On a day full of surprises, top seed Simona Halep dispatched fellow Romanian Irina Camelia-Begu, 6-3 6-4, and saw the draw opening up before her as the women’s field lost two high-profile names, with Serena Williams withdrawing prior to her match with Tsvetana Pironkova, citing an achilles injury, and 10th seed and US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, the 10th seed, being soundly beaten by Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia, 6-2 6-2.
I think the best thing to do is that once I step on the court, I'm not thinking anymore about who I'm playing, even if they're Romanian or not. It's a little bit of a stress before the match, but I am confident, I know what I can play, and I know how I can play, so I didn't feel too nervous. I just feel nervous at the beginning, but then I just forget about who I'm playing and I just try to win the match. Simona Halep
“I love playing tennis,” confided Serena. “I love competing and I love being out here.
“It’s my job – and I’m pretty good at it still. So, until I feel like I’m not good at it, I’ll be OK. And I’m so close to some things. Like, I’m almost there. That’s what keeps me going.”
Other top women’s seeds did not have things so easy, with 3rd seed Elena Svitolina of Ukraine overcoming a second set capitulation in the first match of the day on the main Court Philippe Chatrier to beat Mexican qualifier Renata Zarazua in three sets.
After Svitolina took the first set 6-3, World No 178 bagelled her in the second before the Ukrainian rediscovered her form and took the decider to complete a 6-3 0-6 6-2 win.
Another remarkable encounter saw 5th seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands overcome Italy’s Sara Errani in three sets in a match that lasted just over 3 hours.
Bertens left the court in a wheelchair after suffering what she claimed were severe bouts of cramp throughout her body during the 7-6 3-6 9-7 win.
In a media conference after the match Errani accused her of exaggerating her injuries, with Bertens saying that she could not understand Errani’s accusations.
“I don’t like when somebody is ‘playing’ with me,” Errani told reporters. “She left the court on a chair and now she is all good eating in the restaurant. I just saw her.”
Bertens did collapse on the court for a few minutes after her victory before medical officials brought a wheelchair out for her.
It is unclear how the injury might impact her moving forward and she is scheduled to play Katerina Siniakova in the third round on Friday.
With some of the big runs now out of her half of the draw, Halep will get a shot at revenge at Roland Garros on Friday when she takes on Amanda Anisimova, the woman who took her out in the quarter-finals of her title defence last year.
The top seeded Romania advanced to the third-round rematch after a straight sets win over Begu, dropping serve twice but breaking her countrywoman 4 times en route to victory.
“Well, it’s never easy to play against a Romanian, and against Irina, we played so many times,” Halep said. “She’s a very strong opponent, the serve is really strong, and today the court was heavy so I couldn’t return very well. But I managed well in the end and played the right game when I needed to.”
She is now 13-0 in her tour-level career against fellow Romanians, which includes 6 wins over Begu.
“I think the best thing to do is that once I step on the court, I’m not thinking anymore about who I’m playing, even if they’re Romanian or not,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a stress before the match, but I am confident, I know what I can play, and I know how I can play, so I didn’t feel too nervous.
“I just feel nervous at the beginning, but then I just forget about who I’m playing and I just try to win the match.”
The win also extended Halep’s career-best winning streak to 16 matches in a row.
The No 25-seeded Anisimova got off to a slow start in her match against fellow American Bernarda Pera, getting broken in the opening game, but she went on to win 12 of the next 13 games to romp away with the contest, closing out the left-hander after just 57 minutes, 6-2 6-0.
Last year, Halep and Anisimova’s encounter defied all odds when the 17-year-old, No 51-ranked Anisimova overpowered the No 3-ranked defending champion in straight sets, 6-2 6-4.
After Anisimova stormed out to a 6-2, 4-1 lead, Halep fought back to 4-all in the second set, and even held a break point to go up 5-4, before the American closed it out.
“Well, it’s one year in between, so it’s going to be a little bit tough to explain now how it’s going to be,” Halep said of the coming rematch. “But I’m going to talk with the coach.
“I know it’s going to be tough because she’s hitting the ball strong and flat, so it’s going to be tough.
“I remember the match from last year. I also remember that I didn’t play how I wanted, so I will do some changes, and I will just try to play better, and to take my chance.”
Canadian wild card Eugenie Bouchard, who is ranked World No 168, has made her way into a Grand Slam 3rd round for the first time since the 2017 Australian Open with a 5-7 6-4 6-3 win over Australia’s Daria Gavrilova in yet another sign of her upward trajectory.
“To her credit, she played well, took that first set,” Bouchard said. “The fact I was able to bounce back is something I’m super proud of, is a testament to the mental strength I’ve been working on.”
After a challenging 2019 season saw her drop 13 matches in a row, the Canadian’s ranking sank outside of the Top 250.
With very few tournament opportunities in 2020, the former World No 5 saw herself sitting at No 330 in August and she threw herself into exhibitions and a full season of World TeamTennis in West Virginia, with few chances at earning points looming on the horizon.
She got a wild card into the WTA International Prague, where she made the quarter-finals and 2 weeks later she was a finalist in Istanbul where organisers took a chance on her and gave her a qualifying wild card.
Roland Garros followed the trend by offering the 26-year-old a spot in the main draw.
Playing on an outside court far from the main stadium at Roland Garros, both players struggled with their serves early in their match on Wednesday.
There were 12 service breaks, but Bouchard picked up her game as the match went on and held serve throughout the deciding set, hammering away at Gavrilova’s backhand and demonstrating the results of an intensive fitness program under the tutelage of Gil Reyes, who was Andre Agassi’s fitness guru.
“I’m proud of taking advantage of the opportunities,” she said. “There are so few tournaments this year, especially with my ranking, I was very limited with what I could play. I’ve tried to push myself in every chance I’ve had because I know there are so few.”
Bouchard burst onto the scene in 2014 by reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open and Roland Garros, and the final of Wimbledon.
“I think deep down still believing in myself no matter what, knowing my skill can’t just go away, knowing that I’ve achieved success before,” Bouchard said. “It’s just something that I’ll always have, reinforces my belief. That’s what I use when I need to work hard, when times are tough.”
After the 2019 season, she got to work and then took advantage of the tour shutdown to get into even better shape, both physically and mentally, training in Las Vegas with Reyes, Agassi and Steffi Graf and she has had Las Vegas-based coach Tim Blenkiron on the road with her these past few weeks.
“I’m so grateful for [Reyes’] help,” Bouchard said. “I mean, I’ve known him for, like, 10 years, but I’ve committed to working with him last October. We’ve spent so much time together, put so much work together. He believes in me so much. It helps me believe in myself.”
The work is paying off and Bouchard next take on unseeded Polish teenager Iga Swiatek for a spot in the 4th round.
“I’m just happy to be here right now,” she said. “I don’t look ahead other than my next match.
“There are some upsets. I’m sure lots of interesting things will go down over the next two weeks. I’m just focused on my next one.”
Last year Swiatek enjoyed a breakthrough clay-court season, finishing runner-up in Lugano, and reaching the 4th round at Roland Garros, but arrived in Paris in rather poor form.
Nevertheless, she has stormed into the 3rd round with renewed confidence, taking out 2019 Paris finalist Marketa Vondrousova, who reached the semi-finals in Rome, and then Su-Wei Hsieh from Taiwan, an unorthodox opponent over whom the 19-year old delivered another inspired performance to win 6-1 6-4.
“I always felt great here (in Paris), I feel good vibrations,” Swiatek said after the match.
The other Canadian in the women’s draw, 18-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez of Laval, plays Polona Hercog of Slovenia in the second round on Thursday.
Trevisan sees off Coco
Diminutive Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan rallied from a set down and held her nerve in a tense decider to upset Coco Gauff and advance to the 3rd round of Roland Garros in one of the last matches of Day 4.
The World No159 continued her dream run to beat the American teenager, 4-6 6-2 7-5 in just her second Grand Slam main draw appearance and her first tour-level victory over a Top 100 player after compatriot Camila Giorgi retired in the opening round.
It took a thrilling 2 hours and 11-minutes on Court Simonne-Mathieu to accomplish her victory.
“I’m really happy, but I think I need more time to realize what happened tonight,” Trevisan said after the match.
“I work every day to be here, to be in the third round of Grand Slam. It’s not easy to reach this result, but I wake up every morning to think about my dream, and today, it realised one of my dreams.”
Overwhelmed in the early stages of the match as she fell behind 4-0 and won just seven points, the 26-year-old left-hander started to work her way into the contest with increased rally tolerance and well-executed variety that moved Gauff around the court.
The Italian won 3 consecutive games to close the gap, and though Gauff showed her mettle by serving out the opener to love after failing to do so at 5-2, the Italian was well and truly in the contest from then on.
“Before the match, of course, I talked with my coach, but the important things today that I came in the court without thinking that I had to play with Coco Gauff, because everybody know that [she] is the most, the best young player in the world,” Trevisan said.
“I came to the court to play my match and not to see my opponent, so I think this is the key of the match.
“I play every point without thinking that Coco is better than me ranking, she has a lot of experience in this court than me.
“Every match that I played I came on court to think about my tennis, to think about my shot, think about hold my court, not to think about the opponent, so that’s why I’m here.”
Over the course of the late stages of the match, the 16-year-old American struggled for consistency on serve.
Her first-serve percentage dipped to just 37 percent in the middle set, and though she rebounded to land 56 percent of her first serves in the decider, 15 of her 19 double-faults in the match came in the second and third sets.
Gauff ultimately was broken 9 times in the contest overall, including 3 times in the decisive set after leading by a break at 3-2.
The Italian went toe-to-toe with Gauff from the baseline to seal the upset, as the left-hander recorded one more winner, 24 to 23, and 14 fewer unforced errors, 32 to 46 than the American.
Trevisan also went 17-for-24 in finishing points at the net, while Gauff ventured forward 14 times and won 9 of those points.
Trevisan advances to a third-round meeting with No 20 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, who overcame another qualifier in Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova, 7-6(0) 6-2, earlier in the day.
Mertens masters Kanepi
No 16 seed Elise Mertens fought through a straight sets battle against the tricky Kaia Kanepi en route to her 3rd round encounter with home favourite Caroline Garcia.
Mertens has been one of the most consistent players since the WTA season’s restart, reaching the Prague Open final and posting a quarter-final appearance in Rome, while she also made the semi-final at the Western & Southern Open and quarter-finals at the US Open.
She brought all that momentum into her second-round battle against Kanepi on Court 7, battling through in two sets to win, 6-4 7-5.
Garcia kept the tricolour flying over Roland Garros with an impressive 7-6(5) 6-2 win over the Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich late on Wednesday evening on Court Suzanne Lenglen, taking an hour 45 minutes to do so.