Defending champion Iga Swiatek came from behind to overcome a spirited challenge from Anett Kontaveit at the French Open on Saturday, while Sofia Kenin rallied from a set down to see off Jessica Pegula, but Elina Svitolina became the 7th top 10 player to depart Roland Garros after losing to Sloane Stephens.
I've worked hard on my fitness and my game the past few weeks, so I feel like it's obviously improving. Of course, the more matches that I'm playing, more confidence I'm getting. “Of course, I'm happy that it's clicking during French Open. I'm not going to complain about that. Sofia Kenin
The two players who played for last year’s title both overcame tough challengers, who severely tested their resolve and skills.
Kenin, the highest seed standing at No 4, rallied for a 4-6 6-1 6-4 victory over the 28th-seeded Pegula, a fellow American, for a berth in the fourth round for the third year running while, later in the day on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Swiatek, the 8th seed, was tested early but rolled over 30th-seeded Kontaveit, 7-6(4) 6-0, to take her winning streak of consecutive sets won in Paris to 20.
“I was obviously really happy,” said Kenin. “It was a tough match. It was a lot of ups and downs, emotions, I’m just really happy with the way I’m playing.
“Of course, being in the fourth [round] of a Slam is obviously really nice and special, so towards the end it was more emotions.
“I have great memories from here. I obviously cannot live on that. I have to try to move on.
“In terms of that, I just take one match at a time I’m playing. And of course those memories will always be with me. I just think I need to lock in and put that aside. That was last year. Try to make some new memories this year.”
Kenin surrendered a 3-0 lead to lose the opening set, when Pegula won 6 of the next 7 games to build a one-set lead, but she responded in fine style to turn the match around at the start of the second.
Racking up 18 winners, Kenin offered 16 unforced errors in the first set, while Pegula totalled 10 less of each, and the higher-ranked American struggled on serve, broken 3 times and serving up 5 double-faults.
While Pegula pressured Kenin to deuce in the first game of the second set, she was unable to break, and soon found herself trailing 4-0 thanks to a pair of marathon service games that did not go her way.
Trading breaks to start the decider, Kenin’s second one gave her a 2-1 lead that she never relinquished and, although she had to save a break point in the 6th game and was pushed to 30-30 in the eighth, she served it out at the finish.
With a staggering 48 winners over the course of the1 hour 56 minute match, Kenin served up 6 aces, won 65 percent of her first-serve points, and broke Pegula 7 times.
It was Kenin’s second 3-setter of the tournament, after 5 of her 7 matches in Paris last year also went the distance.
“I’ve worked hard on my fitness and my game the past few weeks, so I feel like it’s obviously improving,” Kenin added. “Of course, the more matches that I’m playing, more confidence I’m getting.
“Of course, I’m happy that it’s clicking during French Open. I’m not going to complain about that.
“In terms of how I’m playing now, I mean, compared to this whole year and since last year[‘s] French, I feel like it’s some good tennis.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing. Of course it gives me confidence. I’m finally not on a one-match winning streak. Because this whole year, it was like the second time I won two matches in a row.”
Kenin will next face No 17 seed Maria Sakkari as she bids for her third career Grand Slam quarter-final.
To reach the fourth round in Paris for the first time, Sakkari, the 17th seed, upset No 14 seed Elise Mertens in a 2 hour 52-minute marathon, 7-5 6-7(2) 6-2, later in the day.
The two had faced off many times at all levels of professional tennis dating back to 2014, from ITF Challengers to, now, Grand Slam main draws and while the Belgian held the slight 4-3 edge coming into their match, the Greek had won their only previous battle on clay.
And she came through again on Court Simonne Mathieu to tie up their head-to-head at 4 wins apiece, firing an astounding 53 winners, which was 22 more than Mertens, to collect her win and reach the second week of a major for the third time in her career.
Taking on Kenin in the round of 16, Sakkari said: “[Kenin] played the final here last year, so she’s playing good here, for sure. You know, you don’t get easy opponents in these rounds of a Slam.”
Swiatek was second up on Court Philippe-Chatrier and needed all her guile to secure the tightest of openers against Kontaveit, against whom she had previously lost twice before.
After losing 10 of the first 12 points of the match, the Pole rallied from a break down in the high quality opener that saw the Estonian strike 23 winners and 11 unforced errors, with Swiatek totalling 13 and 11, respectively over the 57 minutes.
“I think I had a late start because, not looking at the first games but overall at first set, it was game by game,” Swiatek said after the match. “So if I wouldn’t have got broken in the first game, I think it would just look differently, the score.
“But I’m really happy that I was consistent, and in tiebreak I could lead pretty easily.
“But in the second set, Anett made more mistakes because I guess that she was staying pretty risky, and in the second set her shots… sometimes, she just made a lot more mistakes.
“I think that was a good choice for me to do, just step back a little bit and react quicker because she was playing pretty fast from the beginning.
“Sometimes, I had problems with seeing where she’s going to play, but it wasn’t as hard later.”
By the end of the 82-minute affair, Kontaveit had 32 winners and 23 unforced to Swiatek’s 21 winners and 12 errors.
After pocketing the first set in the tiebreak, the 20-year old delivered a bagel to claim her 10th straight victory at the French Open, and next faces 18-year-old Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, who became the youngest woman from her country to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam after a comfortable 6-1 6-2 win over Russian Varvara Gracheva.