Defending Champions Swiatek And Nadal Through To Second Week At Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal (photo: Roland Garros/Twitter)

PARIS, June 5, 2021 (by Alessandro Boroch)

Last year’s Roland Garros women’s champion Iga Swiatek continued her amazing run at the Parisian clay-court major Saturday, rallying from a break down in the opening set to eventually earn a 7-6(4), 6-0 victory over 30th seed Anett Kontaveit from Estonia.

The first set showed an exorbitantly high hurdle of potentially claiming a set off Swiatek at Roland Garros, who has now secured 20 consecutive sets in Paris. Kontaveit’s 23 winners to 11 unforced errors were still not enough to close the first set in her favor.

Next, Swiatek will take on 18-year-old Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, who emerged victorious from a one-sided battle against Varvara Gracheva of Russia, 6-1, 6-2.

Next Gen on the rise

The 19-year-old Italian high-flyer Lorenzo Musetti has become only the sixth player since 2000 to reach the fourth round or better in his Grand Slam main draw debut. He achieved this by knocking out former Roland Garros semi-finalist and compatriot Marco Cecchinato 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in a roller-coaster battle.

The World No. 76 Musetti struck 50 winners and capitalized on five of his 13 break-point chances to prevail after three hours and seven minutes.

Next, Musetti opposes none other than world No. 1 and 2016 French Open champion Novak Djokovic, who eased past Ricardas Berankis 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

“I have a lot of feelings right now, and I’m not thinking about the match,” said Musetti. “I [will] try to enjoy the win of today a bit, and then tomorrow I will focus on trying to beat Novak and try to go forward.”

Alongside Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner, Musetti is one of three Italians to be ranked inside the Top 20 of the 2021 ATP Live Race, having reached two ATP Tour semi-finals this year at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC and the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon.

Referring to the in-form group of promising Italian players, Sinner battled past 105th ranked Swede Mikael Ymer 6-1, 7-5, 6-3  to join Musetti in the fourth round at Roland Garros.

With their respective wins, the two young Italians became the first teenage duo since Djokovic and Gael Monfils in 2006 to advance into the second week of the French Open.

“Today, I started well,” said Sinner. “Then in the second set he was very, very solid. Tough to go through him, because he’s moving very well. Physically very, very good and I was expecting a tough match, a long match. Somehow, I tried to stay calm, trying to adapt in every situation. I think today I did that well, so I’m very happy about today.”

Nadal cruises through first week

Thirteen-time Roland Garros singles champion Rafael Nadal, who played on Court Suzanne-Lenglen during Saturday’s action, secured a serene 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie to set up a rematch against Sinner at Roland Garros, having beaten him one step further in the quarter-final stage last year.

For the second straight year, 35-year-old Nadal has not dropped a single set during the first week of the French Open. Today’s win also marked Nadal’s 50th round of 16 appearance at a Grand Slam, joining a group that includes just Roger Federer (54 appearances) and Djokovic (67 appearances) to erect another milestone for the fictional “big three history book.”

Despite only allowing three break points in the whole encounter, Nadal had to work hard in the second set against Norrie, twice trailing a break but eventually winning five games in a row to claim a two-set lead. Overall, Nadal won 78 per-cent of first-serve points and fired past 34 winners.

The Mallorcan now leads his head-to-head series against Norrie 3-0, including one win on clay.

Krejcikova upsets Svitolina, Kenin highest remaining women’s seed

Barbora Krejcikova caused the biggest upset of the day in the women’s singles draw by easing past fifth seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2 in 99 minutes. Krejcikova displayed a stunning performance of relentless aggression by producing 38 winners during the course of the match. Furthermore, the 25-year-old Czech, who enjoyed a singles breakthrough at Roland Garros last year by reaching the round of 16, provided some evidence of her net skills as a former No. 1 doubles player, winning 14 out of 18 net points (78 per-cent).

“I’ve been playing a lot of matches where I actually was leading, and then I just started to play really passive and then I lost,” Krejcikova said. “So I don’t want to make the same mistake again. I was just saying to myself, okay, you go, you’re going to play your shot and you win or you lose. There’s nothing wrong about not really actually closing the match because that’s normal. It happens to so many other players, so many higher players.

Krejcikova is playing the best season of her career so far, having won 10 of the last 11 matches and being ranked at 10th in the 2021 WTA Race to Shenzhen after claiming her maiden WTA singles title in Strasbourg last week, and also reaching her first WTA 1000 final in Dubai in March.

The World No. 33 will attempt to reach the quarterfinals of Roland Garros for the first time on Monday when she meets former French Open finalist Sloane Stephens. The 28-year-old American booked a round of 16 spot and seventh in her last nine Paris appearances with a solid 6-3, 7-5 triumph over 18th seed Karolina Muchova.

In a battle of two Top 20 seeds, 25-year-old Greek Maria Sakkari edged World No. 15 Elise Mertens 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-2 in a match lasting nearly three hours.

Starting the day on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, last year’s Roland Garros runner-up and current No. 4 seed Sofia Kenin fought back from a set down to earn a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 comeback victory over No. 28 seed Jessica Pegula in an all-American matchup. With her win, Kenin has now made the second week in Paris in each of her last three appearances.

“I was obviously really happy. It was a tough match. It was a lot of ups and downs, emotions,” Kenin said after the victory. “I’m just really happy with the way I’m playing.

“Of course, being in the fourth [round] of a Slam is obviously really nice and special, so towards the end it was more emotions.

“I have great memories from here. I obviously cannot live on that. I have to try to move on. In terms of that, I just take one match at a time I’m playing. And of course those memories will always be with me. I just think I need to lock in and put that aside. That was last year. Try to make some new memories this year.”