Sixteen-year-old French wildcard Diane Parry made recent history at Roland Garros on Monday.
At 16 years and 281-days old, Parry became the youngest player to win a main-draw match at the French Grand Slam this decade, beating Belarus’ Vera Lapko in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.
Making her WTA main draw debut having only played four tour-level qualifying matches to this point in her young career, Parry thrilled the assembled crowd on Court 8 with a blend of flashy shotmaking and pristine winners.
Showing off her one-handed backhand to great effect, she ultimately came from a break down in the second set, and won five of the last six games of the match to seal her spot in the second round.
“It was a good match,” Parry told French reporters after the match, through translation. “I’m very happy and delighted to have won this first round.
“I know that I had to be focused and to stay focused even if I missed one ball. I had to give my utmost at the end.
“At the beginning of the second set, I was a bit frustrated. I didn’t have the feelings that I wanted to have, but I tried to remain as calm as possible, because I knew that that was the attitude I needed to win.”
Here are some fast facts to know about the 16-year-old Frenchwoman:
1. It’s not the first time she’s made history at a Grand Slam
Parry became the first player born in 2002 to win a Grand Slam match of any kind when she won her first round in qualifying as an unranked wildcard last year in Paris.
With her main-draw debut victory this year, she follows in the footsteps of compatriot Alizé Cornet with her prodigious success.
Cornet, a 15-year-old wildcard in 2005, beat Russia’s Alina Jidkova in her first round, before losing to Amélie Mauresmo – and repeated the feat at a 16-year-old wildcard in 2006, following her January birthday.
Parry is the youngest Frenchwoman since Cornet to win a match at her home major.
She is also the youngest player to win a match at the French Open overall since 16-year-old Michelle Larche de Brito of Portugal made the third round in 2009.
“I try to stay focused on each day and not to have long expectations,” Parry said, when informed of Monday’s feat by the press.
“I try not to think about the future. I try to improve myself on a daily basis, one day at a time and we will see how things turn out.
“It’s true that there are expectations. We’re French. We play at the French Open. There are expectations. I’m trying not to think about this and to focus on my game and what I have to do.”
2. Her style of play is a throwback beyond her teenaged years
Parry’s playing style, centered around a one-handed backhand which is rare in modern-era women’s tennis, drew natural comparisons to former World No.1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Mauresmo, which the teenager herself also noted.
“It’s Amélie Mauresmo that taught me. I love it,” Parry said of her unique shot.
“I’m very happy to have a one-handed backhand. I’m one of the very few players to have one, so I stand out thanks to this.”
Her idols? Well, they too fit her game style.
“Roger Federer, to no one’s surprise,” she continued. “I don’t really have [female] idols, but I like Serena Williams and [Naomi] Osaka. I like her state of mind. I like the way she plays.”
3. Roland Garros is her home court – literally
The teenager grew up in Boulogne, and her comfort level with the terre battue of Roland Garros might outrank even most of her compatriots.
“I was going to school nearby, and now I practice at the national center,” she said. “I’m here all year long. It’s just as if I were at home basically.
“I didn’t practice differently. I tried to approach this match as run-of-the-mill match, so as not to have too much pressure on my shoulders. I tried to roll out my usual game.
“I tried to say to myself — I tried not to think about the fact that it was a big match in the French Open. I tried to be as cool and relaxed as possible.”
And to get to the Centre National d’Entrainement, just around the corner from Roland Garros, Parry usually takes a unique mode of transportation: her own electric scooter.
“It’s easier to move around,” she said. “Today, I took the car with my mother, but it’s true that I take the scooter.”
L'exploit de Diane Parry ! A seulement 16 ans, elle remporte son premier match en Grand Chelem en battant la 102e mondiale, la Biélorusse Vera Lapko, 6/2, 6/4. La joueuse du @TCBBtennis a honoré de la plus belle des façons sa wild-card ! #RG19 pic.twitter.com/vyK5zWeUHT
— FFT (@FFTennis) May 27, 2019
In the second round, Parry will next face No.20 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, who outlasted Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
“I’m a rookie, you know, so I don’t know a lot of players. I saw her play earlier on. I’ll try to look her up on the Internet, but I don’t know her,” Parry said of her Belgian foe.
“The federation will not give us a wildcard if they do not think that we are fit for and ready for a Grand Slam.
“It’s going to be tough, but I’ll try to do my best and we’ll see how it turns out.”