Tsitsipas Passes The Isner Test At Roland Garros

Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo: @rolandgarros/Twitter)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, June 5, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas stood up to No. 31 seed John Isner of the United States for four sets during Friday’s featured night session match at the French Open on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The fifth seed Tsitsipas dropped the opening set to the six-foot-10-inch Isner, then rallied to win 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-1 in two hours and 38 minutes for his tour-leading 36th victory of the season.

The six-foot-five-inch Greek rising star fought off 19 service aces and 52 winners by Isner by hitting 40 winners of his own and capturing 86 percent (61 of 71) of his first-serve points. His latest triumph advanced him to the fourth round for the third straight year.

After the match Tsitsipas said: “The match was pretty much one pattern, kept repeating itself. It was kind of difficult to adjust, I felt my body a little cold, a little bit of anger, frustration, I let it out, that eventually woke me up to be able to handle future situations a little better.”

Tsitsipas broke Isner’s serve three times in seven chances, something neither Sam Querrey nor Filip Krajinovic could do in earlier rounds against the tall American.

“He’s one of the toughest guys to play, the serve is obviously a big obstacle,” Tsitsipas said.

“I didn’t have the best start, things started going my way in the second set, I started finding my returns and my rhythm from the baseline and I think my head kind of cleaned up and led me to that important victory.”

A Roland Garros semifinalist last year, Tsitsipas earned his 19th clay-court win of 2021, which ties him with Federico Delbonis of Argentina for the ATP lead. Earlier Friday, Delbonis advanced with a 6-4 .6-1, 6-3 win over No. 27 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy.

Next, Tsitsipas will face No. 12 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, who moved into the fourth round with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Steve Johnson of the United States.

Living legend Williams raising level of her game

In a French Open women’s draw that is getting shorter and shorter on top seeds, 39-year-old Serena Williams is bucking the trend. That’s because she’s raised the level of her game. Since losing early in Rome and Parma, Williams is now playing some of her best tennis of the season on the Paris terre battue. Don’t write off Serena just yet.

On Friday, the seventh seed Williams beat a very in-form Danielle Collins, 6-4, 6-4, in this all-American tussle, needing just 85 minutes to move into the fourth round of Roland Garros for the 13th time in her storied career. Her next opponent will be No. 21 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who advanced past Russia’s Elena Vesnina, 6-1, 6-4.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams, who came from 1-4 down in the second set, won 80 percent of her first-serve points, hit 22 winners and converted four of eight break point against Collins on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Williams outpointed her opponent 64-55 to earn her 12th victory of the season in 16 outings. Her three-match winning streak is the longest of the year since a five-match winning streak at the Australian Open in February.

“It was a bit disappointing after being up 4-1,” Collins said. “I think Serena played some really great tennis to come back. I don’t think I played my best in those moments. I just have to try to learn from it, hopefully do better next time and be able to close out the set.”

With her latest victory at Roland-Garros, Williams finds herself as the highest remaining seeded player in the lower half of the draw following the upset of No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka by No. 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-4, 2-6, 6-0.

During a court-side interview after her victory with Tennis Channel‘s Jon Wertheim, Williams explained how she came back to win. “Well, I was only down a break. So, I felt like all I had to do was break and, then, I’m still in it. I was trying not to go down two breaks. I knew if I could break back, I would be there.”

When Williams was asked about her successful history on clay – she’s won more clay titles than any other player – she offered this thought: “It’s really just about taking your time and having fun. I actually love to play [on clay] even though I had an awful clay-court season earlier this year. But, in general, it’s really my favorite surface. It’s really fun for me.”

Collins for one will be cheering for Williams to win her 24th major. “I said [after the match] I’d love to see her win the whole thing and I’d be supporting her,” she said. “I think we all admire and love Serena, especially the American players. It was pretty surreal today to go out there and be playing against somebody I remember watching at age 9 and 10, playing here, to be here, to be sharing that court with her, this experience.

“I hope that I can be a stepping stone to her winning another Slam. It would be really exciting and cool, so I’m going to be following every point.”

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“Quotable …”

“I think this match represents Roland Garros. This match was very tough. [Ruud] he played unbelieable. In the fifth set, we were in [a] battle every game. Every game we wanted to win [and] to break the serve of the other guy. It was, with all [the] emotions inside [and] with all the crowd singing your name, unbelievable!”

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, after his 7-6 (3), 2-6, 7-6 (6), 0-6, 7-5 victory over No. 15 seed Casper Ruud, which took four hours and 35 minutes to complete on Court 14.

“The joy of being Serena is I always have to be playing my ‘A’ game – I have to play good.”

“She played an amazing level. In one point of the match, I didn’t know what to do. I just know that I had to keep that level and keep fighting until the last moment. Sometimes, when the opponent plays like that, you just have the option to keep fighting. That’s what I did.”

Paula Badosa, in describing her opponent, Ana Bogdan, whom she beat 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, to reach the round of 16 for the second straight year at Roland Garros.

Serena Williams, as told to Tennis Channel‘s Jon Wertheim, after he 6-4, 6-4 third-round victory over Danielle Collins.

“I had some pretty good matches this week. I’m just happy with my game and we’ll see how it goes, but I’m happy to be in the second week, of course. It’s not I think the best tennis I can play, but it’s not even the worse one. I think it’s the middle.

“I think I’m just very calm in the game, you know. Even though I’m not playing maybe the greatest tennis, I stay calm and I’m just focusing on my game. Eventually, I’m winning the matches, so it’s kind of important for me also.”

Marketa Vondrousova, after her 6-3, 6-3 win over Polona Hercog, to advance to the round of 16.

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