After Killing Time Between Match Points, Halep Finally Closes Win at Roland Garros

Simona Halep (photo: Julien Crosnier / FFT)

PARIS, May 30, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

Defending Roland Garros champion Simona Halep’s second-round match against No. 87 Magda Linette took two hours and 11 minutes to complete on Court Suzanne Lenglen Thursday night.

For the record, the No. 3 seed from Romania won 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Had it gone accordingly, Halep should have beaten her Polish opponent in one hour and 26 minutes – about 45 minutes earlier than she did – and here’s why: Ahead 6-4, 5-3, Halep went on to squander three match points – including two on her own serve in the 10th game – and lost the second set as Linette won four straight games. Finally, Halep broke Linette four times during the 32-minute third set after losing her own serve twice, and, finally, put away the match.

Halep hit 27 winners, but her 44 unforced errors allowed Linette to prolong the match. To her credit, Linette finished with 31 winners but made too many unforced errors – 42 in all – and was outpointed 111-98.

“I didn’t know what to expect, because I never played against her and I didn’t know how the ball would come. For sure, she played a great match today. The level was really high,” Halep said.

“And I just want to congratulate her, because she fought till the end. I think it’s a big thing and for her confidence it’s going to be good for the future tournaments.”

Meanwhile, Halep will to move on against either No. 76 Aleksandra Krunic of Russia or No. 27 seed Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine. Their match on Court 12, which had gone 2 hours and 25 minutes, was suspended due to darkness at 6-all in the third set after each had won a set 7-5. Krunic was up 6-5 in the final set but was unable to close the match. Instead, they will return on Friday to play their third-set tie break.

In the blink of an eye, Blinkova ousts Garcia

Russian qualifier Anna Blinkova, ranked 117th, stunned French No. 1 Caroline Garcia, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, in a match that was showcased on Court Philippe Chatrier. However, with Garcia’s defeat, for the first time since 1986 there are no French women advancing to the third round at Roland Garros.

Blinkova, who twice before has beaten a Top 20 opponent, was outpointed by the No. 24 seed Garcia 88-77 and she hit 19 fewer winners while equaling the Frenchwomen’s output in unforced errors with 28. So, how did Blinkova achieve her breakthrough, one hour and 53 minute win? Well, she came back from down 0-3 in the third, won six of the final seven games – including the last four – and Garcia promptly double-faulted away match point.

As Garcia saw it from her perspective, “It’s true that I was leading 3-0 and then 4-1, and then I didn’t score any games. Well, what happened? Nothing happened. She played the match.

“Today, things didn’t go well for me. I didn’t manage to go all the way to the end of the match with the correct level of tennis, and she won.

“Obviously, this defeat hurts because I wasn’t able to fight as I wanted on the court. Today was not my day. It wasn’t my thing. Obviously, I want to learn and continue progressing.”

Next, Blinkova will face either No. 14 seed Madison Keys of the United States or Australian wild card Priscilla Hon, which was moved off Court Simonne Mathieu to Court 7 due to the length of the previous match, between Juan Martín del Potro and Yoshihito Nishioka, which lasted five sets. After playing for one hour and 16 minutes, the Keys-Hon match was suspended shortly before 9 p.m., after the completion of the second set as darkness set in, with each owning a set. It will be completed on Friday.

Petkovic stays alive 

Andrea Petkovic reached the Roland Garros semifinals back in 2014. Playing in her 10th French Open, the unseeded and 69th-ranked German, now 31, enjoyed one of her best victories on the Paris red clay in a long time by defeating No. 25 seed Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan, 4-6, 6-3, 8-6. Ironically, Petkovic won the two hour and 24 minute match on Court 14 with a drop shot against the trick-shot artist Hsieh, who was looking to equal her best performance at Roland Garros when she reached the third round in 2017. Next, Petkovic will face No. 8 seed Ashleigh Barty, an earlier winner on Thursday, in the third round.

Around Roland Garros

• Unseeded and ranked 59th, Monica Puig from Puerto Rico advanced to the French Open third round for the third time with a 6-3, 6-1 upset of No. 21 seed Daria Kasatkina from Russia, who was a 2018 quarterfinalist. It is also the first time since Puig won the 2016 Olympic gold medal in Rio that she’s reached the third round of a Grand Slam.

Puig was solid in hitting 30 winners and keeping her unforced errors in check – just 17 – and she broke Kasatkina six times to win their one hour and 10 minute match on Court 6. She has not dropped a set in her two wins.

“Today, I thought that I played really great tennis,” said Puig, who faces unseeded Polish teen Iga Swiatek, 17, in the third round. Earlier, Swiatek upset No 16 seed Wang Qiang of China in straight sets.

Speaking of her rivalry with Kasatkina, which is now even at two wins each, Puig said, “You know, we’ve played each other on numerous occasions. It’s been really close every single time. When we practice together it’s always a battle as well.

“I went into the match knowing it wouldn’t be easy and that I had to really be on my toes and just be very aggressive and stay close to the baseline and attach when I could and just stay solid. Today was just an overall really, really solid day for me, and I’m really proud of what I did.”

• Defending champions and top seeds in doubles, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova from the Czech Republic, were upset by Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine and Abigail Spears of the United States, 6-2, 6-4, in one hour and 16 minutes.

By the numbers

Thanks to early-round upsets and withdrawals, Roland Garros will be the 21st consecutive Grand Slam that will feature at least one unseeded player in the women’s singles quarterfinals. One of among qualifier Aliona Bolsova, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Amanda Anisimova and Irina-Camelia Begu is guaranteed to reach next week’s quarterfinal round.

What they’re saying

• World No. 1 and top seed Naomi Osaka reflected on her second-round 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Victoria Azarenka, in a battle of two-time Grand Slam champions, played Thursday:

“I feel like I didn’t dip at all during this match, and she was just playing so well. I was just waiting for her to get a little bit tired. I think she did towards the end of the second set and the third set, so that’s when I just tried to really accelerate on how fast I was sort of winning the points.

“After a certain point, I don’t even look at the score. I just try to take it point by point. I have this mindset that I feel like I can win if it gets down to the wire. If I have to break a person, I feel like I have the ability to do that.

“I think this match was equal parts mental and physical. Maybe more mental. The first set was, I got rolled. I made a little bit of a comeback in the end of the first set, but technically, she kind of killed me in the first set, and I just kept trying to find a way to stay positive.”

“I want to learn how to win – like I’m kind of stubborn in that way. I want to be able to learn how to win holding immediately, and I think that that would get me off to a good start.”

• No. 8 seed Ashleigh Barty on gaining confidence from winning big points on her serve: “I was a title bit smarter with where I served on those bigger points and was able to get myself back in control. I think ultimately that’s what we’re after when you’re in the big points and the big moments is to come up with your best tennis.”

• No. 10 seed Serena Williams, who is a three-time French Open champion on her mindset for playing the Grand Slams: “I generally come to a Grand Slam to win it.”

Thursday results

Second round women’s singles
No. 15 B. Bencic, Switzerland, d. L. Siegemund, Germany, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
No. 10 S. Williams, U.S., d. Q-K. Nara, Japan, 6-3, 6-2
Q-A. Blinkova, Russia, d. No. 24 C. Garcia, France, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4
No. 1 N. Osaka, Japan, d. V. Azarenka, Belarus, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3
No. 3 S. Halep, Romania, d. M. Linette, Poland, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3
E. Alexandrova, Russia, d. S. Stosur, Australia, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4
No. 8 A. Barty, Australia, d. D. Collins, U.S., 7-5, 6-1
I. Swiatek, Poland, d. No. 16 Q. Wang, China, 6-3, 6-0
A. Petkovic, Germany, d. No. 25 S-W Hsieh, Taiwan, 4-6, 6-3, 8-6
K. Siniakova, Czech Republic, d. No. 29 M. Sakkari, Greece, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (8), 6-3
M. Puig, Puerto Rico, d. No. 21 D. Kasatkina, Russia, 6-3, 6-1
Q-A. Bolsova, Spain, d. S. Cirstea, Romania, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3)
I. Begu, Romania, d. K. Muchova, Czech Republic, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4
A. Anisimova, U.S., d. No. 11 A. Sabalenka, Belarus, 6-4, 6-2
A. Krunic, Serbia, d. No. 27 L. Tsurenko, Ukraine, suspended
No. 14 M. Keys, U.S., vs. WC-P. Hon, Australia, suspended