Neither win, nor rain, not injury could stop Aleksandra Wozniak from qualifying at the French Open

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ROLAND GARROS – The final round of qualifying was not without its challenges for Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak.

But despite schizophrenic weather conditions that changed from one game to the next, and after suffering a calf injury in the first game of the second set, the 26-year-old from Montreal managed to defeat Cagla Buyukakcay of Turkey 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the French Open main draw.

After the 12 women's qualifiers were placed, Wozniak ended up with No. 26 seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania as her first-round opponent.

"I missed last year, when I was doing the rehab for the shoulder. It's my favorite Grand Slam and my favorite surface, so I'm really happy," Wozniak said, after signing a bunch autographs for kids who then asked her, 'Who are you?'

"The hard work paid off – not just me, but everyone around me. The physio, my coach. It was a long journey for me and everyone on my team," she added.

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Buyukakcay, ranked No. 140, had a marathon match Friday against Italian veteran Alberta Brianti, just to get to the final round. She served for that at least three, possibly four times, broken each time but the last – even towards the end, when Brianti was cramping up and couldn't even move, she couldn't close it out.

Buyukakcat arrived for the match against Wozniak with tape on her serving shoulder that hadn't been there previous day. And Wozniak quickly jumped out to a 4-1 lead, breaking her opponent twice.

"At 4-1, I tried to do a bit too much. At that moment I wanted to accelerate even more because it was going well, I had momentum," Wozniak said. "So I did a little too much and she came back. When you’re rolling, you want to continue, and do even better."

At 4-4, she broke Buyukakcay again, after which the Turkish player needed a medical timeout to get a blister pad applied on her right hand.

It distracted her just enough, long enough. And Wozniak finished off the set with an ace, a set that was more complicated than it needed to be.

But in the first game of the second set, Wozniak felt what she described as a "sharp pain" in her calf area. She lost her serve, but got the break right back at love, after Buyukakcay double-faulted. The WTA trainer came out, sprayed the calf, and taped it. But Wozniak's movement was definitely hampered.

And then the rain, and a chilly wind, rose up. But somehow, despite having break points against her, Wozniak managed to hold for 2-2. And at that point, it was pretty clear that she needed to win in straight sets. It was also pretty clear that Buyukakcay might well help her in that effort.

At 2-3, the trainer returned and put a pair of heel pads inside Wozniak's show, which the trainer told Eh Game! helps take some of the pressure off the injured leg.

"It’s cold, so I think when you play with conditions like this, it’s not good for the muscles," Wozniak said. "But you play through the pain, because it’s the last round of qualies. The tape was helping, and I started getting more warmed up once the tape was on."

At that point, Buyukakcay needed to be attended to again, to have another blister pad applied after the first one refused to stick.

The physio was pretty busy on Court 9 Saturday morning.

That one didn't last long, either, and eventually Buyukakcay tried to play without it. But it was certainly a distraction for the 24-year-old, who has never qualified for the main draw of a Grand Slam and, in fact, has only reached the third and final round once before.

Once it got to 4-4, Wozniak didn't make the same mistake she did in the first set. If she were tempted by the notion of going for broke to try to break serve and then serve it out, she resisted it. She stayed patient on second-serve returns, going for depth. And eventually, she was rewarded with the break.

Wozniak has reached the main-draw fourth round in Paris once, the third round three other times. And she has given herself another opportunity to do well here, even if the calf issue has to be a concern. She didn't have to play her first round on Monday, though.

It's a big upgrade from her Australian Open adventure in January. Wozniak needed Tennis Canada to barter a trade with Tennis Australia just to get her a wild card into the qualifying; that's how low her ranking was. And she lost in the first round to Anna Tatishvili of Georgia.

"I had to be patient. I knew I needed more tennis, to get more tennis in my body after a year and a half. It’s really rewarding to be in the main draw after getting through the qualies," Wozniak said. "I didn't know my opponent, but it's the last round, and you could see, especially in the first set, that she was digging in.

"I gave everything I had, and I'm happy to win in two sets."

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