Paris | Schedule catch-up sees seeds tumble as Sabalenka and Rybakina sail on

There was some let-up in the Paris weather on Thursday that enabled a bumper schedule to complete the 2nd-round of the women’s draw between rain showers, including matches held over from Wednesday, much court switching, and 9 seeds being bumped out of contention over the course of a long Day 5 at the French Open.

Alcohol was allowed until now in the stands – not in all the stands – that’s over. If anyone exceeds the limit, if anyone doesn’t behave well or if anyone throws things at the players, that's it, they go out. Safety - it's very clear - the instructions are given and there will be no hesitation. Amélie Mauresmo, French Open Tournament Director

There was no such trouble, though, for Aryna Sabalenka or Elena Rybakina, the No 2 and 4 seeds, playing under the comfort of the closed roofs on Courts Philippe-Chatrier and Suzanne-Lenglen, and who advanced with straight set wins over Moyuka Uchijima and Arantxa Rus respectively.

The inclement weather again held back the start of play on the outside courts for the third consecutive day before action got into full swing for part of the afternoon.

“It’s going to be a bit tricky today,” admitted Amélie Mauresmo, the tournament director. “So we’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Sabalenka dominated Uchijima, a Japanese qualifier who was on a 14 match winning run at ITF level, 6-2 6-2, and was not broken throughout the match, although the Belarusian did have to save 4 break points.

Rybakina, the World No 4, was a 6-3 6-4 winner over Rus, the Dutchwoman who defeated 3-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in the previous round, and the Kazakh was equally clinical in taking 3 of her 4 break point chances.

Uchijima, playing in the 2nd round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, could not cope with Sabalenka’s powerful serve and groundstrokes, as the World No 2 won 6 points in a row at the start of the match, and pounced on a break point with a fierce winner before taking the first set in 29 minutes.

Wearing a somber expression during the changeover ahead of the second, Uchijima found no answers to Sabalenka’s power, but showed her variety by approaching the net and playing some telling drop-shots.

Uchijima afforded herself a smile when she got the better of the Belarusian on a long rally to make it 4-2, but Sabalenka refocused to save a break point before taking the Japanese’s serve to seal the victory.

“It was definitely fun playing all those drop-shots. Super happy with the result, and I really enjoyed playing today,” said Sabalenka, who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros last year, and has not dropped a set at a Grand Slam this year.

She next will face Paula Badosa, her close friend from Spain and her doubles partner this year in Paris.

“It’s always tough to play your friend,” Sabalenka said, “But we know how to separate court and life.”

Badosa is closing in on a return to the top 100 of the WTA Rankings after a battling 2nd-round win against Yulia Putintseva from Kazakhstan, who claimed the opening set but fell to the Spaniard’s fighting spirit, 5-7 6-1 6-4.

Once ranked as high as World No 2, Badosa fell to 139 in the rankings after repeated injury woes since the start of 2023, and has retired from 3 matches in 2024 due to a recurring back issue.

In her opener, Badosa rallied from a set down, and a break down in both the second and third sets to prevail 4-6 7-5 6-4 over Britain’s Katie Boulter.

Badosa and Sabalenka have already played twice this season, with the Belarusian first winning at the Miami Open, and then picking up a poignant victory via retirement in Stuttgart.


Elena Rybakina admitted to a lack of energy but still saw off Arantxa Rus in 2 sets on Court Suzanne-Lenglen on Day 5 at Roland Garros

© Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

Rybakina got off to a sluggish start with an early double-fault but held in the opening game against Rus.

She then fired off 3 consecutive aces from 15-30 down for a 3-2 lead, and sealed a break to take the opening set in 35 minutes.

There was little to separate the two early in the second, before the lanky Rus took advantage of mistakes by the Kazakh to break for a 4-2 lead, only to surrender 2 straight breaks of serve.

“No one wants to play three sets… so I was trying to focus, point by point, and push myself,” said Rybakina, who will next face Elise Mertens next. “Energy-wise I wasn’t that happy today with myself.”

Mertens, the No 26 seed from Belgium, was a 6-4 6-3 winner over Croatia’s Petra Martic on Court 4.

Fifth-seeded Marketa Vondrousova, the Czech reigning Wimbledon champion, overcame America’s Katie Volynets 0-6, 6-1, 6-4 to reach the 3rd round after trailing 4-1 in the second set overnight, while former French semi-finalist and 14th-seeded Madison Keys, also from the States, beat Egypt’s Mayar Sherif, 6-0 7-6(7), and No 15 Elina Svitolina from Ukraine defeated Frenchwoman Diane Parry, 6-4 7-6(3).


Olga Danilovic upset Danielle Collins in the American's last singles match at Roland Garros after a 2-hour 35-minute battle that went the full distance on Thursday

© Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Then, the seeds began to tumble out, with Denmark’s Clara Tauson producing an outstanding display of powerful hitting to upset the 2017 Roland Garros champion, Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia, 7-6(4) 4-6 6-3, out on Court 14.

Both women played at a high level, with Ostapenko losing despite striking 45 winners in the match.

Croatia’s Donna Vekic also caused an upset, knocking out the 18th seed, Marta Kostyuk, 7-5 6-4.

The Ukrainian has enjoyed a great season so far, but she struggled against the Croatian’s aggressive style, which took time away from Kostyuk from start to finish.

Olga Danilovic pulled off a stunning upset of Danielle Collins, the American 11th seed, in what proved to be the battle of the day, winning through 6-7(3) 7-5 6-4.

There were no breaks of serve in the opening set, with both giving no quarter, until Collins took control of the tiebreak and grabbed the first set.

After a series of breaks in the second, Collins got herself into a winning position at 5-3 up, but the Serbian stunned the American by roaring back, forcing a decider by reeling off 4 games in a row.

The pair exchanged a break each in the third, before Collins served to stay in the tournament at 4-5 down, and, once again, she could not find big serves when she needed them, and Danilovic broke to seal the upset win.

Collins has been on a roll since announcing she plans to hang up her rackets after a heartbreaking defeat to Iga Swiatek at the Australian Open, then going on to win back-to-back titles at the Miami Open on hard courts and the Credit One Charleston Open on green clay.

Taking her winning streak to Europe, the 2022 Australian Open finalist has lost only to Aryna Sabalenka at the Mutua Madrid Open and Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where she reached the 4th round and the semi-finals, respectively.

She had come into Paris as a dark horse contender for the title after compiling a 15-3 record on clay that helped her return to the Top 10.

The No 11 seed, though, couldn’t convert a set and break advantage against the Serbian qualifier, who took Collins to 3 sets last month in Madrid, and made her final exit from Roland Garros after 2 hours and 35 minutes on Court 10.

 


French Open Tournament Director Amélie Mauresmo has banned alcohol in the stands and unruly behaviour from the crowd

© Bertrand GuayAFP via Getty Images

On Wednesday Naomi Osaka nearly defeated top-ranked Swiatek before the Pole, who is 23 on Friday, fought her way back and then beseeched the crowd not to shout before returns and during rallies and to leave their appreciation to in-between points.

“We’re fighting our whole lives to be better and better,” she said in her on-court interview. “Sometimes it’s hard to accept that. The stakes are big. There’s a lot of money to win. Losing a few points may change a lot.”

The upshot is that spectators now will not be allowed to drink alcohol in the stands at Roland Garros after not only Swiatek, but other players too, including David Goffin, complained of issues with fans during their matches.

“Alcohol was allowed until now in the stands – not in all the stands – that’s over,” Mauresmo said. “If anyone exceeds the limit, if anyone doesn’t behave well or if anyone throws things at the players, that’s it, they go out. Safety – it’s very clear – the instructions are given and there will be no hesitation.

“First of all, we are happy that people are very enthusiastic about watching tennis, about being part of the matches, about feeling emotions and showing emotions.

“But yes, definitely there are steps that they shouldn’t go further [than]. So a few things have been put in place: first of all, the umpires really going to be even more strict to further respect to the players and respect the game. So this is something that we’re not going to tolerate, to overstep these two things. That’s for sure. So umpires have quite an important role in this matter.”

 


Liudmila Samsonova was one of the seeds to survive on Thursday, easily beating Amanda Anisimova on Court 6 at Roland Garros

© Johannes Simon/Getty Images

In other early Thursday results:

  • Liudmilla Samsonova, the No 17 seed from Russia, easily dispatched America’s Amanda Anisimova, 6-2 6-1;
  • Canadian Leylah Fernandez, the No 31 seed and former US Open finalist, saw off China’s Wang Xiyu, 6-3 6-4;
  • Czech Marie Bouzkova eased past Jana Fett from Croatia, 6-2 6-2 and will face Swiatek on Friday;
  • France’s Chloe Paquet, a wild-card into the draw, upset Katerina Siniakova, the No 32 seed, 3-6 7-6(2 7-6(6);
  • Italy’s Elisabetta Cocciaretto took down Spain’s Cristina Bucsa, 6-1 6-4;
  • Varvara Gracheva, a Russian-born Frenchwoman, defeated American Bernarda Pera, 6-1 6-3;
  • Anastasia Potapova, a Russian, dispatched Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic, 6-2 6-2;
  • Elina Avanesyan, another Russian, beat her compatriot Anna Blinkova, 6-3 6-0;
  • China’s Wang Xinyu outlasted Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova, 7-5 5-7 6-1; and
  • Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska was a 6-2 6-0 winner over another Chinese, Wang Yafan.

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