Aussie women make stunning French Open start without Ash Barty

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Daris Saville and Ajla Tomljanovic, pictured here at the French Open.
Daris Saville and Ajla Tomljanovic advanced to the second round of the French Open. Image: Getty

Ajla Tomljanovic and Daria Saville have given Australia the perfect start to grand slam life without Ash Barty, advancing to the second round of the French Open.

In the first grand slam tournament since Barty's shock retirement from tennis, Australia has a massive void to fill in the former World No.1 and three-time grand slam champion.

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But Tomljanovic and Saville have done their best to carry Barty's mantle after brilliant victories in the first round at Roland Garros on Monday.

Tomljanovic delivered one of the big early shocks at the clay-court grand slam, knocking out World No.5 Anett Kontaveit on a red-letter day for Australia's top two women.

Tomljanovic's victory came after Saville continued her rise back to the top of women's tennis, breezing past Valentini Grammatikopoulou 6-1 6-2 before declaring she's after the Australian No.1 spot.

But Tomljanovic, the current holder of that accolade, demonstrated why she's still at the top in the post- Barty era, out-battling a potential nightmare opponent in fifth seed Estonian Kontaveit.

"It's up there definitely," Tomljanovic said as she pondered whether her 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 win was the best of her grand slam career.

Tomljanovic was equally as thrilled by the performance of her Russian-born pal Saville, wondering if it could spark a new friendly rivalry for the domestic No.1 spot.

"I knew that 2022 was going to be a big year for her and I definitely welcome the competition, and especially with Dash," Tomljanovic said.

"We're pretty good friends, so it's all in good spirits, but I think we both definitely will fight for it. So it will be a nice one!"

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Dressed in a red, white and blue outfit that she said was designed to get the French crowd on her side, Tomljanovic had her right thigh still heavily strapped after having to retire from last week's Morocco Open in the quarter-final.

"But I was going to give everything today, no matter even if I was in pain and I luckily wasn't," the World No.42 said.

"There were a few key moments where I really could have mentally lost it a little bit and when it was happening, I felt like this is where I've screwed up in the past.

"And I definitely, I was like, 'if I lose this I want her to beat me with her best tennis and not give her cheap points'."

Tomljanovic will next play Varvara Gracheva, the Russian who knocked out fellow Australian Astra Sharma on Sunday.

Anett Kontaveit and Ajla Tomljanovic, pictured here after their first-round match at the French Open.
Anett Kontaveit and Ajla Tomljanovic shake hands at the net after their first-round match at the French Open. (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Daris Saville set to be Australia's new No.2 player

At the start of the day, Saville had wasted no time advancing into the second round.

It took the 28-year-old less than an hour and a quarter to beat the Greek qualifier, with the win set to leapfrog her above compatriots Maddison Inglis and Sharma in the rankings.

"I don't look at rankings so don't tell me!" laughed Saville, who has made extraordinary progress since returning from 10 months out following surgery to deal with a chronic achilles injury.

However she admitted: "One of my goals is to be the No.1 Aussie."

Daria Saville, pictured here in action against Valentini Grammatikopoulou at the French Open.
Daria Saville in action against Valentini Grammatikopoulou at the French Open. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

It wasn't all good news for the Aussies on Monday, with James Duckworth and Jordan Thompson suffering losses.

Duckworth, back in action in just his second tournament since a ninth surgery, was deeply unimpressed by his 6-2 6-4 6-2 loss to Sweden's Mikael Ymer.

Thompson simply had no chance against 13-time champion Rafa Nadal, who steamrollered his way through their first-round clash 6-2 6-2 6-2.

John Millman was left to fight another day when rain forced the suspension of his match against American 27th seed Sebastian Korda, who had broken for a 1-0 lead.

with AAP

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