PARIS, May 31, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Garbiñe Muguruza is a familiar name and face around Roland Garros — especially during the second week of the Parisian fortnight. After all, she lifted the Suzanne Lenglen Cup after beating Serena Williams in the 2016 final. Upon eliminating No. 9 seed Elina Svitolina on Friday afternoon, 6-3, 6-3, it meant that the 19th-seeded Spaniard had reached the fourth round or better for the sixth consecutive year. And, just as important, it moved Muguruza one round closer to winning her second French Open crown, which would be her third Grand Slam title.
“I am very pleased about this match,” Muguruza said. “We played many times, and the last times she has beaten me. So I was looking forward for another match, another match against a top player. Very happy about the win.”
Muguruza is a perfect 6-0 in third-round matches at Roland Garros, and her 88-minute triumph over Svitolina from the Ukraine – despite being only her second one in seven head-to-head meetings – was a beauty. She hit 23 winners to just 11 for Svitolina, controlled the net, and broke her opponent’s serve seven times. Muguruza won the last four games of the match to move into the second week.
“I feel very good in this tournament,” said Muguruza, when asked during her post-match press conference to describe her feelings. “I have always loved it since I was a little girl. I also love the clay court. I don’t know what it is about French Open that gives me always, like, a nice mood and my tennis develops much better.”
Next, Muguruza will meet No. 7 seed Sloane Stephens of the United States, last year’s Roland Garros finalist and now the highest remaining seed in the lower half of the draw. On Friday evening, Stephens beat unheralded No. 71 Polona Hercog of Slovenia, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, in two hours and 32 minutes. It paved the way for her sixth straight second-week appearance at Roland Garros. She did it the hard way by throwing away four match points in the second set.
Not the best showing of tennis – there were 99 unforced errors between Stephens (43) and Hercog (56) – but the American, who advanced to the fourth round each year from 2012 to 2015, plus made the finals last year, remained undefeated against Hercog in four meetings.
“Overall, a little bumpy but happy to be through,” said a relieved Stephens afterward. “Obviously, playing a good player, third round of a slam. She obviously was going for it. Yeah, just happy to be through.”
Looking ahead to facing Muguruza in the fourth round, Stephens said, “I think it will be a good match. Obviously, she’s played well here; she won. I think she’s playing well, I’m playing well.
“You’re playing for a spot in the quarters of a slam. Just gotta leave everything out there and see what happens.”
Around Roland Garros
• No. 26 seed Johanna Konta easily defeated No. 46 Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-1, in just 54 minutes. It advanced the Briton to the second week at Roland Garros for the first time after having gone 0-4 in the French Open main draw prior this year. She improved to 6-0 in Grand Slam third-round matches with her win over Kuzmova. Next, Konta will face No. 23 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia, who upset No. 15 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, 6-4, 6-1. Konta and Vekic have faced each other six times and each has three wins. This will be their first meeting on clay.
• Kaia Kanepi of Estonia is a former Top 20 player, who has reached six Grand Slam quarterfinals in her career, including twice at Roland Garros. She rebounded in her third-round match against No. 68 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and won 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 in one hour and 51 minutes. Next, the No. 88 Kanepi will face No. 31 seed Petra Martic of Croatia, who knocked out World No. 2 and second seed Karolina Pliskova earlier Friday, 6-3, 6-3.
What they’re saying
• World No. 1 Naomi Osaka on playing with confidence: “After a certain point, I don’t even look at the score. I just to take it point by point. I have this mindset that I feel like I can win if it gets down to the wire, like, if I have to break a person. I feel like I have the ability to do that.”
• No. 31 seed Petra Martic, who upset World No. 2 Karolina Pliskova to reach the fourth round: “I don’t know if Roland Garros has special relationship with me, but I have it with Roland Garros. I really love this tournament. I love this surface. I really feel great here, and I hope for the first time I’ll be able to make the step further.
“I just go from one match to another, and, since I came back, I stopped looking at the draw. I just know my next opponent, and that’s it.
“I think that’s the only way you can kind of keep your focus and keep your calm and perform.”
What they’re writing
Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, in “For French Open competitors, red clay dust comes free. So does the laundry.” writes: “The French Open’s red clay is so iconic that boutiques on the tournament grounds sell souvenir vials of it – actually, finely ground red brick – in commemorative cylinders for 20 euros apiece (roughly $23). But for generations of tennis pros who have competed on the world’s most famed clay courts, it’s impossible not to end up coated in the red-brick dust for free after two or three hours spent sweating, slipping and sliding from one corner of the court to another. And this, for decades, has made the question of laundry at the French Open a pressing concern.”
Third round women’s singles
No. 31 P. Martic, Croatia, d. No. 2. K.A. Pliskova, Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-3
No. 19 G. Muguruza, Spain, d. No. 9 E. Svitolina, Ukraine, 6-3, 6-3
No. 12 A. Sevastova, Latvia, d. No. 20 E. Mertens, Belgium, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 11-9
No. 7 S. Stephens, U.S., d. P. Hercog, Slovenia, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
M. Vondrousova, Czech Republic, d. C. Suárez Navarro, 6-4, 6-4
No. 23 D. Vekic, Croatia, d. No. 15 B. Bencic, Switzerland, 6-4, 6-1
K. Kanepi, Estonia, d. V. Kudermetova, Russia, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0
No. 26 J. Konta, Great Britain, d. V Kuzmova, Slovakia, 6-2, 6-1
Second round women’s singles
No. 14 M. Keys, U.S., d. WC-P. Hon, Australia, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3
No. 27 L. Tsurenko, Ukraine, d. A. Krunic, Serbia, 5-7, 7-5, 11-9