Top Seed Halep Sprints To Roland Garros Quarterfinals

Simona Halep (photo: Roland Garros)

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

Top-seeded Simona Halep dropped just three games during her 59-minute fourth-round route of Belgian Elise Mertens at the French Open on Monday afternoon. As she moves closer to achieving her first Grand Slam title, the World No. 1 from Romania is gaining momentum and playing with a purpose.

Halep defeated Mertens, 6-2, 6-1, on Court Philippe Chatrier, by controlling her match from beginning to end. She hit 16 winners, converted six of nine break-point opportunities and outpointed Mertens 61-37.

It marked the 11th time Halep has reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam and the third time she’s reached the French Open quarterfinals. Next, she faces No. 12 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, a two-time Grand Slam winner, who needed five match points to beat No. 7 Caroline Garcia of France, 6-2, 6-3.

In an on-court interview with Tennis Channel’s Chanda Rubin after her match, Halep said she thought she played her best match of the fortnight. “The first four games at the beginning were very important, and when I took the lead 3-1, I felt more confident and more relaxed,” she said.

“I’m trying to enjoy my time (on court) and not think too much. I’m on court just to play each match. If I win, then I prepare for the next one. I’m trying to stay relaxed.”

Since dropping the first set of her first-round match against Aliskon Riske of the United States, Halep has won eight straight sets and dropped just 14 games in her four matches.

Meanwhile, No. 14 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia is through to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal after she ousted No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, 7-6 (5), 6-3, in a match that was suspended because of darkness on Sunday. When play resumed Monday afternoon tied 3-3 in the second set on Court Phillipe Chatrier, the 21-year-old Kasatkina wasted little time and won three consecutive games to defeat the Australian Open champion. It’s the third time this year that she’s beaten Wozniacki – and she hasn’t dropped a set against her.

“I’m really happy,” said Kasatkina after her win. “It’s something like a dream come true to play on this court.” 

Kasatkina’s quarterfinal opponent will be reigning U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens of the United States. The other quarterfinal in the bottom half of the draw matches No. 13 seed Madison Keys of the United States against Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan. It guarantees a first-time French Open finalist from among this quartet on Saturday.

Serena withdraws from Roland Garros

In a developing story that broke just before she was due to face Maria Sharapova in a fourth-round match on Court Philippe Chatrier, Serena Williams pulled out of Roland Garros with an arm injury. Williams cited an issue with her right pectoral muscle as the reason she decided to withdraw. The 23-time Grand Slam champion was making her first appearance in a major since winning the 2017 Australian Open following the birth of her daughter last September.

“I unfortunately have been having some issue with my pec (pectoral) muscle,” said Williams during a press conference that took place shortly before she was to have played Sharapova. “Right now, I can’t actually serve, so it’s hard to play. I can’t physically serve.

“It’s very difficult because I love playing Maria. Her game matches so well against mine.” 

Williams owns a 19-2 career head-to-head win-loss record against Sharapova.

“I’m beyond disappointed. I gave up so much – time with my daughter, time with my family. I put everything on the court all for this moment. So, it’s really difficult to be in the situation.”

Williams won all three of her singles matches and she also played doubles with her older sister Venus.

Diego beats Goliath

No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman earned his first French Open quarterfinal berth the hard way. The diminutive Argentine spotted No. 6 seed Kevin Anderson a two sets-to-none lead and the South African served for the match in both the third and fourth sets. However, Schwartman, all 5-feet-7-inches of him, came back to win three consecutive sets and served a perfect ace up the ‘T’ on match point to win the three hour and 51 minute thriller over Anderson, 1-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (0), 6-2, on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Before the match, Anderson had noted that Schwartzman was “one of the best returners, movers and fighters in the game,” and Schwartzman proved him right. Schwartzman hit 31 winners and won 47 percent of his return-point opportunities. He withstood 19 service aces and 69 winners by the 6-foot-8-inch Anderson.

Nadal fends off Marterer

Top seed Rafael Nadal won his 900th tour-level match and ended the Roland Garros debutant run of 22-year-old Maximilian Marterer in the fourth round, 6-3, 6-2 7-6 (4). The 10-time French Open champion Nadal got off to a shaky start against the young German left-hander in the opening set, but bounced back. His straight-set victory extended his Roland Garros consecutive sets won streak to 37. By advancing to the quarterfinals, Nadal equals the record of 12 Roland Garros quarterfinals first set by Novak Djokovic.

News and noteworthy

According to L’Equipe, the French sports daily, there are only two candidates to succeed Yannick Noah, who is stepping down as French Davis Cup captain at the end of the season: Michael Llorda and Amelie Mauresmo, both ex-players. If Mauresmo is selected, she would become France’s first female Davis Cup captain.