PARIS, June 1, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
That quickly a week’s worth of action has sped by at the 2019 French Open. The men’s top half played their third-round matches on Saturday along with three bottom-half matches that were derailed on Friday because of inadequate light. Here is rounding up what transpired in the initial part of the day:
Stan Wawrinka, Stefanos Tsitsipas set fourth-round date, Zverev ekes out another win
The 24th seeded Swiss Wawrinka defeated Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in three hours and 16 minutes spread across two days to advance to the fourth round. Although the 2015 French Open champion won in straight sets, it was a tough win as evidenced by the fact that all three sets had to be settled in tie-breaks. Wawrinka won 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 7-6(8) with 57 winners and 60 unforced errors. Dimitrov’s count was way fewer at 36 winners and 34 winners but it was this gap – in the inability to go for broke – which determined the victor in the end.
Wawrinka will next play sixth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round. Tsitsipas, too, like Wawrinka had had his match against Serbian Filip Krajinovic postponed to Saturday because of inclement light.
In his post-match press conference, Wawrinka talked about Tsitsipas and what made him a trickier opponent to face. “He’s amazing player, for sure. Improved a lot. Winning a lot of match. He beat already the top players. So, yeah, it’s gonna be tough match, for sure. I think I never play him but practice a few times with him,” Wawrinka said.
“He’s actually, when you play against him, he has a different ball than when you watch him play. When you watch him play, you think he’s playing a little bit slower than what he’s playing in real life. He always looks like he give himself a lot of time to play. He doesn’t feel like under pressure. So playing the game well. Yeah, it’s going to be an interesting match.”
The 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist won 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(6) in three hours and 34 minutes across Friday and Saturday. Once the match resumed on Saturday, Krajinovic came across as the better player as he won the third set to keep himself afloat in the match. In the fourth set, he secured a timely break and even served for the set at 5-4 but was broken by Tsitsipas. In the fourth-set tie-break, Krajinovic ran out of luck even as Tsitsipas firmly closed the tournament’s doors on him. Tsitsipas’ win, as significant as it was on an individual basis, took even greater importance when considered he is the first player in nearly 83 years – since Lazaros Stalios in 1936 – to have made it to the second week in Paris.
When asked about accomplishing this feat and being an ambassador of tennis in his country, Tsitsipas replied, “It’s a small country. I don’t know. It’s cool. Not that we have many tennis players from Greece, but it’s cool to be the first one since 1936… Yes, that’s before Open era. Wow. Yeah, I’m proud, proud to be the first one in Open era probably, if you would call this way. I think there is more than that, in my opinion. More records to break than just this.”
In the last match that was rescheduled for Saturday, Germany’s Alexander Zverev fended off a surge from Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic to claim a 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 1-6, 6-2 win in three hours and three minutes. The fifth-seeded Zverev led by two-sets-to-love on Friday. On Saturday, when play resumed, Lajovic quickly levelled up the match before the 2018 French Open quarter-finalist found his rhythm again in the fifth set. The match – and the win – was reminiscent of Zverev’s second-round meeting with Lajovic in the 2018 event edition. However, back then, Zverev was down two-sets-to-love before tilting the match his way.
Speaking about the match in his post-match presser, Zverev said, “Yeah, I mean, obviously, I started off not so good, being a break down twice in the first set, and then I came back very well. Second set was almost perfect for me. And then I think he picked up his level, as well, in the third set. The fourth set I played, you know, I played very bad. Great to come through. Obviously he’s been somebody that has been playing very well. Made finals of Monte-Carlo. One of the best clay-court players that we had this season. It’s nice to get the win.”
Zverev will play Italy’s Fabio Fognini in the round-of-16. The ninth seed took out 18th seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(5), 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 in three hours and 10 minutes.
Novak Djokovic has it easy
The World No. 1 remained in sight of winning all four Majors at the same time as he swept past Italian qualifier Salvatore Caruso 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and four minutes. The Serbian, who won the title here in 2016, hit 25 winners to Caruso’s 15 but also had 32 unforced errors to Caruso’s 29. Djokovic awaits Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in the fourth round.
This is the 10th consecutive appearance for the 15-time Slam champion in the second week of the French Open.