Jeanjean has faced many obstacles — financial and otherwise — of her own. Until her early teens, she was considered one of the most promising junior players in Europe and was provided with the services of a full-time personal coach by the French Tennis Federation at age 12.
She dominated competition in her age group, drawing some comparisons to Martina Hingis, the Swiss prodigy who played tennis like it was chess, adjusting her tactics depending on her opponents and rarely trying to overpower a point when finesse was still an option.
But a major knee injury stopped Jeanjean’s progress, and she ultimately chose to study in the United States, playing Division I tennis at Baylor and Arkansas before finishing her eligibility at the Division II Lynn University, a small private university in Boca Raton, Fla., where she was an outstanding player and received her master’s of business administration in 2019.
But it is quite a leap from Division II excellence to Roland Garros, which she had not even visited for 10 years.
“What surprises me is to see that my game troubles these players so much,” she said on Thursday after bamboozling Pliskova, a former No. 1 still working her way back from injury, with her rhythm shifts to win, 6-2, 6-2. “I thought I’d be overpowered and see winners flying by me everywhere, but that’s not the case.”
Jeanjean said that for “four or five years” she never thought she would play in a Grand Slam tournament, but fueled by the desire to honor the potential she demonstrated in her youth, she decided to give herself “a second chance.” She was ranked in the 1,000s at the beginning of 2021, and without sponsors she relied on government subsistence funds and some help from her father, according to L’Equipe, the French sports publication.
Now, after working her way through the minor leagues and earning less than $20,000 in career prize money, she is in the big time with a chance to get bigger, considering that she faces Irina-Camelia Begu, an unseeded Romanian, in the third round on Saturday.