happy about that.”
At 1.84m, Lottner towers over the 1.70m Khromacheva and the fourth seed was constantly on the run as the German sent her powerful groundstrokes into the corners with nagging accuracy.
Born in Duesseldorf, she trains in Cologne under the guidance of her coach, Robert Olick and arrived in Paris in great form, having won a Grade 1 tournament on clay in April and then qualified for and reached the final of a Grade A event in Milan last week. Her confidence was plain for everyone to see on Court 8 as she romped to victory, setting up a second round clash with Ratnika Batra of India.
“I think I will just go round by round,” Lottner continued. ”I will give my best in my next match. I think I have chances, but we will see.”
Any up and coming German girl is compared to the great Steffi Graf as a matter of course but Lottner described her style as more like that of Maria Sharapova.
“Graf is really famous but maybe she’s not who everyone wants to be because she’s so old,” Lottner said. “But she’s legendary. We know all about her.”
Top seed Taylor Townsend, who won the Australian Open title in January, made a good start with a 75 62 victory over Manon Arcongioli of France.
The American was made to fight hard at first but eventually emerged a convincing winner.
“I was actually caught by surprise, to be honest,” Townsend said. “She came out playing really, really well and was hitting some really good shots. I was on my heels a little bit and it took me a while to get into it. She came out firing. Obviously she didn’t care I was the No. 1 seed. That’s what you have to put behind you.”
Second seed Annika Beck, who will play doubles with Lottner, cruised into round two with a 62 61 win over Victoria Bosio of Argentina.
On the boys’ side, Australian Open champion Luke Saville came back from a set and a break down to beat Maxime Hamou of France 57 64 63.
“It was a tough match,” the top-seeded Australian said. “He was a very good player, I thought and had the crowd on his side, obviously, but I always believed in myself. “When you’re losing, sometimes there are some doubts in your head but you’ve got to try to clear them with positive thoughts and keep level-headed. I was a set and a break down in that second, but I kept my stuff together. I knew he might have a few nerves because it was his first Grand Slam. I got that second set and I actually lifted my standard of play a fair bit so I was happy with that and happy to get through.”
Second seed Gianluigi Quinzi, who won the boys’ title in Milan leading into Paris, recovered from a slow start to beat Alexios Halebian 16 76 63.
There was success for the ITF/Grand Slam International 18 & Under Touring Team as Hyeon Chung of Korea beat Nikola Milojevic of Serbia 62 63.
But Hassan Ndayishimiye of Burundi was beaten 62 63 by Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal and Jorge Brian Panta Herreros of Peru lost 63 61 to American Noah Rubin.
Su Jeong Jang of Korea will play her first match in the girls’ event on Monday.