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British women make presence felt in Paris

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Originally published on: 27/05/12 00:00

It would be stretching a point to say that they have been taking Roland Garros by storm, but Britain’s women are again making their presence felt at the French Open. With four women in the main draw, Britain have more players in the field than at any time since 1991, when there were six (Jo Durie, Sam Smith, Sara Gomer, Monique Javer, Sarah Loosemore and Clare Wood).

Elena Baltacha, who was beaten 6-4, 6-0 in the first round today by Sam Stosur, and Anne Keothavong both got into the main draw thanks to their world rankings. Heather Watson came through the qualifying tournament for the second year in succession, while Laura Robson made the draw as a lucky loser after falling at the final hurdle in qualifying.

Watson has grown to love playing on clay. Twelve months ago she was the first British woman to qualify at Roland Garros for 28 years and went on to become the first to win a match in the main draw since 1994. The 20-year-old from Guernsey, who is the world No.109, will play Russia’s Elena Vesnina, the world No.80, in this year’s first round. Vesnina, who beat Watson in their only previous meeting, on clay at Charleston two years ago, has won only one match in her six previous visits to Roland Garros.

Robson, who had two match points before losing to the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova in the final round of qualifying, was the first alternate and got into the main draw when Silvia Soler-Espinosa pulled out with an injury. The 2008 junior Wimbledon champion will now play 29-year-old Anabel Medina Garrigues, who beat her in the second round of the US Open last year. The Spaniard is the world No.31 and has won 11 titles.

Keothavong has – on paper at least – an easier first-round draw against Hungary’s Melinda Czink, who at No.116 lies 40 places beneath the Briton in the world rankings. Keothavong won their only previous meeting in Copenhagen earlier this year.

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