Badosa Thriving In Her First Roland Garros Main Draw

WASHINGTON, October 4, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

When 87th-ranked Paula Badosa of Spain was a junior player, she recalled how there were a lot of expectations placed upon her in her country, saying she needed to be “the next [Maria] Sharapova … and I wasn’t ready for that.”

It’s been five years since Badosa was a girls’ junior champion at Roland Garros. Now, at age 22, she’s making the most of her first main draw experience.

On Saturday, Badosa reached the fourth round at Roland Garros with a 6-4, 6-3 upset of 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko on Court Simonne-Mathieu. The match lasted an economical one hour and 22 minutes despite being played in cool and rainy conditions.

“I had a very bad two, three years, but then I stopped myself and I tried to start from zero,” Badosa said during her virtual press conference. “I worked hard every day and I tried to have stability outside of tennis in terms of being happy. I’m very happy that now I can play my game, try to enjoy and have fun.

“Mentally, I had to do a lot of work to not listen to all the things and these expectations on me. I try to listen to my team every day, not look too forward, and go day-by-day now.

“I think I’ve improved a lot mentally and physically. I work very hard and I think my tennis now is much better than a year ago. I’m playing more aggressive, more confident and I think I did a good step forward with that. Now, I believe more that I can win these matches, and I think that’s the big change and the key.”

After overcoming an early 2-0 deficit, Badosa progressed and soon took control of the match from the hard-hitting Ostapenko from Latvia. Badosa finished well with 15 winners to just 10 unforced errors. She served seven aces and saved six of the eight break points she faced.

Meanwhile, the 43rd-ranked Ostapenko accumulated 10 double faults and 43 unforced errors. Although she leveled the second set at 4-all and gave herself a chance to stay in the contest, Badosa rallied and won the final two multi-deuce games that lifted her into the round of 16 against Germany’s Laura Siegemund, who upset 13th seed Petra Martic of Croatia, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0.

Passer des coups

• What a third-round match Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur played on Court 14 Saturday. The 30th seed Jabeur from Tunisia is through to the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time in her career – the first Arab woman to do so – following a 7-6 (7), 2-6, 6-3 win over the eighth seed from Belarus.

Jabeur came through a rollercoaster of a finish to win a first-set tiebreak 9-7 in 57 minutes. She had triple set point at 6-5, 40-love and was broken. Then, Sabalenka lead 5-1 in the tiebreak. Finally, Jabeur converted on her sixth set point to capture the set. The second set took only 19 minutes with Sabalenka winning 6-2 after winning the first 15 points. It set up a third-set showdown, which went to Jabeur after she jumped ahead 3-0 and coasted to victory.

“[It was a] tough, tough match,” said Jabeur, who improved to 21-9 on the abbreviated season – including 10-4 since the tour’s restart. “She really hits hard. She’s such an aggressive player. … She was screaming, like fighting every point, screaming in some very important points. 

“For me, I wanted to stay calm because I had no reason to be angry. I think that helped me a lot today. In the other matches I just wanted to play my game, like really enjoy on clay. Today, obviously, the match was even harder. 

“I like how I play. I like how I mix it up. Obviously, I’m going to [have] to continue doing that. Hope the drop shot will always help me.”

Jabeur, who won the French Open junior girls title in 2011 and became the first Arab woman to reach the third round in 2017, as a lucky loser, now faces American Danielle Collins, who overcame a double break deficit in the deciding set to upset former Roland Garros champion and 11th seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.

The frustration in Muguruza’s face as she walked off Court Philippe-Chatrier said it all. The Spaniard led 2-0 in each set and a double break (at 3-0 and 4-2) in the final set with a game point in each and completely fell apart. As one observed remarked, “Collins remained in the fight and forced Muguruza to finisher. She couldn’t.”

As Collins described it in her press conference, “She was playing really well, and there was only so much I could do. I just told myself, ‘Okay, I’ve got to ride out the storm a little bit. Just give is all I have. Just stick through the process.’

“It was really challenging at times because of how well she was playing, particularly how well she was serving. Some of the shots she was coming up with sometimes were just too good. I had to accept that and move on and just try to stay as positive as I could.”

The match began on Court Suzanne-Lenglen as rain began to fall and after a game, the players were sent off the court. About 90 minutes later, play resumed under the closed roof of Chatrier and the match was completed in two hours and 26 minutes.

“I think at 2-0 I went in with the mentality of trying to play a little bit more aggressive and to take some time away from her and to just step up and trust my shots,” Collins said, describing the final set. “That’s what I was telling myself, just to trust myself and to do the best I could.

“Because she was playing incredible. I felt she couldn’t have been serving any better in that second set and in the beginning of the third set, and I needed to do something different. So, I needed to put some more pressure on her. That’s exacting what I did the rest of the way through.”

What it all means for Collins is this: She snapped Muguruza’s streak of advancing to the second week of the French Open every year since 2014, which includes her title run in 2016. The American is into the round of 16 in Paris for the first time, and it’s just her second time that she’s gone this far in a Grand Slam following her 2019 Australian Open semifinal run.

• Men’s 13th seed Andey Rublev won his eighth straight match with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Kevin Anderson to reach his first Roland Garros round of 16. Since dropping two sets to Sam Querrey in the first round, Rublev has won nine consecutive sets in his three matches.

• No. 63 Marton Fucsovics became the first Hungarian man since Balazs Taroczy in 1984 to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros. Fucsovics beat 84th-ranked Brazilian Thiago Monteiro 7-5, 6-1, 6-3. It is the third Grand Slam Fucsovics has reached the fourth round, joining his 2018 and 2020 runs at the Australian Open.

Top women’s doubles team through to third round

There was a common thread to the outcomes of the top two seeded women’s doubles pairs on Saturday. They both needed to come from behind to win their second-round matches.

No. 1 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Barbora Strycova saved a set point in the first set and won 12 of the final 15 points of the match en route to a 7-5, 6-1 win over Marie Bouzkova and Arantxa Rus. As for the No 2 seeds, defending champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic rallied for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Kaitlyn Christian and Giuliana Olmos.

Hsieh and Strycova have lost just once this year and it was to Babos and Mladenovic in the Australian Open final earlier this year. The World No. 1 doubles team, Hsieh and Strycova won their eighth title as a team last month in Rome.

However, No. 3 seeds Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka, who won the 2019 US Open title, were upset by unseeded Americans Asia Muhammad and Jessica Pegula, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

By the numbers

• On Saturday, No. 186 Daniel Altmaier’s upset of seventh seed Matteo Berrettini made him the fourth player since 2000 to reach the fourth round in his Grand Slam tournament debut. Others: Hyung-Taik Lee, 2000 US Open; David Goffin, 2012 Roland Garros; and Juan Londero, 2019 Roland Garros.

• With Germany’s Altmaier and Sebastian Korda of the United States into the fourth round of this year’s French Open, it’s the first time since 1998 that two qualifiers have advanced this far at Roland Garros. Additionally, Altmaier, has won all nine sets he’s played in beating Feliciano Lopez, 30th seed Jan-Lennard Struff and Berrettini.

• According to the WTA Insider, of the remaining 16 players in the women’s singles draw, nine will be making their round of 16 debuts at Roland Garros while six are playing in their first round of 16 at any major.

What they’re saying

What they’re writing

Danielle Rossingh has written an insightful feature about rising teen star Iga Swiatek of Poland, who has reached the fourth round at Roland Garros for the second straight year. The difference this time is she doesn’t have to juggle her playing schedule with taking high school exams.

“I wrote my graduation exam during lockdown, and finally I was kind of free,” the 19-year-old Swiatek, who faces top seed Simona Halep on Court Philippe-Chatrier Sunday morning, told RolandGarros.com.

Now it can be told

Martina Trevisan of Italy, ranked 159th, stands just 5-feet-3-inches tall, but this week at Roland Garros – especially at night – she’s been a giant on the red clay. Off the court, she’s been a winner too after battling anorexia and becoming fully healthy, again.

The 26-year-old Italian from Florence, who won three matches last week in qualifying just to make the main draw, had never beaten a Top 100 player – she was 0-15. Since then, she defeated No. 75 Camila Giorgi in the first round for her first Top 100 win. Then, she beat No. 51 Coco Gauff in the second round for her first Top 60 victory. On Friday, she took out 24th-ranked Maria Sakkari in the third round for her first Top 30 triumph. All of this is happening in just her second career major appearance. Why now?

“At the beginning of the tournament, I felt really good on court,” she said after beating Sakkari. “In the first round of qualies, I had a lot of difficulties, but I felt good on court.

“Day by day, I got more confidence on court, and I arrived here in the fourth round of Roland Garros. Really, it’s a dream, and with time, I’ll realize what happened tonight.”

On Sunday, she faces fifth seed Kiki Bertens in the fourth round for a berth in the quarterfinals.

“I don’t think about Bertens right now, but I will tomorrow. I already played with her last year or two years ago,” she said. Trevisan lost to Bertens in straight sets at Charleston, S.C., in April 2019 on green clay. “So, I will prepare for my match as today, yesterday and the past days. I’ll try to be at my best.”