Second round matches are underway at the French Open. But what happened on the red clay today?
French Open Day 4 Recap
Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu, seeded 22nd, withdrew ahead of her second-round match against Sofia Kenin of the USA. Perhaps she had overreached by entering the French Open after picking up a nasty shoulder injury in Miami. That will clearly take more time to heal and it was arguably an ambitious plan for Andreescu to start her clay season at a Slam. That said, we’ve come to expect the unexpected from the teenage Canadian after her meteoric rise, even if it wasn’t to be this time.
Fourth seed Kiki Bertens, one of the favorites for the title in Paris, also saw her campaign end in disappointment as she was forced to retire with an unspecified illness. Through tears, Bertens told the trainer and doctor she was shaky, didn’t have any power and just didn’t feel well. The World #4 sends Viktoria Kuzmova on to the third round, which is good news for the young Slovakian. However, it must be a blow for the tournament organizers, who had expected Bertens to make a deep run.
Venus Williams’ first-round conqueror Elina Svitolina was the beneficiary of another withdrawal after her countrywoman Kateryna Kozlova pulled out due to illness. Though its far from endemic, the number of withdrawals from the women’s draw may becoming a concern, not least because it would not be a major surprise to see more retirements later in the event. Particularly as it’s still unclear if Serena Williams’ knee can hold up on to the punishing demands of clay-court tennis.
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26th seed Johanna Konta, meanwhile, found her second-round match anything but straightforward. Her opponent Lauren Davis deserves great credit for the fight she displayed to push this match to a decider, although Konta’s nerves may have played a role in her dismal drop in performance in the second set. Konta, who had never won a main draw match at the French Open until this year, then looked to have secured her place in the third round with a fast start in the decider as she raced out to a 5-0 lead. Davis got back to within striking distance at 3-5, but Konta held firm and finally closed out the match at the fourth attempt.
23rd seed Donna Vekic was able to increase her head-to-head lead to 3-0 over Rebecca Peterson. The Swede didn’t go quietly, dominating the first set to take it 6-1. After that dreadful start, however, the Croat was able to lift her first-serve percentage, giving her a foundation to build a match-winning performance around. And the battle may serve Vekic well. As the competition gets tougher, so must she. In the third round, she’ll meet either Belinda Bencic or Laura Siegemund, both potentially dangerous foes.
Petra Martic, meanwhile, turned in a commanding performance to oust in-form Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic. The 31st seed gave a clay-court masterclass to Mladenovic, who is no slouch on the terre battue herself. Martic’s movement and her excellent play in the forecourt left Mladenovic searching for answers. She found none, winning just three games as Martic handed Mladenovic one of the worst losses of her career, to the great disappointment of the French crowd.
28th seed and clay-court specialist Carla Suarez Navarro sent another American packing on what wasn’t a great day for the Stars and Stripes by knocking out Shelby Rogers after a tough, three-set battle. The Rogers’ serve is one of the best weapons in her arsenal, but in Paris she was out-aced and out-played throughout by Suarez Navarro.
20th seed Elise Mertens had a routine match, eliminating French wild card Diane Parry in straight sets, whilst former-champion Garbine Muguruza, seeded 19th this year, easily eliminated Sweden’s Johanna Larsson. Second seed and Italian Open champion Karolina Pliskova made light work of Slovakia’s Kristina Kucova.
Anastasija Sevastova, who has never played her best tennis at the French Open, scored a comprehensive straight-sets win over Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella. Sloane Stephens, seeded seventh, who in contrast to Sevastova, typically turns in her best performances on the biggest stages. Today was no exception as the American knocked Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo out of the tournament with a fine 6-1 7-6 victory.
Belinda Bencic, however, will need to wait until tomorrow to try to close out her second-round match against Laura Siegemund after a contentious conclusion to the day’s play. The tension could have been cut with a knife as, soundtracked by the French crowd’s jeers, both ladies continually chirped at the chair. Bencic asked for intervention amongst her rising frustration with Siegemund’s repetitive service ball catches. Siegemund argued that play be called for darkness.
Then, in a twist bordering on farcical, thirty minutes later when play was called for darkness, Siegemund had changed her mind. Microphones picked up the German audaciously asking tournament officials why the match was being stopped. Perhaps Siegemund’s night vision had kicked in? More likely, the German wanted to ride the momentum which had shifted in her favor. Don’t doubt that both the Siegemund camp and the Bencic camp are strategizing in preparation for tomorrow’s resumption of play.
For the Win
Veronika Kudermetova, who bested Zarina Diyas 7-5 6-1, must be soaring on a confidence high. Eliminating superstar Caroline Wozniacki in the opening round, the Russian continued her campaign, making quick work of Diyas in the round of 64. Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi will provide a stern challenge in the third round, but expect the 22-year-old Russian to have enough confidence in her talent to break down Kanepi and reach the second week at a Major for the first-time in her career.
Anastasia Potapova, who lost 4-6 0-6 to Marketa Vondrousova, had but a few days to enjoy her upset victory over the fifth seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber. What should have propelled her to a higher level instead perished at the hands of Vondrousova’s suffering court coverage. But don’t sleep on the Czech teenager. She is playing some of her best tennis and looks to be in good position for a deep run at the French Open.
A look ahead to at Day Five
There looks to be little more intriguing on the slate for day five than the conclusion of Bencic vs Siegemund. Play will resume with the match very much in the balance at 4-4 in the decider and without a tiebreak provision in the deciding set, this match may last a while, although neither woman will have much room for manoeuvre.
The popcorn match of the day will be American Danielle Collins’ clash with eight seed Ashleigh Barty. Barty is one of the Tour’s most in-form and watchable players, but Collins, an Australian Open semifinalist in January, brings commendable fight every time she steps on court. Expect long rallies and strategic shot making and a match too close too call.
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