Denmark’s former junior World No 1 Clara Tauson took out Ekaterina Alexandrova, the top seed, at the Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon on Monday, 6-3 6-4, in 1 hour and 32 minutes.
Honestly, I felt like I played really good on my match points. I wasn't too nervous - she was just playing really deep and hitting winners. What was going through my head was that I was in the lead, and even though I had to serve it out at 5-4 after being broken and having five match points, I still felt like I was in the lead, and I was on the scoreboard. So I was just trying to keep my head calm and to remember I was in front. Clara Tauson
Alexandrova was joined at the exit door by No.6 seed Sorana Cirstea from Romania, beaten by Serbia’s unseeded Nina Stojanovic, 6-4 6-0, in an hour and 15 minutes.
Stojanovic next meets Camila Giorgi from Italy, who swept past Viktotia Kuzmova from Slovakia, 6-2 6-3.
At the age of 18, Tauson is an exciting prospect, who had already defeated the only other Top 50 player she had faced, upsetting Jennifer Brady in 3 sets in the first round of Roland Garros last year, and wanted to face one of the main draw’s top two seeds after coming though qualifying at the weekend.
Russia’s Alexandrova has won 36 of her past 44 matches dating back to October 2018, more at WTA level than any other player in that period.
“I hoped I would play either [Alexandrova] or Fiona [Ferro], because they’re two really good players,” Tauson said. “I was really happy when I learned I’d get to play her.”
Tauson, the 2019 Australian Open junior champion, overpowered Alexandrova from every corner of the court, proving more consistent and versatile with her baseline power.
She also held firm as Alexandrova attempted a last-minute comeback from 1-5 down in the second set.
Although Tauson was unable to take triple match point serving at 5-2, or double match point in the following game, the Dane ultimately fired a service winner on her 7th chance.
“Honestly, I felt like I played really good on my match points,” she said afterward. “I wasn’t too nervous – she was just playing really deep and hitting winners.
“What was going through my head was that I was in the lead, and even though I had to serve it out at 5-4 after being broken and having five match points, I still felt like I was in the lead, and I was on the scoreboard.
“So I was just trying to keep my head calm and to remember I was in front.”
Tauson has been on a hot streak since the tour resumed last August, compiling a 35-8 record in that time, and 15-3 in 2021 so far.
While playing opportunities have been fewer, she has already collected two ITF W25 titles this year, in Fujairah and Altenkirchen, and sits at a career high of World No 139 this week.
To reach her her first WTA quarter-final, Tauson must navigate past the experienced Timea Babos from Hungary, who overcame Russia’s Varvara Gracheva, 6-4 5-7 6-3, in 2 hours and 19 minutes.
Meanwhile, the No 2 seed Fiona Ferro from France was stretched to 3 sets by another qualifier, Magdalena Frech from Poland, but eventually came through the tight battle, 5-7 7-5 7-5, in just under 3 hours of play.
Elsewhere Arantxa Rus, the 8th seed from the Netherlands, recovered from a 2-5 double-break deficit in the first set to overcome Wang Xiyu, 7-6(6) 6-4, avenging a loss to the Chinese 19-year-old in the first round of Abu Dhabi two months ago.
Wang held four set points in the opening frame, but ultimately conceded it by sending a smash way over the baseline.