Pauline Parmentier very quietly bowed out of the Istanbul Open on Wednesday. In a score which will not elicit banner-size headlines in the tennis world, Parmentier lost, 0 and 4, to 19-year-old Elena Rybakina. We will see and hear more from Rybakina, I reckon, in the next few years, but for now, as Parmentier goes home, let’s not let the week end without reminding ourselves — and each other — what Parmentier’s week was like: in a word, great.
Yes, this was a great week for Parmentier — not because of anything she did in Istanbul (though I am impressed that she made the decision to play), but because of how the week started on Easter Sunday.
France was at death’s door against Romania in the Fed Cup semifinals. Caroline Garcia and Kiki Mladenovic badly wanted to take the court in doubles — which was always going to be France’s strength and advantage in the tie — but Parmentier was given the high-pressure assignment in Match 4 of having to push the tie into that fifth and deciding doubles rubber. Parmentier had to beat Irina-Camelia Begu in order to make doubles matter. Had she lost, France’s Fed Cup dream would have died.
Parmentier started very strongly but then just as clearly lost her way in the second set. Entering the third set, Begu had every reason to feel confident, and Parmentier, a 33-year-old veteran of the tour who has not left an especially towering imprint on the story of women’s tennis, had plenty of reasons to doubt herself.
Parmentier fought through those doubts, however. In that third set, she called forth her experience and her other resources to fend off Begu and create the 2-2 tie which enabled Garcia and Mladenovic to then win the tie, 3-2, with their hard-fought doubles win over Simona Halep and Monica Niculescu.
In Davis Cup, singles matches concluded ties, making it a lot easier for doubles to be comparatively forgotten or — if not forgotten — at least minimized. That is unfortunate, and it is one of the charms of Fed Cup that doubles takes center stage as a deciding match. Yet, as much as Garcia and Mladenovic do deserve an enormous amount of credit for coming through under immense pressure, let’s not forget that Parmentier — with her work in Match 4 — enabled Match 5 to count as much as it did.
Pauline Parmentier was unlikely to do anything in Istanbul this week, but as she loses and packs her bags, let’s remember that this week, she wrote what might be remembered as her most memorable chapter in the story of tennis.
That is no small thing.