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Three weeks before final, qualifiers begin long road to French Open glory

AFP  |  Paris 

Almost three weeks before the world's best fight it out for the titles, hundreds of players, including grizzled veterans and teenage hopefuls, have descended on for qualifying.

The men's opening round got underway on Monday, despite the tournament proper not due to start until Sunday, with 128 entrants playing for only 16 spots in the main draw.

On Tuesday, 96 women will start their bids for just 12 places, with the potential rewards life-changing. While former Grand Slam surprise packages and were going toe-to-toe in front of a smattering of spectators on Court 7, 23-time major champion was practising on the show-court.

Just two years ago, Istomin stunned Novak Djokovic in second round, but on the Parisian clay he fell to Brown -- the camper-van driving, shock conqueror of in 2015.

Serbian was ranked 12th in the world only eight years ago and has reached the second week at three times, but found himself having to battle past 267th-ranked German out on Court 9. The 33-year-old is a lowly 256th in the rankings himself after a severe loss of form and problems.

"Last time I was coming back I basically didn't have a ranking and came back to the top 100 really fast -- in three months -- but it's much tougher coming back from an when I'm a bit older now and my body is responding differently," Troicki told rolandgarros.com.

- Robredo still going -

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Some players just cannot seem to get enough of the sport despite appearing to have little hope of ever returning to its upper echelons.

The 37-year-old Tommy Robredo, a five-time quarter-finalist who has accrued over $13 million in career prize money, saw his hopes of qualifying ended for another year with defeat by Germany's -- 19 years his junior.

The prize for just reaching the early stages of qualifying cannot be sniffed at, with even the first-round losers taking home 6,000 euros ($6,704) after changes introduced this year by tournament organisers. But that figure is utterly dwarfed by the 40,000 euros on offer for first-round losers in the competition proper, and new rules saw a record-breaking eight men's lucky losers finding themselves a windfall last year.

was perhaps the most fortunate of the lot in 2018, having already returned to his base in after his qualifying exit before finding out there might be a first-round spot on offer as an alternate.

His 10-hour back to Paris, alongside his brother, grandmother and mother, captured the hearts of fans, with his story further enhanced by a surprise victory over former quarter-finalist

This year, though, there was no fairytale for the Argentinian who has only qualified for one ATP event this season, as he was dumped out on Monday by French world number 516 Hugo Gaston in straight sets.

- Dream qualifying runs -

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Although the majority of qualifiers would jump at the chance of a possible run to the second round and a big payday like Trungelliti, some do go on to create shockwaves deep into the big tournaments.

Arguably the most staggering effort by a came from then-world number 129 Jelena Dokic, as she thrashed top seed 6-2, 6-0 in the 1999 first round.

The Australian went on to reach the last eight, where she lost to another qualifier, could be one to watch this time around when she starts her campaign on Tuesday -- the 29-year-old Swiss is a two-time semi-finalist.

Whether or not any of the players in this week can pull off something Dokic-esque remains to be seen, but many will dream of a career-defining match against one of the big guns on a show court -- win or lose.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 21 2019. 09:31 IST
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