French Open 2022: Leolia Jeanjean defeats former world No. 1, joins ranks of Division II athletes to find big league success


Most tennis followers did not know Leolia Jeanjean’s identify previous to the French Open. Even a lot of her friends did not know a lot about her going into the occasion. In spite of everything, the world No. 227 had by no means performed in the principle draw of any tour-level occasion, not to mention a significant, and had by no means competed towards anybody ranked within the high 50.

However that every one modified this week. And nobody can be forgetting her identify anytime quickly.

The 26-year-old Jeanjean, a literal and figurative wild card at Roland Garros, defeated No. 45 Nuria Parrizas Diaz within the first spherical. She then upset a surprised Karolina Pliskova, the No. 8 seed and former world No. 1, within the second spherical 6-2, 6-2 in entrance of a thrilled crowd on Court docket Simonne-Mathieu on Thursday. It was undoubtedly the largest win of her profession, and simply the most recent cease on one of many extra unorthodox journeys on tour.

Jeanjean was as soon as a promising younger French junior participant however discovered her skilled desires derailed because of a critical knee damage. After being sidelined from the game for a while, she determined to play collegiately in the US. She performed her freshman season at Baylor earlier than transferring to Arkansas, however then ended up taking part in at Lynn, a Division II college in Boca Raton, Florida.

Whereas former NCAA gamers have actually discovered success on tour lately, together with Jennifer Brady (UCLA), Danielle Collins (Virginia) and Cameron Norrie (TCU), the trail from faculty to the professionals stays uncommon. And making the soar from a Division II program? Properly, let’s simply say that is almost extraordinary.

However for Jeanjean, it was her time at Lynn that made her notice she wasn’t accomplished along with her skilled tennis desires simply but. Throughout her senior yr, she went undefeated in singles (21-0) and doubles (29-0) and was named the ITA Senior Participant of the 12 months in addition to the Sunshine State Convention Feminine Athlete of the 12 months.

“After [that season], I used to be considering possibly I ought to attempt to go and attempt to play a couple of ITF [tournaments], which went rather well too, as a result of, , I went to the semis and stuff,” Jeanjean mentioned after her win over Pliskova. “I used to be, like, ‘OK, so possibly if I observe onerous sufficient, get again in form, possibly it would work.”

Jeanjean is predicted to maneuver as much as No. 148 with the win. If she had been to defeat third-round opponent Irina-Camelia Begu on Saturday, she would enter the highest 120. However it doesn’t matter what occurs from right here, she has already joined a fairly unique membership of athletes from throughout sports activities who’ve made the leap from DII to huge league success. Here’s a small sampling of different athletes who’ve accomplished simply that lately.

Malcolm Butler

A two-time Tremendous Bowl champion (chargeable for that interception) and Professional Bowler, it is onerous to imagine Butler did not have DI curiosity, however he performed at Hinds Neighborhood Faculty (Raymond, Mississippi) earlier than ultimately ending up at West Alabama. The longer term New England Patriots cornerback performed two seasons for the varsity, incomes first-team all-conference honors each years, and led the convention in passes defended and passes damaged up throughout his senior marketing campaign.

Quanera Hayes

Earlier than profitable a world championship with the American 4×400 group in 2017 or making the 2020 Olympic group by besting Allyson Felix on the Olympic trials final June, Hayes was competing for Livingstone Faculty in Salisbury, North Carolina. Throughout her time on the college, she grew to become the primary girl in DII historical past to win three consecutive NCAA outside 400-meter titles. Throughout her senior season, she added the 200-meter title to her assortment.

Lee Janzen

The 2-time U.S. Open champion (1993 and 1998) and eight-time winner on the PGA Tour did not precisely get his begin at a golf powerhouse. As a substitute, he opted to play for Florida Southern and, alongside fellow future-PGA professional Rocco Mediate, helped lead the varsity to an NCAA Division II group title in 1985. The next season, after Mediate had left, Janzen lifted the group to a different championship and received the person title. He now performs on the senior tour and received his most up-to-date title on the 2021 SAS Championship in October.

J.D. Martinez

Earlier than he grew to become a four-time MLB All-Star and World Collection champion, Boston Red Sox slugger Martinez performed collegiately at Nova Southeastern (alongside fellow 2018 All-Star and present St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas). Martinez set the then-program file with 32 residence runs throughout his remaining season with the group.

Kamaru Usman

The UFC welterweight champion and former “Final Fighter” winner helped the College of Nebraska at Kearney win the NCAA Division II wrestling nationwide group title in 2008 and earned the person nationwide title at 174 kilos in 2010. He turned to blended martial arts after failing to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, and it appears to have labored out fairly properly for him.

Natalie Wideman

A bronze-medal profitable member of the Canadian softball group on the 2020 Olympics, Wideman performed collegiately at California College of Pennsylvania. Throughout her senior season, she led the Pennsylvania State Athletic Convention with a .454 batting common, 49 runs scored and a .535 on-base share and was named the Division II Catcher of the Year.

Chris Wondolowski

The all-time MLS goal-scoring chief had Division I offers for track and field however was largely beneath the radar for soccer. Finally, he helped lead Chico State to the Division II nationwide championship sport. He went on to have probably the most profitable careers in MLS historical past and was named the league’s Most Beneficial Participant in 2012. He retired in November.

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