Mirra Andreeva admitted she feared being defaulted from the French Open during her third-round defeat by Coco Gauff in their teenage battle in Paris.
It was one of the most anticipated clashes of the tournament so far, with Gauff taking on a player younger than her for just the third time in her senior career.
Sixteen-year-old Andreeva swept through qualifying before dropping just six games in her first two rounds at her debut Grand Slam.
Gauff and Andreeva’s combined age is younger than Novak Djokovic, and the 19-year-old American looked like she could lose to a player her junior for the first time.
But Andreeva was unable to sustain the level she showed in winning the first set and bowed out with a 6-7 (5) 6-1 6-1 defeat.
There were moments of youthful petulance from Andreeva that she will need to stamp out, though, particularly an incident late in the tie-break when she swiped a ball angrily into the crowd.
She earned a code violation but was fortunate she did not hurt a spectator, which could have seen her disqualified.
“Right after I thought that it was a really stupid move from me, because it was not necessary to do that,” she said. “It was really bad what I did. I had thoughts like this [a potential default], but he just gave me a warning.”
The Russian is undoubtedly a player of huge potential and she more than matched Gauff during a high-class first set full of fierce shotmaking and court craft.
Andreeva admitted she let her head drop, saying: “It was a tough first set. We broke each other a lot of times. I was just playing.
“It’s not enough to win one set to win a match. I was trying to play but something didn’t work out and I got disappointed, upset, and not really was thinking about the match. I was thinking about my mistakes. I went too deep in this.
“After the first set I won, I realised that I can really win this match. Then I got a little bit nervous not to lose this opportunity.”
Andreeva is limited in the number of tournaments she can play because of her age and expects her next event to be Wimbledon qualifying, providing her UK visa comes through in time.
Although Russian and Belarusian players are allowed to compete this year, Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka has also spoken about a delay in receiving her visa.
If it was not for her nationality, Andreeva could have been a strong candidate for a Wimbledon wild card based on her performance in Paris.
“I didn’t play on grass yet,” she said. “It can be my first time. I’m excited about it because I have never tried it. So, if I can go there, we will see what I can do.”
Gauff reached her first Slam singles final in Paris 12 months ago and broke into the top 10 but this season has been tricky and she will take confidence from the way she turned the match around.
Gauff knows better than anyone the position Andreeva is in, and she said: “Mirra’s super young and she has a big future. I remember I was here playing at 16 years old so she has a lot to look forward to. I’m sure you’ll see a lot more matches between us.”
The tournament lost one of its title favourites before the start of the day when Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina withdrew through illness, revealing she had been struggling with a virus for two days.
The 23-year-old appeared to be the biggest obstacle to Iga Swiatek reaching another final having won all three matches between them this season.
The world number one was in ruthless form on Philippe Chatrier, defeating an opponent 6-0 6-0 for the fourth time in her career and first at a Grand Slam.
China’s Wang Xinyu was the unfortunate recipient as Swiatek hit top form at Roland Garros – four of the six sets she has played so far this year have now been bagels.
Swiatek has gained a reputation for the number of sets she wins easily, and social media was awash with talk of her ‘bagel factory’.
“I don’t want to really talk about that,” said the 22-year-old. “I really get why people do that, because it’s fun and tennis is entertainment and everything. But, from the players’ point of view, I want to be respectful to my opponents.”
Meanwhile, the seventh prime-time night session on Sunday will belatedly feature a women’s match for the first time, with Sabalenka’s clash against former finalist Sloane Stephens selected for the slot.
Organisers have again come under fire after only picking one women’s match across the fortnight last year.