Big 3 Jointly Through To Third Round At Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic (photo: Florian Heer)

PARIS, June 3, 2021 (by Alessandro Boroch)

The Big 3 headlined Thursday’s action on Day Five of this year’s Roland Garros tournament.

On Court Suzanne-Lenglen, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic eased past Pablo Cuevas from Uruguay 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and six minutes, allowing just one break of serve thorough the match. Djokovic finished the encounter with 32 winners, including ten aces.

“I’m playing well, feeling great. I’m ready to go deep in this tournament,” the 17-time major champion said. “Hopefully that’s going to be the case. But I’ll take it match by match, and so far the two matches that I have played have been played in a high quality.”

The 34-year-old Serbian will next take on Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, who emerged victorious against Aussie James Duckworth in four sets, reaching the third round in Paris for the first time in his career at the age of 30. Djokovic leads their head-to-head rivalry by 3-0 (8-0 in sets), having already beaten him last year at the Paris clay-court major.

2009 Roland Garros champion Roger Federer dropped his first set of the tournament but eventually secured a well-earned 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 victory over 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic.

“[It was a] very good match for me, I thought,” Federer said. “A bit of up-and-downs in the second and third sets. The good thing, I feel like I come out of a match like this and I know why it was up and down, and then that I was able to attain a solid level once he did break back in the third set and things were looking dangerous for me.

“That I was able to step up a gear, stay with him, and then pull away from him, I think that gives me a lot of confidence.”

Federer improved to 10-1 in his head-to-head win-loss record against Cilic, having now beaten him at least once in the main draw of all four major events. The 20-time major champion will face German Dominik Koepfer next.

Celebrating his 35th birthday, Rafael Nadal successfully continued his quest for a record-extending 14th Roland Garros singles title following a hazard-free 6-0, 7-5, 6-2 win over French veteran Richard Gasquet in two hours and 14 minutes during Thursday’s night session without spectators.

The 20-time major champion from Spain has now beaten Gasquet seventeen consecutive times on the main tour (head-to-head: 17-0) and also won 29 successive sets against him since 2008.

Ashleigh Barty forced to retire

After losing the first set, World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty was forced to retire at 1-6, 2-2 in the second set of her second-round encounter against Magda Linette of Poland due to an acute hip injury.

The 2019 Roland Garros champion had already struggled with the injury in her opening round against American Bernarda Pera, where she eventually won in three sets but needed to take a MTO (medical time-out) during the course of the match.

“It’s disappointing to end like this,” said Barty, who entered the draw in Paris with a tour-leading 28 match wins this season, including a clay-court title at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.

“I’ve had my fair share of tears this week. It’s all good, everything happens for a reason. There will be a silver lining in this eventually. Once I find out what that is, it’ll make me feel a little bit better, but it will be there, I’m sure.”

“Right from the first game I was battling the pain, and it just became too severe… it was becoming unsame.”

The 29-year-old Linette will be facing 25th seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in the next round, who got the better off of Australia’s Astra Sharma in a rematch of the WTA Charleston 2 final.

Kohlschreiber stuns Karatsev

The upset of the day was caused by 37-year-old German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, who managed to oust No. 24 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia 6-3, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-1 in three hours on Court 7.

During the course of the match, Kohlschreiber allowed Karatsev just one break of serve, claiming 76 per-cent of points on his first serve (63 of 83). Overall, the former world No. 16 struck 29 winners compared to 26 unforced errors.

With his win, Kohlschreiber advanced into the third round of the clay-court major for the first time since 2014. No. 10 seed Diego Schwartzman, who is yet to drop a set after straight-set victories over Yen-Hsun Lu and Aljaz Bedene, will be awaiting the German for a spot in the second week.

Swiatek continues to shine

Including last year’s title run at this event, defending champion Iga Swiatek still has not dropped a single set in her last nine matches in Paris. She demolished second-round opponent Rebecca Peterson from Sweden 6-1, 6-1 in just an hour. During the second shortest singles encounter of the day, Swiatek produced a total of 22 winners.

Next, the 20-year-old Pole will confront former Top 15 player and 30th seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, who secured the fastest win of the day over former top 10 player Kiki Mladenovic 6-2, 6-0 in just 51 minutes.

Despite being the clear outsider on paper, Kontaveit definitely does not have to hide in the run-up to the battle, since she holds a 2-0 lead in her head-to-head series against Swiatek (with wins in 2019 and 2020, respectively, on hard court).

Other seeds in action

Nineteen-year-old Italian high-flyer Jannik Sinner, currently ranked 19th, ousted compatriot Gianluca Mager 6-1, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 after saving two set points on serve in the second set. Sinner has reached the third round in Paris for the second consecutive year.

Sinner, who hit 29 winners, including seven aces, will next face Sweden’s Mikael Ymer.

The 22-year-old Swede scored an upset and maiden Top 20 win by beating World No. 15 Gael Monfils of France, who was struggling with a hamstring injury mid-match, 6-0, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

On the women’s side, former Roland Garros finalist and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens reeled off seven of the last eight games to overcome ninth seed Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-1 in 90 minutes. It was Stephens’ first Top 10 win since October 2018 at the WTA Finals – also against Pliskova.

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine needed just 74 minutes to complete a 6-0, 6-4 victory over 75th ranked American Ann Li. Next, the Odessa-native faces last week’s champion at the WTA 250 Internationaux de Strasbourg Barbora Krejcikova. The Czech Republic star rushed past No. 32 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, 6-2, 6-3, to extend her winning streak to eight matches.

Svitolina will be searching for her fifth second-week appearance at Roland-Garros, having dropped just 11 games through her first two matches so far.

Last year’s Roland Garros runner-up Sofia Kenin also advanced to the third round, overcoming a tight opening set to defeat fellow American qualifier Hailey Baptiste 7-5, 6-3. Kenin, who is still trying to recapture her 2020 form, improved to 9-8 this season and will oppose another compatriot in No. 28 seed Jessica Pegula in the next round.