Two qualifiers, Martina Trevisan and Nadia Podoroska, continued their remarkable runs at the French Open, while Caroline Garcia upset Elise Mertens to keep the tricolour flying, and Simona Halep stamped her authority on Amanda Anisimova to advance on Friday at Roland Garros.
This year, something's changed. During the match, I’m positive. I'm not negative and I don't think about the mistakes. At the beginning of the tournament, I felt really good on court. In the first round of qualies, I had a lot of difficulties, but I felt good on court. Day by day, I got more confidence on court, and I arrived here in the fourth round of Roland Garros. Really, it's a dream, and with time, I'll realise what happened tonight. Martina Trevisan
Trevisan pulled off a thrilling, 3-set comeback win over No 20 seed Maria Sakkari from Greece in a match moved from Court Simonne Mathieu to Court 9 late in the day, saving a pair of match points on the way.
The Italian, ranked 159 in the world, secured her unlikely berth in the round of 16 berth, 1-6 7-6(6) 6-3.
After losing the opening set in under 30 minutes, Trevisan built a 5-2, double-break lead for herself in the second, but later needed to save a pair of match points in the tiebreak to ultimately win the match.
“I’m so tired right now but I’m really happy. I’m living in a dream and I don’t want this dream to finish,” Trevisan said after the match. “Maybe I will realise tonight what happened tonight on Court 9 at Roland Garros.”
From 5-2 down, Sakkari won 4 straight games, saving 2 set points in the process, but much as she did in her second-round victory against American teenager Coco Gauff, the left-handed Italian found her best form with her back against the wall.
Two points from a straight-sets defeat in the 12th game, the 26-year-old forced a tiebreak and ultimately rallied from 4-1 and 6-4 deficits to force a decider from the brink.
After losing serve to start the final set, Trevisan again put together a string of games, winning 4 straight to clinch a lead she never relinquished.
Crucially, the qualifier earned a stunning hold of serve for 5-2 despite facing a 0-40 deficit, and sealed the 2 hour and 39-minute victory on her 3rd match point.
Trevisan ultimately out-steadied the Greek in the gruelling baseline rallies, as Sakkari produced 48 unforced errors to 24 winners in the match, while the Italian defended her left-handed serve quite well, saving 11 of 20 break points against her, including 4-of-5 in the final set.
“I knew that with my forehand, backhand, volley and serve, I don’t have problems on court. I worked a lot on my mental position on court. I think my work on this mental position paid off during this Roland Garros,” Trevisan said.
“I think the key is the mentality, the mentality to never give up on every point. Maybe last year my thoughts during the match was ‘Oh my God, I lost another point. I lost another chance.’ I didn’t think in the future. ‘Okay, I lost this point, come on, there is another one.
“This year, something’s changed. During the match, I’m positive. I’m not negative and I don’t think about the mistakes.”
After scoring her first 3 tour-level victories over Top 100 opposition, the 26-year-old will next bid for her biggest upset of them all as she takes on No 5 seed Kiki Bertens, who had an easy passage past Katarina Siniakova, 6-2 6-2.
“At the beginning of the tournament, I felt really good on court. In the first round of qualies, I had a lot of difficulties, but I felt good on court,” Trevisan said.
“Day by day, I got more confidence on court, and I arrived here in the fourth round of Roland Garros. Really, it’s a dream, and with time, I’ll realise what happened tonight.
“I don’t think about Bertens right now, but I will tomorrow. I already played with her last year or two years ago… so I will prepare for my match as today, yesterday and the past days. I’ll try to be at my best.”
Podoroska flies the Argentine flag
With the support of Gabriela Sabatini from afar on social media, Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska is producing the best French Open run by a woman from her country since Gisela Dulko in 2011, reaching the 4th round with an emphatic 6-3 6-2 win over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova from Slovakia.
The career-best Grand Slam result is the latest milestone in a meteoric rise for the 23-year-old from Rosario over the past 2 years, in which she has skyrocketed from outside the Top 300 to her current perch at 131, with her ranking now projected to rise into the Top 100 after Paris.
Last summer, the Argentine won the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, all but assuring herself a place at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 provided she maintains a ranking within the Top 300, and the form that took her to a pair of titles on the ITF World Tennis Tour last year continued well into 2020.
Podoroska started the season on a 14-match winning streak with two more ITF trophies, and upon the tour’s resumption in August, proved she was not slowed down by the nearly 6-month hiatus as a result of COVID-19.
After qualifying for the main draw at the Palermo Ladies’ Open, where she was beaten by eventual champion Fiona Ferro, Podoroska later reached the semi-finals of Prague and won the ITF event in Saint-Malo, France, during the week prior to Roland Garros qualifying.
Including ITF, Fed Cup and qualifying matches, Podoroska now boasts a sparkling 41-6 win-loss record this season after 6 further victories here in Paris on the clay.
“It’s like a dream come true. It’s been an amazing tournament for me. I didn’t expect this result, so I’m very happy,” Podoroska said after beating Schmiedlova in straight sets.
“It’s nice to be here in the big tournaments. It’s what we always want, where we always want to be. It’s been a special week but I am playing tennis, so it’s same here or in another tournament.
“During the last few months, I felt more sure about my game. During the quarantine, I improved a lot. I spent time with my coaches training for three months, and I knew that I have been improving my game.
“Fortunately, I did that on the tournaments, so I think it’s a process.”
Podoroska now has the opportunity to play for a quarter-final berth against World No 117 Barbora Krejcikova, who outlasted Russia’s Tsvetana Pironkova, 5-7 6-4 6-3, and then dedicated the win to Jana Novotna on what would have been the Czech’s 52nd birthday, saying ‘she would be really happy’.
Krejcikova was coached and mentored by the Wimbledon champion and fellow Brno native earlier in her career in a partnership that began in 2014, before Novotna died from cancer in 2017.
A former doubles World No 1, Krejcikova has 4 Grand Slam titles to her name between women’s and mixed doubles, but has only previously played 2 singles major main draws prior to earning direct entry this year in Paris.
After losing the opening set despite having an early break lead, the 24-year-old earned her hard-fought victory out on Court 7 in 2 hours and 38 minutes, never losing serve across the 2nd and 3rd sets.
“I think it was a really tough match, really difficult match, really up and down. I lost the first set. The conditions were really, really difficult,” Krejcikova told reporters after the victory. “I was just enjoying being out there, enjoying playing.
“First time third round of a Grand Slam. I was fighting for every ball, trying to do my best to win the match. At the end, I got very lucky and I won. I’m very, very happy.
“It was very emotional for me, very special that I could win this match today.”
Garcia upsets Mertens
France’s Caroline Garcia is delighting home audiences with her run into the second week of Roland Garros as she prevailed in an enthralling 1-6 6-4 7-5 clash with the supremely consistent Elise Mertens on Chatrier.
The World No 45 was a quarter-finalist on the Parisian clay back in 2017, and is eager to rewrite her Roland-Garros history.
“I think I have learned a lot since these times, but also when you’re younger you think less, you learn from both situations,” reflected Garcia, who eventually converted her 6th match point in tense but top-level exchanges.
“I think I played some good tennis so far in this French Open. It’s not always great scenario, but I fight until the end, and step by step. Now I’m in the second week, and I had some good three matches.
“I’m curious to see how it goes against Elina Svitolina, who is a very solid player and in full confidence now.
“So I don’t know if I’m as good or better or whatever from 2017, but I’m just the Caroline Garcia of now, 2020.”
The 26-year-old, featuring in her 10th consecutive Roland-Garros main draw, was hauled over the line by the raucous, ardent support from the lucky spectators able to join on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Missing the usual packed stands at Roland-Garros, with ‘Allez les Bleus,’ ringing around, Garcia is grateful that the limited crowd made their voices heard at this unique edition of her home major.
“For sure it was a great feeling out there, and especially the match was a big fight in the second and third sets,” explained the French favourite, who takes on the third seed in the fourth round.
“To be able to live this kind of moment, first of all, because we didn’t know what was going to happen, to be able to play Roland-Garros, it’s a great feeling, and to have some crowd to be able to share it with, it’s even more special, especially as they were really cheering for me. I will never forget that.”
Anett Kontaveit and Mertens have presented two world-class challenges, players who have been tallying up the victories since the restart, further boosting Garcia’s morale.
“Yeah, for sure they played a lot of matches, winning a lot of matches since beginning of the year and since we started again, as well,” mused Garcia, who struck 18 forehand winners en route to victory and canvassed the net with an 18/28 success rate.
“I played some good tennis in the US I think, and I lost against a good player like Victoria Azarenka and Jennifer Brady, so after, when I came back on clay was not as great, but I kept working.
“I think everything is possible. I can do some good damage with my forehand and with my serve, and I train a lot on clay courts before the U.S. swing, and I think I’m more confident on this surface now,” added Garcia, who trained at the Rafael Nadal Academy during the tour’s hiatus and ahead of the tournaments in New York.
“I must enjoy the moment as well. I mean, the court is amazing and brand new, so brand-new memories.”
Svitolina, the No 3 seed, booked a place in the round of 16 for the first time in 3 years with a straight-sets victory over No 27 seed Ekaterina , 6-4 7-5.
The Ukrainian was broken just once over the course of a first-ever encounter, while her counterpunching tennis stayed strong in the face of 25 winners from the Russian, nearly triple her own total.
“It was not an easy match. Going into the match, I knew that she would strike the ball really hard and flat, so I really had to adjust quickly with my feet,” Svitolina said on-court after the match.
“It was very important to just stay focused for every single point, try to dig deep and run for every single ball.”
After Svitolina saved a break point in the first game of the match, neither player faced another in the opener until the Ukrainian broke to love, courtesy of 4 errors from the Russian’s racket, to seal a one-set lead.
In the second, the pair traded breaks across the first 2 games and saved 6 further break points combined from then on before Svitolina sealed the match just short of a tiebreak.
Halep demolishes Anisimova
Tope seed Simona Halep made quick work of teenage American Amanda Anisimova, sending a message to fellow title contenders as she scampered across the red clay of Court Philippe Chatrier into the second week of Pari with a routine 6-0 6-1 win in just 54 minutes.
The Roland-Garros favourite brilliantly exorcised a past demon, demolishing the 19-year-old, who was a surprise semi-finalist last year and dispatched Halep in the quarters in straight sets.
“I knew it’s really important to hold my serve at the beginning, because as I said, she’s a very difficult opponent and she’s very strong with the shots,” Halep said. “So it was really important to stay there for every ball.”
Halep stretches her career-best winning streak, which dates back to her title run in Dubai in February, to 17 matches, having won all 6 three-setters she has played and also taken all 4 tiebreaks contested during the run.
The Romanian broke Anisimova’s serve in the first game of the contest and then proceeded to save 5 break points to consolidate in the 2nd game.
It set the tone as she chased down every ball, executed perfectly-placed drop-shots and passed the American at the net, plus she served well throughout.
Anisimova stormed through each of her first two rounds in under an hour and dropped just 4 games collectively ahead of her showdown with Halep, but Friday was not her day.
“It’s been one of the worst matches I have played in a while,” she said. “I was just making mistakes all over the place. You know, it’s a great experience and I’ll definitely learn from it.”
Anisimova, who has reached the third round at her past two majors, said she just wanted to put the defeat behind her and look forward to next season.
“I like playing on slow surfaces,” she said. “I enjoy playing here, so I don’t really know. I just really couldn’t get into my own game today, and that was my biggest issue.
“It’s really disappointing, but I’m motivated to go back and practise, and I’m looking forward to next year.”
The Romanian came up with the perfect way to neutralise the American’s bristling baseline game by going on the attack from the get-go.
“I took the game in my hands,” Halep said when asked what she liked most about her performance. “Last year I was very far from the court, and I played fairly short so she could play her game.
“When she has time and she has the ball in the right position, she is very, very dangerous and she plays great. So today I think I did a great job changing a little bit the tactic.”
Halep’s next opponent is Iga Swiatek, who swept aside Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, 6-3 6-2.
The 19-year old Pole hit 30 winners and made just 15 unforced errors as she progressed to the 4th round for the second year in a row.
On a cold and heavy lunchtime, Swiatek impressed with the quality of her ball-striking and variety of play throughout the 1-hour 15-minute encounter, claiming the first set thanks to a trio of breaks before going on to dominate the second after an early wobble.