Zverev, Tsitsipas Advance At Roland Garros

Alexander Zverev (photo: Jürgen Hasenkopf)

PARIS, June 2, 2021 (by Alessandro Boroch)

No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev opened Wednesday’s second-round action at Roland Garros on Court Suzanne-Lenglen with a 7-6(4), 6-3, 7-6(1) victory over 23-year-old Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin.

Zverev and Safiullin share a long backstory together, having already faced each other thrice on clay in the under-14-category in 2011, where Zverev came out victorious in two of their three encounters.

“I’m happy not to have played another five-setter,” Zverev said. I think it’s going to be important for me during the course of this tournament. I’m looking forward to the next match.”

During the match, Zverev fired past 15 aces but also had to deal with 10 double faults, an issue that keeps constantly occurring in his matches.

“I worked a lot on that part of the game [double faults]. I think everybody knows that. I think with a lot of hard work it improves. It’s just a constant improvement.”

Next, Zverev will meet two-time ATP clay-court titlist Laslo Djere from Serbia, who fought back from two sets down to overcome compatriot and world No. 48 Miomir Kecmanovic 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in three hours and 38 minutes.

Seeds In Action

No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, amongst the biggest title contenders at this year’s Roland Garros, has not dropped a set en route to the third round after a serene 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over world No. 103 Pedro Martinez from Spain.

“I really like playing in Paris,” Tsitsipas said on court. “I feel like the fans have embraced me and made me one of them. So, I’m really glad my tennis is there, my performance is there, and I’m able to deliver not just good tennis but also create a good atmosphere on this court”.

Tsitsipas takes on John Isner in the third round. The American eased past World No. 41 Filip Krajinovic 7-6(6), 6-1, 7-6(5) earlier the day. The 22-year-old Greek is leading their head-to-head rivalry 3-2, having won the last three encounters respectively on hard court. It will be their first meeting on clay.

Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen produced the biggest upset on Wednesday by ousting World No. 11 Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, having never reached the third round of a major before. “Today was just an amazing match for me,” Laaksonen said. “I was playing really aggressive, and it paid off.”

On the women’s side, No. 10 seed Belinda Bencic fell in straight sets to former Top 10 player and close friend Daria Kasatkina. Kasatkina, who will face Sorana Cirstea in the next round, will be eyeing for a spot in the second week for the first time since 2018, when she managed to get into the quarterfinal stage of the clay-court major.

“A lot have been changed because between this time, 2018 and now, there was one amazing year for me, which was important as well in a good and in the bad way,” Kasatkina said during her press conference. “I learned a lot, and I think I become a little bit different, maybe more experienced, a bit more serious. Let’s say I understand more why I’m winning or why Im losing.” 

Azarenka, Serena through to third round

Two-time major champion Victoria Azarenka entered the clay-court Grand Slam with an uncertain form, having played just a single match on clay. However, she has proven in her first two matches in Paris that she should not be overlooked in the bottom half of the draw. After one hour and 48 minutes, Azarenka booked a spot in the third round with a hard-fought 7-5, 6-4 win over in-form teenager Clara Tauson. Next, Azarenka will face no. 23 seed Madison Keys, who also secured a convincing straight-set win over upcoming teenager Leylah Fernandez from Canada, 6-1, 7-5.

Serena Williams, seeking a potential fourth singles title at Roland Garros, dropped her first set of the tournament but eventually secured a solid 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 victory against former world No. 20 Mihaela Buzarnescu in two hours and eight minutes. During the match, Serena produced 26 winners and won 75 per cent of her first-service points (39/52).

“I felt it [the serve] was pretty good today,” Williams said. “But I’ve been practicing my serve a lot. I’ve been playing in practice unbelievable on my serve. The other night was, wow. I’m glad it came better today. My coach told me it’s good that I’m doing it well in practice because eventually it will be good in the match.”

With her win, Williams set up an all-American clash against Daniele Collins, a quarterfinalist in 2020, who eased past Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina 6-0, 6-2 in an hour. Both met just five months ago at the Yarra Valley Classic on hard court in Australia, where Serena won a tight three-set match in a match tie-break.

“She’s been playing well. I played her in Australia actually. She plays well, especially when it’s time to play, which is I guess all the time. She’s also a really awesome person off the court,” Williams said.

“I love seeing her in the locker room. Ideally, it would be great if we didn’t have to play each other, because I always want her to do super well.”

Epic five-set win by Nishikori

Thirty-one-year-old Kei Nishikori once again proved to be an absolute warrior when it comes down to surviving in an epic five-set match, as he completed his second comeback of the tournament to beat Russian 23rd seed Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in four hours, reaching the third round at Roland Garros for the eight time in his career after skipping the event last year due to injury issues.

 “Comparing the end of the last year with this tournament, I’m playing much better this year and fighting for two four-hour match. I don’t think I could do that last year.

“My level was pretty high. Even though I’m not having great result, I think the Europe season was good for me: Madrid and Rome. I only lost to top-10 players,” Nishikori said.

“You can say I’m not beating top-10 players right now, but I think things are getting much better for me. I think I’m on the way to top 10 again. Yeah, I’m really enjoying this moment.”

Nishikori has now improved his record in five-set matches to 26-7.

World No. 23 Cristian Garin had to work extremely hard to secure back-to-back third-round appearances in Paris He saved two match points in the third set and eventually edged past American qualifier Mackenzie McDonald 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-3, 8-6 after four hours and 14 minutes. Garin ended the match with 71 winners compared to 59 unforced errors.

The 25-year-old Chilean will next take on Marcos Giron, who emerged victorious 7-6(2), 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-4 over Guido Pella. Both players will be battling for a career-first spot in the second week of a Grand Slam.