Paris | Raducanu, Sakkari and Kvitova fall at 2nd hurdle

Britain’s Emma Raducanu joined the exodus of seeds at the French Open on Wednesday after letting a one-set lead go against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, while Karolina Muchova and Daria Saville pulled off upsets in seeing off Maria Sakari and Petra Kvitova.

I’m quite happy with the progress that I’m making. I do feel like I’m playing some pretty good tennis and on the practice court I’m definitely working. Certain things I’m working on on the practice court that are paying off, they don’t show immediately. There is a little time lag between when they will actually produce results on a live situation. I’m definitely getting there. Emma Raducanu

Other Top 20 seeds prevailed, with Belinda Bencic, Victoria Azarenka, Leylah Fernandez and Coco Gauff all  came through in straight sets.

Raducanu, the 12th seed, began well but fell away badly as Sasnovich, ranked 47 in the world, improved her record against the British No 1 to 2-0 after her 3-6 6-1 6-1 win in 2 hours and 4 minutes, her second in 8 months.

The 28-year-old Russian put on a dazzling display of shot-making to reach round 3 for the first time, where she will face Angelique Kerber for the 2nd time in as many weeks after the 21st-seeded German held off French wild-card Elsa Jacquemot, 6-1 7-6(2).

Raducanu, who suffered a back injury in the run-up to Roland Garros, finished her first ever clay-court swing with an overall 6-5 record, the 19-year-old having successfully reached at least the 2nd-round on her debut at each of the 4 majors.

She admitted she has a long way to go after suffering her early exit in Paris but is confident that she can be a good player on the surface in the future.

“I think that I definitely got stronger as the clay season went on,” Raducanu said afterwards. “It just takes a lot more to win the point on this surface, and you hit a ball flat, [it] doesn’t really do that much. I definitely learnt when to use the shape [top spin].

“I’ve still got quite a long way to go on this surface, but overall, I would say I definitely had a good first experience on the clay.”

Both Raducanu and Sasnovich took time to settle into the match, but after the Brit saved 2 break points to hold for 2-2, she was the one to find another gear first.

Two blistering crosscourt backhands and a forehand down the line captured the Sasnovich serve, and Raducanu remained on the front foot for the rest of the set, breaking again to seal it by flicking a backhand winner off a poor drop-shot on her first set point.


Aliaksandra Sasnovich played flawless tennis to turn the match around against Emma Raducanu to advance

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Finding the zone, Sasnovich then essayed a remarkable turnaround in a masterclass of a second set, dominating with sharp forehand angled winners, perfectly executed drop-shots and dismissive returns that contributed to a tally of 19 winners for the set against just 4 unforced errors.

She seemed to come out of her zone at the start of the decider, as a re-energised Raducanu brought up the first chances to go ahead, but 5 break points went begging in the 3rd game, 3 saved with clean Sasnovich winners.

The 19-year old, however, will rue the error she made on a make-able pass on the first.

Once Sasnovich had extricated herself from that game, she rolled to the finishing line as Raducanu fell away.

Several more sumptuous drop-shots helped her tighten her grip on the match, and Sasnovich converted her first match point with her 45th winner of the day, a backhand down the line.

Raducanu, the World No 12, who seemed to drop intensity mid-way through the encounter, admitted she needs to work on maintaining match momentum as her attentions turn to the grass court season.

“I think, before, I would let the losses kind of affect me more so than I am right now,” she said, remaining positive. “Now I just look at everything as a lesson, and I know exactly where I went wrong, where I can improve, where other people are better than me.”

The Brit was struggling with injury earlier this month as she was forced to retire from her first round match in Rome, but felt physically good after two 3-set matches.

“I’m quite happy with the progress that I’m making,” she added. “I do feel like I’m playing some pretty good tennis and on the practice court I’m definitely working.

“Certain things I’m working on on the practice court that are paying off, they don’t show immediately. There is a little time lag between when they will actually produce results on a live situation. I’m definitely getting there.”


Karolina Muchova upset the No 4 seed Maria Sakkari in the 2nd-round at Roland Garros

© Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

Later, Muchova, the Czech World No 81, downed 4th-seeded Sakkari from Greece, 7-6(5) 7-6(4), to match her run to the 3rd round from 12 months ago, and will next play 27th seed Amanda Anisimova from American, who reached the last 4 in Paris 3 years ago.

“It’s very special, she’s an amazing player,” Muchova said. “It was a big fight, a little bit of a test and challenge for me and I’m happy I took it the way I did.”

The 25-year-old reached the semi-finals at last year’s Australian Open and the last eight for the second time at Wimbledon, but is playing just her 4th tournament since the US Open after struggling with an abdominal injury.

“It’s an amazing feeling I can play again fully,” she added.

For Sakkari, the 2021 French Open semi-finalist who was considered among favourites for the French Open title, there was disappointment.

Sakkari saved 7 set points in 3 different games, before Muchova converted on her 8th opportunity in the first set tiebreak.

In the second set, Sakkari twice recovered from a break down to force another breaker, in which the two were locked to 4 points apiece before Muchova won 3 consecutive points to seal a straight-set win.

“She played an amazing match,” Sakkari said. “She always plays extremely well in Grand Slams and today she was the better player, so I have to give it to her.

“It’s disappointing, for sure, because it still, it still is my favourite tournament and I’m sad. But at the same time there were a lot of positives today because I found myself again in the court. I’m feeling good.

“I’m fighting. I’m enjoying my time on the court so I think that great things are going to happen soon.

“I knew that I wanted to do well, but things are different every year and we have seen so many upsets, and so many upsets all these years, like in tournaments of [this] level, you always have to accept that you cannot go deep every single tournament or every single big tournament.”

Last year, Sakkari made her maiden Grand Slam semi-final at Roland Garros before losing to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova.

There was bad news for Krejcikova too, who pulled out of the doubles following her 1st-round loss on Monday to French teenager Dianne Parry after having tested positive for COVID-19.

The World No 2 was the reigning French Open singles and doubles champion, and now will not be defending either of her titles.

“I was looking forward to competing in doubles very much but unfortunately my time here at [Roland Garros] got cut short,” Krejcikova wrote in Instagram. “Last night I started to feel bad and this morning I woke up with [a] fever. I decided to get tested for COVID and it came back positive. I am extremely sad that I won’t be able to defend my title in doubles here, but on the positive side, I am glad I am injury free and can’t wait to get healthy and back to training.”

She and her partner, Katerina Siniakova, the top seeds, had been scheduled to open play on Thursday against Anna Kalinskaya & Dalma Galfi.

Krejcikova was the second Czech player to test positive for the virus this week after Marie Bouzkova had to withdraw from both singles and doubles on Tuesday following a positive test.

Bouzkova was due to face Elise Mertens, the No 31 seed from Belgium, in the 2nd-round.


Daria Saville was a straight sets winner over Petra Kvitova on Wednesday

© Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Saville is only Aussie to make it into the 3rd-round after another giant upset against 2-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova after a nerveless display, 6-4 6-2.

“I actually did know I was the last Aussie standing. I don’t know why,” she laughed. “I mean that’s why I [normally] lose matches, to be honest, because I think of this stuff. But I actually did this time – and that’s not a good thing!

“Sometimes, I’m in another world – but then as long as I catch myself, I think, ‘OK, come back, you’re here, play the ball.’

“And the good thing was that I was able to concentrate again and didn’t think about it.”

Saville, who is back on the Grand Slam stage after being sidelined for 10 months last year because of an Achilles injury, delivered a performance reminiscent of her heyday when she made the world’s top-20 and was briefly the No 1 Australian.

At 32, Kvitova may not be the same force that won two titles at Wimbledon, but Saville dominated her in staggering fashion, producing 7 errors to the Czech’s 30, and was delighted with the quality of her serving in a consummate display lasting an hour-and-a-quarter.

Saville will take on Martina Trevisan in round 3 after the Italian, who won Rabat last week, continued her run of good form with a 6-3 6-3 win over Poland’s Magda Linette, the conqueror of 6th seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia.



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