Roland Garros: Nadal Remains Flawless In Paris

PARIS/STARNBERG, October 2, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)

Rafael Nadal continues his quest for a 20th major singles title – aiming to match Roger Federer’s record – following a hazard-free 6-1, 6-4, 6-0 win over 28-year-old Italian Stefano Travaglia in just 95 minutes at Roland Garros on Friday.

Just as in his second-round match, Nadal did not allow his opponent a single break point on his serve. The 12-time Paris champion won 79 per cent of his first-service points and averaged a total of just four unforced errors per set. Furthermore, Nadal proved his outstanding net-skills once again, being able to earn 19 out of 23 points at the net.

“The score is because I did a lot of things well,” said Nadal. “I played more aggressive than the previous days so I am very happy for that. I went to the net more often and I hit quite a lot of winners, my serve is working better. So let’s see. I need to keep going and hope to keep improving with every single day.”

The 34-year-old Spaniard is yet to lose a set and will next face 20-year-old Sebastian Korda, son of 1992 runner-up Petr Korda, who eased past Spanish clay-court specialist Pedro Martinez Portero 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

In his press conference, Korda said he could not be any happier to encounter Nadal in the fourth round. “He’s my biggest idol. Everything he does is perfect. Just watching him play, unbelievable competitor. Whenever I’m on court, I try to be like him. I even named my cat after him, so that explains a lot how much I love him.”

Hugo Gaston stuns Stan Wawrinka

The upset of the day was caused by 20-year-old French wild card Hugo Gaston, who managed to overcome three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 in three hours and 11 minutes. With his win, Gaston has become the lowest-ranked Frenchman in the round 16 of Roland Garros since Arnaud Di Pasquale in 2002.

The match had been suspended due to rain for two hours and 25 minutes at 2-2 in the third set, but Gaston did not lose his momentum after the break, as he remained fearless, relentless  –  and above all – never started a massive series of unforced errors to gift back any momentum.

“I tried to play my game, but I didn’t know I could do it – until I won,” said 5’8″ Gaston, in an on-court interview with Cedric Pioline. “Every time I go on court I try to concentrate and play my game. I am grateful of the support I had and in two days’ time I will play [Dominic] Thiem. I have nothing to lose.”

Gaston produced 35 winners, secured himself 21 break points in total and won 76 per-cent of his own service games. Prior to Paris, Gaston had not won a single tour-level match.

As mentioned in his on-court interview, Gaston’s work will not become any easier, as he opposes title contender Dominic Thiem in the next round.

The No. 3 seed from Austria remained trouble-free in his third-round match against in-form Casper Ruud, which at the first glance looked very promising on paper, but ended in a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 victory for the reigning US Open champion. Thiem now holds a 19-5 record in 2020.

“I’m very happy and it was a great match,” said Thiem in an on-court interview. “I didn’t make many mistakes, it was a very good match. Casper is a very good player and we had some nice rallies. He has a lot of confidence after semi-final runs in Rome and Hamburg, and had a very good attitude from beginning to the end. I didn’t want to give him any chances in the third set.”

Halep takes revenge over Anisimova

On the women’s side, Simona Halep took brutal revenge on Friday, easing past No. 25 seed Amanda Anisimova, against whom she lost in the quarterfinals in Paris last year, 6-0, 6-1 in under an hour to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros.

While the young American prospect has been extremely error-prone today, No. 1 seed Halep remained almost flawless from the baseline, hitting just seven unforced errors during the whole encounter.

“I took the game in my hands. 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,” said the two-time Romanian major champion in her press conference afterwards.

Next, Halep will face another young prospect with 19-year-old Iga Swiatek, who fired past 30 winners in her 6-3, 6-2 straight-set win over former No. 5 Eugenie Bouchard.

Following her loss, 2014 Roland Garros semifinalist Bouchard, who received a wild card for the main draw, had a lot of good words left for the strong game of her opponent.

“I felt like I played a very good opponent. She was putting pressure on me from the beginning. So I tried to counter that and tried to put pressure back, but I was missing my shots by small margins and making some mistakes I haven’t really made in recent matches.”

Seeded players in action

Former world No. 4 Caroline Garcia fought back from an erratic first set to upset No. 16 seed Elise Mertens 1-6, 6-4, 7-5 after two hours and 15 minutes. On her way to success, Garcia hit 38 winners and effectively converted four of her six break points. It is the third time in her career that the 26-year-old Frenchwoman managed to get past the first week in Paris, still trying to overtrump her career peak achievement of reaching the quarterfinals in the singles competition back in 2017.

“The first set she was really playing good tennis, really playing every shot. Was a good one, and she was a little bit — you can feel she was like fully confident and I was not really in the match. My legs was a little bit slow and I was going a little bit too much for my shots,” she said.

“One point at a time it got better and better. You know, after it got good tennis I think from both, and I was more aggressive with my forehand. I started to serve very well.”

Next up for Garcia will be World No. 5 Elina Svitolina, who secured the first win of the day on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, beating No. 27 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-4, 7-5.

Garcia and Svitolina already met four times on the main tour with Garcia leading their head-to-head series by 3-1. Their latest meeting was played on indoor clay in Stuttgart, where Garcia prevailed in close three sets back in 2018.

Contrary to his second-round marathon match, sixth seed Alexander Zverev had just little struggle today on his way to a seasoned 6-1, 7-5, 6-3 victory over 2018 French Open semifinalist Marco Cecchinato. Zverev was dominant on serve, losing just seven points when landing the first serve. Additionally, the 23-year-old German only allowed his Italian opponent two break point opportunities during the course of the entire match.

Next, Zverev will face reigning #NextGen ATP champion Jannik Sinner, who became the first player born in 2001 to reach the fourth round of a major after a straight-set win over Argentinian Federico Coria.

“Today was very difficult, I’ve never played against him. The court was very slow because it was raining, rain delay quite long and the balls were heavy, so you had to be hitting it with motivation, but, you know, I wanted to win in three sets, but it’s never easy against him, he is a very good player, especially on clay.”

En-route to his maiden fourth-round major appearance, Sinner hit 44 winners and was able to break his opponent’s serve seven times. The 19-year-old Italian has not dropped a single set yet during the proceedings of the tournaments.

Finally, No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman had to save six set points in the opening set before eventually earning a 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-3 victory over 30-year-old Slovak Norbert Gombos, who is on the verge of returning to the top 100 for the first time 2017 thanks to his success in Paris.