PARIS (AP) — Peyton Stearns, like many kids, loved to play sports and try a lot.
“Football, gymnastics, basketball, tennis, whatever,” the 21-year-old American said on Wednesday. at the French Open after defeating 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 1-6 6-2 to reach the third round in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
Stearns then paused, before adding with a chuckle, “Well, there’s not a lot of tennis.”
By her own admission, she came to tennis relatively late for someone who finds herself at a higher level, and starts private lessons at the age of eight. And it wasn’t until three or four years later that the 2022 NCAA title was captured at The University of Texas. She explains that she has decided to focus on holding the racket.
“The gymnastics was very structured. I didn’t like it very much. I liked doing what I wanted when I wanted,” said Stearns, who had never played in the main draw of the French Open until this week and faces ninth seed Daria Kasatkina, 2022 semi-finalist “I chose tennis because I liked the fact that you could knock the living daylight out of a ball. That’s what she does, and she did it effectively against 17th seed Ostapenko, after the big hitter – Stearns more winners, 30-29 – and left Court Roland Garros with the only woman to win the title there: top seed Ija Swiatek, top seed knockout 2020 and 2022 champion , who plays her second-round match on Thursday, against 2021 winner Barbora Krejkova, in the first round.
Stearns said: “Sometimes I am surprised how dangerous the ball (the bat) sometimes falls on my opponents and how it puts them in trouble.” “Maybe I didn’t realize it earlier, but playing against great players, I know it’s true. They come out really big and big and that’s the way I play. It really helps with confidence.”
His victory over Ostapenko can be juxtaposed with a host of other early upsets in Paris, where bizarre red-mud bounces and sometimes variable weather conditions can contribute to unpredictable results.
France’s Caroline Garcia, seeded 5, lost to Anna Blinkova 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, and 18 of the 32 seeds were eliminated before the end of the second round. And in the men’s category, second seed Daniil Medvedev retired on Tuesday for a score of 127 in qualifying.
“I feel like I’m at Roland Garros, it’s tough with the mud,” said third seed Jessica Pegula, who took the lead on Wednesday when her opponent Camila Giorgi was suspended with knee pain after losing the first set. “You can see – to me it looks like – a lot of fuss.”
Don’t tell Stearns it was an amazing result, she was ranked 69 in her first full season on tour and went 0-1 in the slam this week.
“I expected this from myself. Probably not so early in my career. I’m ahead of what I expected, but I’m not hurting myself in any way.”
She had her own cheerleading section at Court 14, a group that included her mother, Denise, Stearns’ coach, and her coach’s girlfriend and girlfriend, who helped her out.
The same goes for Stearns’ boundless self-confidence, which she says has allowed her to settle in the midst of some emotions that she describes as “crazy, nerve-wracking, and confusing — all feelings in one”.
His favorite tennis star grew up Maria Sharapova, who won five Grand Slam titles and reached number one in the WTA rankings.
A powerful ball forward, Sharapova achieved her first success on faster surfaces such as grass courts, winning 17 Wimbledon, hard court and subsequent Grand Slam tournaments at the US Open and Australian Open. However, Sharapova eventually won two French Open titles later in her career.
That’s not why Stearns became a fan.
“My mom and I loved watching her because of her clothes,” Stearns said, laughing. “My mother is a big customer.”