Absolutely Thrashing, Halep Gains Revenge At Roland Garros

WASHINGTON, October 3, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The best revenge is massive success and that’s what World No. 2 and French Open top seed Simona Halep is enjoying at Roland Garros.

On Friday, Halep delivered a knock-out punch to 2019 Roland Garros semifinalist Amanda Anisimova that mercifully lasted only 54 minutes. In that time, Halep won 6-0, 6-1 to move into the second week of play where she will take on 19-year-old rising star Iga Swiatek of Poland, who ended the run of Canadian wild card Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-2.

The victory was a career-best 17th straight for Halep going back to her title run in Dubai last February before the coronavirus pandemic stopped competition for five months and has continued with back-to-back championships at Prague and Rome. She improved her career record in Grand Slam third-round matches to 18-3 with her comprehensive triumph against Anisimova, who had dropped just four games in her first two matches earlier this week.

Halep scored on 77 percent of her first serves, hit 15 winners and made just seven unforced errors. She broke the 25th seed Anisimova’s serve six times while not surrendering any service breaks. The 19-year-old American hit 18 winners and committed 32 unforced errors. Halep outpointed Anisimova 60-34. It was a complete reversal of last year’s meeting, when Anisimova eliminated Halep in the quarterfinal round, 6-2, 6-4, en route to a semifinal performance.

During an on-court interview with Tennis Channel‘s Jon Wertheim shortly after her win, Halep was asked what she was most proud of from her victory against Anisimova. She said: “My game. I played much better than last year. I knew I had to change some things. Today went really well. I was confident and I knew I could play good tennis, so I did it and I’m thankful with the match I played. 

“When I lost [last year’s match], I went back and analyzed it and checked what I did wrong, so I could do better the next time I played against her.

“The plan was perfect and I felt motivated to show myself I could win this match.”

Going into the second week, the Romanian has lost just 12 games in her first three matches. Asked if she’s playing as well as her score lines suggest, Halep smiled at the question. She answered: “I feel confident … I’m feeling the ball. … I like being in Paris, I like being at Roland Garros. I just give my best every time.”

Later, during her virtual press conference, Halep said: “Important thing for me is just to deliver what I have best in the day that I play, and then we’ll see. I’m not thinking about the result. I just want to try to take my chance every time I step on the court, and I’m not thinking about title. It’s very far, and many players are playing really well in the draw.”

Halep to face a much-improved Swiatek

Last year, Halep faced Swiatek in the fourth round and won easily 6-1, 6-0. Now, the 54th-ranked Swiatek is a much-improved player as her 9-5 win-loss record proves. Through the first two rounds, in defeating Hsieh Su-Wei and last year’s finalist Marketa Vondrousova, the native of Warsaw has dropped just eight games.

During her one hour and 15-minute victory over Bouchard on Court Simonne-Mathieu, Swiatek hit 30 winners and made just 15 unforced errors compared to Bouchard’s eight winners and 18 unforced errors. Swiatek converted six of 13 break-point chances and controlled the net by winning nine of 10 opportunities. She outpointed Bouchard 61-45.

After her latest victory, Swiatek posted on social media: “Solid performance today. I enjoyed every minute playing on this beautiful court. Wanted to play here since the first time I saw it.”

Later on, during her press conference that followed her second-round doubles win with American Nicole Melichar, Swiatek said: “I always thought that the French Open was a big opportunity for me. Also, it was my first junior Grand Slam, so I was struck by the – I don’t know – whole site. I could see other players, like stars walking by, which was amazing for me when I was a junior. 

“Every French Open gave me something; I could develop my tennis. Also, I can say that every year I’m growing up. I can see the difference I just really love the tournament.”

Korda: Like father, like son

Sebastian Korda of the United States continued his dream run at Roland Garros with his latest victory, a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 against 105th-ranked Pedro Martinez of Spain. In back of his 48 winners, the 213th-ranked American became the first qualifier since Alejandro Falla in 2011 to reach the round of 16 in Paris. He’s won six consecutive matches at Roland Garros.

Korda, 20, is the son of former World No. 2 Petr Korda from the Czech Republic, who reached the final of the 1992 French Open (won by Jim Courier) and won the 1998 Australian Open, and now coaches his son.

“My dad is incredibly supportive,” said Korda during his virtual press conference. “My goal in life is to win two Grand Slams so I have one more than he has. That’s what I’m going for. Both my parents are incredible.” (His mother is former Czech pro Regina Rajchrtova.) “With the way that everything is going right now, I mean, they’re super proud. I can’t be more grateful for them.”

On Sunday, the younger Korda will face his idol, 12-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, who advanced easily over No. 74 Stefano Travaglia of Italy, 6-1, 6-4, 6-0, and still hasn’t dropped a set.

“He’s my biggest idol,” said Korda. “He’s one of the reasons I play tennis. Just watching him play, unbelievable competitor. Just from him I have the never-give-up mentality. Whenever I’m on court, I try to be like him. Growing up, I named my cat Rafa after him. That says a lot about how much I love the guy.”

A poignant win for Krejcikova

Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic is enjoying a fantastic fortnight at Roland Garros. A former doubles World No. 1 with four Grand Slam titles between women’s doubles and mixed doubles, she’s into her first round of 16 at a Grand Slam as a singles player after defeating US Open quarterfinalist Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Afterward, Krejcikova, ranked 117th in singles, expressed how she was simply enjoying being out on court, enjoying the atmosphere. “First time third round of a Grand Slam,” she said. “I was fighting for every ball, trying to do my best to win the match. At the end, I got very lucky and I won. I’m very, very happy.”

Krejcikova’s win was especially poignant because it came on what would have been her late coach Jana Novotna’s 52nd birthday. She was coached and mentored by the former Wimbledon champion earlier in her career, beginning in 2014. Novotna passed away from cancer in 2017.

It was very emotional for me, very special that I could win this match today,” said Krejcikova, who will face No. 131 Nadia Podoroska of Argentina, in the round of 16. “I would like to also dedicate it to her because she would be really happy for my result.”

At the start of the tournament, it was expected that No. 6 seed Serena Williams would be meeting No. 10 seed Victoria Azarenka instead of Krejcikova against Podoroska. However, Azarenka lost in the second round and Williams withdrew before her second-round match. So, it’s become a section of tremendous opportunity as four more seeds were eliminated, leaving just nine as the bottom half of the women’s draw completes the third round on Saturday.

No shortage of goal setting for Anderson 

At times, Kevin Anderson has struggled during this pandemic-interrupted year – winning just six of his 13 matches – as he attempts to shake off a variety of injuries and ailments and regain the form that saw him reach the Top 10 in 2018 and reach the finals at Wimbledon.

The 118th-ranked South African has reached the third round of Roland Garros after consecutive victories over Serbians not named Novak Djokovic. He scored a straight-set win over Laslo Djere in the first round and followed it with a five-set victory over Dusan Lajovic. His game seems to be going in the right direction heading into a Saturday clash with No. 13 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia.

On Thursday, after he beat Lajovic, Anderson said during his virtual press conference: “There’s still a Grand Slam that I have not won. I’ve been in a couple finals. That’s probably my biggest motivating factor. We have Masters Series, there’s a lot I can do there, as well.

“In terms of goal setting and achievements, I mean, there’s no shortage of that. Then I just think, I mean, the process, that’s something I’ve always really enjoyed. I mean, it’s setting a target, it takes a lot of work. There’s ups and downs, but you’re feeling that process, putting in that work on and off the court. It’s what I love doing.

“It’s not always easy, but I think that’s one of the big motivating factors for me as well, just this opportunity to keep pushing myself, figuring things out, improving. Just that whole process.”

Passer des coups

• It took three sets and six match points, but French hope – and the closest thing to a home-court advantage – Caroline Garcia made it all worthwhile. During her two hour and 15-minute thriller against 16th seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, played under the closed roof of Court Philippe-Chatrier in front of an enthusiastic gathering of about 1,000 fans wishing to escape the rain that suspended all other matches at the time. The No. 45 Garcia fought back from a set down and pulled off an upset of Mertens, 1-6, 6-4, 7-5, that lifted the charismatic Frenchwoman into the round of 16 of her home major for the third time.

“It was a great feeling out there, and especially the match was a big fight in the second and third sets,” said Garcia during her virtual press conference. “So, to be able to live this kind of moment, first of all, because we didn’t know what was going to happen. 

“First of all, to be able to play French Open it’s a great feeling, and to have some crowd to be able to share it with, it’s even more special, especially as they were really cheering for me. And I think Elise lived the moment like me.”

Garcia posted 38 winners, including six service aces, and played aggressively at the net as the match wore on. She won 18 points from close range on the red dirt, while Mertens finished with 24 winners.

“I think I played some good tennis so far in this French Open,” Garcia said. “It’s not always great scenario, but I fight until the end, and step by step. Now, I’m in the second week, and I had some good three matches.”

• Next, Garcia will face No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina, who began the day quietly and efficiently with a solid 6-4, 7-5 win over No. 27 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia to reach the second week of a Grand Slam for the 11th time. Svitolina has reached the French Open quarterfinals twice, in 2015 and 2017.

Every match is as it is,” said Svitolina, who hit just eight winners compared to 25 for for Alexandrova. However, the Russian was undone by 49 unforced errors. “It’s tough, and you have to take one match at a time. I think it’s not very good to look so far ahead, and I think it puts also lots of pressure on you. 

“I have been here for a few times now, and I think, for me, it’s important just to look for my next match and to not go and run too much ahead.”

Gaston and Trevisan: The ultimate stunners

• A 20-year-old French wild card who hadn’t won a tour-level match before this week, 239th-ranked Hugo Gaston, took out 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. There were plenty of tears of joy and the thrill of victory on Court Suzanne-Lenglen following Gaston’s improbable 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 victory that took three hours and 10 minutes to complete and was interrupted by a two-hour and 25-minute rain delay at 2-all in the third set.

Gaston, appearing in just his second Grand Slam, is the last Frenchman in the main draw and the lowest-ranked player to reach the round of 16 at Roland Garros since No. 283-ranked Arnaud Di Pasquale in 2002. His next opponent will be third seed Dominic Thiem, fresh off winning the US Open, who is in the midst of a 10-match winning streak after defeating Casper Ruud, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

“I tried to play my game, but I didn’t know I could do it until I won,” said Gaston during his on-court interview.“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 Thiem. I have nothing to lose.”

Later, during his press conference, Gaston added: “It’s difficult to explain. Of course, for the moment it’s amazing for me. It’s a dream. But I try to stay focused.”

• Meanwhile, in the final match on court Friday night, the delightful Cinderella run of Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan continued. She completed an exciting, three-set victory against No. 20 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, in which she saved two match points in the second set and went on to win 1-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3.

Trevisan rallied from 4-1 and 6-4 deficits during a second-set tie-break that she ultimately won to send the match to a decider. She finally won on her third match point after two hours and 39 minutes on Court 9. After securing match point, Trevisan buried her head in her arms, then beamed a smile toward her team across the court, not quite sure how to react but never losing her sense of happiness or appreciation of what she had just accomplished.

“I’m so tired right now but I’m really happy. I’m living in a dream and I don’t want this dream to finish,” Trevisan said. “Maybe I will realize tonight what happened tonight on Court 9 at Roland Garros. …

“I think the key is the mentality, the mentality to never give up on every point. Maybe last year my thoughts during the match was ‘Oh my God, I lost another point. I lost another chance.’ I didn’t think in the future. ‘Okay, I lost this point, come on, there is another one. This year, something’s changed. During the match, I’m positive. I’m not negative and I don’t think about the mistakes.”

Indeed, Trevisan is loving late nights, just two nights removed from her second-round upset win over Coco Gauff and now after surprising Sakkari.

By the numbers …

… And by the letters

Now it can be told 

Caroline Garcia was asked during her press conference about the origins of the “Fly With Caro” slogan. Smiling, she described how it began while she was competing on the 2014 French Fed Cup team soon after she had won her first WTA title in Bogota, Colombia. “I was in full confidence, playing some great tennis. And one of the coaches said to the physio of the team that I was just flying on court, and it started as a joke in the team for the whole week. After my first-ever win in Fed Cup against the U.S., I just did it for fun. Then, the fans created the hashtag, and I just thought it was fun and a little bit different. I kept doing it.”