Paris, France, 28 May 2023 | Leigh Rogers

Storm Hunter has notched a major milestone on day one at Roland Garros, winning her first Grand Slam main-draw singles match.

The 28-year-old Australian recorded her long-awaited breakthrough with a hard-fought 4-6 6-2 6-4 victory against Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz in opening-round action today in Paris.

World No.204 Hunter stormed home in the two-hour and seven-minute encounter, recovering from a 2-4 deficit in the deciding set and reeling off four consecutive games to secure victory.

“It was honestly a great match and I’m just so happy to win my first match in a Slam,” Hunter told AAP after the match. “It’s really amazing.”

This is the resilient Hunter’s eighth career appearance in a Grand Slam singles main draw. She contested her first as a 19-year-old wildcard at Australian Open 2014, but after several injury setbacks, a disillusioned Hunter decided to stop playing singles at the end of the 2017 season.

Hunter, encouraged by her improved fitness, began her singles comeback in October 2019, only for the COVID-19 pandemic to delay that dream.

With less opportunities to rebuild her singles ranking when professional tennis returned, a pragmatic Hunter opted to prioritise doubles.

The big-hitting left-hander has thrived in doubles, establishing herself as one of the leading players on the WTA Tour. She won the US Open 2022 mixed doubles title and peaked at a career-high ranking of world No.5 earlier this month.

This success has meant Hunter has had to play a limited singles schedule, but she’s proving in Paris she can match it with the world’s best.

This is Hunter’s fourth consecutive singles victory on Parisian clay, having already won three qualifying rounds to earn her place in the main draw.

She becomes the first Australian woman since Sophie Ferguson in 2010 to reach the second round at Roland Garros as a qualifier.

Hunter’s growing confidence showed in her steely triumph against world No.94 Parribas Diaz. The Aussie qualifier fired 34 winners against the former world No.45, who has twice made third-round runs at the Australian Open.

Hunter is set to face an even bigger test in the second round, where she’ll play either world No.24 Martina Trevisan, a semifinalist at Roland Garros last year, or former world No.3 Elina Svitolina, who is returning from maternity leave and claimed the WTA 250 title in Strasbourg yesterday.

Australian wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis also scored a first-round win, eliminating No.20 seed Dan Evans in one of the best Grand Slam wins of his career.

> READ: Kokkinakis returns to Roland Garros winners’ circle in style

Kokkinakis joins Jason Kubler in the second round of the men’s singles competition. Kubler survived a five-set test to open his campaign.

> READ: Kubler triumphs in five-set battle at Roland Garros

Kimberly Birrell came close to staging a remarkable comeback, before falling in three sets to Frenchwoman Leolia Jeanjean.

Birrell trailed 4-6 1-4, and saved five match points in the second set, yet eventually went down in a three-hour, 10-minute marathon.

Birrell, competing for the first time in the main draw at Roland Garros, put in a customarily gritty performance against a local wildcard who struggled to close her out.

As well as trailing 1-4 in the second set, Birrell went down 2-6 in the second-set tiebreak, only to win six consecutive points to force a third.

She then went up an early break, but at this point Jeanjean steadied and worked her way back into the lead.

Birrell would save a sixth match point in the penultimate game, but Jeanjean went on to serve out a dramatic 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3 victory.

Aussies in action – Roland Garros

Women’s singles, first round
[Q] Storm Hunter (AUS) d Nuria Parrizas Diaz (ESP) 4-6 6-2 6-4
[WC] Leolia Jeanjean (FRA) d [WC] Kimberly Birrell (AUS) 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3

Men’s singles, first round
Jason Kubler (AUS) d [LL] Facundo Diaz Acosta (ARG) 1-6 6-3 6-4 3-6 6-1
[WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS)
d [20] Dan Evans (GBR) 6-4 6-4 6-4

Men’s singles, first round
[18] Alex de Minaur (AUS) v Ilya Ivashka
Max Purcell (AUS) v Jordan Thompson (AUS)
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) v [Q] Aslan Karatsev
Chris O’Connell (AUS) v Taro Daniel (JPN)

Women’s singles, second round
[Q] Storm Hunter (AUS) v TBC

Men’s singles, second round
Jason Kubler (AUS) v TBC
[WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS)

> READ: Roland Garros doubles draws revealed

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