Paris | Swiatek double-bagels, Rybakina pulls out and Gauff stops Andreeva

World No 1 Iga Swiatek double-bagelled her way into the Round of 16 at the French Open on Saturday, bolstered in the knowledge that her potential semi-final opponent, Elena Rybakina, had withdrawn due to illness, while Coco Gauff found her way past 16-year Mirra Andreeva and Beatrice Haddad Maia saved a match point before outpacing Ekaterina Alexandrova later in the day.

I don't want to really talk about that [bagels], because I really get why people do that, because it's fun and tennis is entertainment and everything. But, like, from players' point of view, I want to, kind of, be respectful to my opponents, and you don't see the stuff that is behind the scenes. Sometimes it's not easy to play such matches and, sometimes, it's not easy also for the opponents. Iga Swiatek

Swiatek, the defending champion, was at her supreme best against 80th-ranked Wang Xinyu, barely allowing the Chinese a look-in as she swept past her, 6-0 6-0, in just 51 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier on a sunny afternoon, notching up the 4th double-bagel of her career, and the first by any player at Roland Garros since 2017.

Of the 6 sets the 22-year old Pole has played so far at Roland Garros, 4 have been without loss, and, in all, she has dropped just 8 games through her first 3 rounds.

Remarkably, across 57 matches in 17 Grand Slam appearances in her young career, Swiatek has already won 19 sets to love, but, having lost 3 sets at majors 6-0 herself, she knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end.

“I don’t want to really talk about that, because I really get why people do that, because it’s fun and tennis is entertainment and everything,” Swiatek said when asked about the ‘Iga bagel factory’. “But, like, from players’ point of view, I want to kind of be respectful to my opponents, and you don’t see the stuff that is behind the scenes.

“Sometimes it’s not easy to play such matches and, sometimes, it’s not easy also for the opponents. I don’t want to talk about the ‘bakery’. Twitter can talk about it, but I’m just going to be focused on tennis.”

The top seed did not face a single break point and fired 21 winners to Wang’s 3, in what was the 21-year old Chinese’s first 3rd-round match at a Grand Slam.

“It was a really solid performance from me,” said Swiatek, who also won the title in 2020. “It’s not easy to stay disciplined and keep your focus. I’m pretty happy I was so disciplined and took care of everything in my tennis.”

World No 1 Iga Swiatek (L) is respectful towards Wang Xinyu after winning without dropping a single game

© Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

Swiatek remains the clear favourite as she takes another step towards becoming the first woman since Justine Henin to win back-to-back titles at Roland Garros in 2007.

Asked on court after the match if she played every point as a match point, Swiatek replied: “I don’t think, if I played every point like a match point, I’d be very good, match points are stressful.

“Honestly, every point is important for me, I think at the highest level every point matters. I know I need to use that skill later when I’m probably going to have tighter matches and really tight games. Sorry, I’m boring…” she drifted off with a laugh. “I always try to kind of be careful, because you don’t want to get lazy after winning these matches.

“It’s never easy to win these matches. But on the other hand, sometimes all your head can remember is the score, and I always want to, kind of, be ready for every situation.

“I don’t feel like it’s a problem for me, because I had many matches like that. But, kind of, also, reset from all the other stuff, and the expectations and just go to another match like it’s a new one.”

Swiatek will face Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko, who breezed past 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu for the loss of just 2 games later in the day, for a Last 8 berth.

Elena Rybakina addresses a press conference at Roland Garros Open announcing her withdrawal from the French Open due to illness

© Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

The Pole’s considerable chances of defending her title were given a boost before she even stepped on to the court when reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina withdrew from the same half of the draw.

The Russian-born Kazakh pulled out moments before she was due to play Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo after failing to overcome an illness, telling reporters she began feeling ill after her 2nd-round match, and had hoped to be able to play but struggled to sustain 10-minutes of work on the court.

“I saw the doctor and they said that actually it’s all a virus here in Paris,” Rybakina said. “I guess with my allergy, immune system just went down and I picked up something. As I said, I was not sleeping well for two days. I had fever, headache. I think you can hear [my voice] also.

“So, yeah, it’s difficult to perform and obviously to run and even breathe. So I think that was the only right decision I could make.”

A champion of two WTA 1000 events this year, including most recently on the clay in Rome 2 weeks ago, Rybakina was bidding to build on her momentum in Paris, where she was a quarter-finalist in 2021.

She did not lose a set through her first 2 rounds of the tournament, defeating Brenda Fruhvirtova and Linda Noskova, recording her 8th win in a row.

“Of course I’m really upset not be able to play, but I guess that’s life,” Rybakina said. “There is a lot of ups and downs. Today I just wanted to give 100 percent, and obviously I’m far from being 100 percent.

“Yeah, I was actually coming positive here, but as I said, you never know how you’re gonna feel. Was unlucky for me. Yeah, I just try to recover and do my best to be prepared for the grass season already.”

Beatriz Haddad Maia (L) prevailed over Ekaterina Alexandrova after saving a match point to advance to the Last 16 for the first time in Paris

© Julien De Rosa/AFP via Getty Images

As a result, Sorribes Tormo, ranked 132 in the world and playing in the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time, advances to take on Haddad Maia, the 14th seed from Brazil, for a place in the quarter-finals.

Haddad Maia is the first Brazilian to make the last 16 in Paris since 1979, and she had to battle long and hard to get there against Alexandrova, the Russian 23rd seed, whom she eventual subdued, 5-7 6-4 7-4, after 2 hours and 48 minutes on Court Simmone-Mathieu.

The 14th seed received plenty of vocal support from the stands as she emulated the 1978 and 1979 feat of Patricia Medrado.

In those days, the French Open had a 64-player draw and Medrado made the 3rd-round, while the last Brazilian woman to win 3 main-draw matches in one major tournament in the Open Era was 7-time Grand Slam champion Maria Esther Bueno, who reached the 4th-round at Wimbledon in 1976.

“There are many Brazilians here, I am very happy and grateful for the support, it is very special to be able to represent you all,” Haddad Maia said.

The 27-year-old broke into the Top 20 last year after winning back-to-back titles on grass in Nottingham and Birmingham, and reaching her first WTA 1000 final in Toronto.

On Saturday, a maiden second-week appearance was at stake for both Haddad Maia and Alexandrova, who had lost all 5 of her previous Grand Slam 3rd-round matches, and the scoreline fluctuated wildly as both fought for a long-awaited milestone win.

Alexandrova went up 5-1 in the first set, but Haddad Maia levelled at 5-5 before the Russian closed out the set anyway, only for the Brazilian to bounce back to win the second.

Haddad Maia took control early in the decider as she took a 4-1 double-break lead, only for Alexandrova to reel off 4 straight games to reach the brink of victory.

Serving 4-5 down, Haddad Maia saved a match point by finding a forehand winner after a 15-stroke rally, and, buoyed by that, essayed the final plot twist by winning the last 3 games of the contest.

Haddad Maia now is also bidding to become the first Brazilian woman to reach a major quarter-final since Bueno made the 1968 US Open semi-finals.

Haddad Maia and Sorribes Tormo have split 4 previous encounters, with Sorribes Tormo winning the most recent, 6-4 5-7 6-3, in the 1st-round of 2022 Melbourne Summer Set 2.

Coco Gauff (L) came from a set down to defeat 16-year old qualifier Mirra Andreeva at Roland Garros on Saturday

© Clive Mason/Getty Images

Earlier in the day, Gauff, the American World No 6 Gauff who was the runner-up to Swiatek last year, came back from a set down to defeat Andreeva, 6-7(5) 6-1 6-1.

Andreeva, a precocious 16-year old ranked a lowly 143, had come through qualifying and was the youngest player to make the 3rd-round since 2005.

“Mirra is super young and has a big future,” said Gauff. “I was a little undisciplined in the tiebreak, but I knew what the game plan was, so I just tried to execute that in the second and third sets.”

In the first set, Gauff had a 5-4 lead and a chance to serve out for the first set, but Andreeva got the break back and then stole the first set in a tie-break.

After dropping a very tight first set, Gauff responded impressively in the second as she earned back-to-back breaks in the 4th and 6th games to win 5 games in a row and force a decider.

In the third set, they were tied to one game apiece before Gauff won 5 games on the trot to complete her come-back win over Andreeva.

Gauff, only 19 herself, will face Anna Karolina Schmiedlova for a quarter-finals spot after the Slovakian advanced with a 6-1 6-3 win over America’s Kayla Day, another qualifier, in an hour 20 minutes.

Andreeva was fortunate to avoid a default for petulantly hitting a ball into the Court Suzanne Lenglen crowd during the first set.

“Right after I thought that it was a really stupid move from me because it was not necessary to do that,” Cannes-based Andreeva later admitted. “Yes, so that was not the best I could do and not the best. It was really bad what I did. Yes, I thought I was going to get defaulted, but he just gave me a warning.

“I was trying to play, but something didn’t work out and I’ve got disappointed, upset, and not really was thinking about the match. I was thinking about my mistakes. I went too deep in this. Yes.”

The 16-year-old Andreeva showcased an impressive performance in her maiden Grand Slam tournament, extending her 2023 record to 22-3, and achieving a significant milestone by winning a set against a Top 10 player.

Starting at No 312 in the rankings in April, Andreeva will now climb to a position near the Top 100, potentially even breaking into it, depending on the results of other players in the upcoming week.

In her post-match press conference, Andreeva revealed that her next tournament is supposed to be Wimbledon, but her participation is up in the air as her visa has yet to be approved.

“Now I’m limited, still, in tournaments, so my next tournament has to be Wimbledon,” she said. “But I don’t get my visa yet, so we will see if I can participate in Wimbledon or no, but, if not, we will just choose the tournaments and I will just maybe play some ITFs. I don’t know yet.”

The Russian takes away many positives from her run at Roland Garros, acknowledging both her successes and areas for improvement.

“I can take a lot of positive things from here. Passed quallies. I did win a couple of great matches. Yes, for sure there is a lot of positive things to take,” Mirra Andreeva said. “But, yes, and a lot of things also to take from this match. But, well, we will just continue to work. I will realise what I did wrong, and I will correct it.

“So I hope everything is gonna be okay after,” she added.



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