Roland Garros: Badosa Overcoming Opponents With Power And Confidence

Paula Badosa (photo: Jürgen Hasenkopf)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, May 26, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Paula Badosa is always happy when nobody notices how nervous she is on court. While the emotions may be attributable to being one of the top-ranked players in the world – the 24-year-old U.S.-born Spaniard is currently ranked number four – she channels her emotions well. By the end of a match, it’s Badosa’s power and confidence that overcome nerves and pressure – and, ultimately, her opponents, too.

On Thursday, shortly after another Top-10 seeded player, No. 8 Karolina Pliskova went down to 227th-ranked French wild card Leolia Jeanjean, Badosa eked out a tough three-set win over a much-improved Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, in two hours and 18 minutes on Court Suzanne-Lenglen. Juvan was just a few days removed from reaching the finals in Strasbourg, a French Open tune-up event, and had won five of her last six matches before facing Badosa.

“It was a very tough match. I was expecting a match like this,” Badosa said during her on-court interview after her second-round win that advanced her to play No. 29 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia. “[Kaja] is with confidence. Last week, she won some very good matches and was playing very well. I still need matches here to feel a little bit better, but I’m really happy with the fight I put on the court today.”

Badosa hit 35 winners to 25 unforced errors, broke Juvan’s serve six times in nine tries and outpointed her 104-90. The first Top-10 seed to advance to the third round, Badosa has made it to the third round in all three of her French Open appearances.

At a set apiece and down a break in the third, Badosa was asked afterward by court interviewer Fabrice Santoro what her mindset was at this juncture of the match. Did she stay calm? What did she do?

“At the moment, I was very nervous and a little bit stressed. She was running and getting to all of the balls. I couldn’t find the exact moment to win the point. I thought it was important to stay as calm as possible,” said Badosa, who immediately won 10 straight points and reeled off four straight games to go ahead 4-1.

Soon, she put away her 24th victory on her first match-point opportunity. By the end of the match, she was playing at a very high level. As is her custom, once she secured match point, she looked toward her box and smiled while pointing her left index finger at her brain.

Badosa said earlier this week in press that she thinks one of the keys this year – and in her career, which is on an upward trajectory that began when she won Indian Wells near the end of last season, then reached the semifinals of the WTA Championships and continued with a title in Sydney at the start of 2022 – is how well she can manage “all of these kinds of situations and all these kinds of nerves.”

“For me this tournament is super special,” Badosa said unabashedly. “It’s one of my favorite tournaments. I came here the first time when I was 9-years-old. My dream was to come and play here one day. It’s very special to me to be here.”

Indeed, Badosa’s mindset and her game are both in good shape and good places. Santoro took note that the Spaniard plays right-handed but signs autographs with her left. He asked her about it and noted that one of her idols, Rafael Nadal, who just recorded his 300th career Grand Slam victory on Wednesday evening, is the opposite – plays left-handed and writes with his right hand.

“I am left-handed,” Badosa exclaimed, removing any doubt. “I hope I can be a little bit similar like Rafa one day.”

Jeanjean pulls off improbable upset Pliskova

Leolia Jeanjean of France, ranked No. 227, garnered the biggest win of her career by taking down former World No. 1 and current No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova, 6-2, 6-2, on Court Simonne-Mathieu to reach the third round.

The 26-year-old French wild card from Montpellier, who had neither played in a WTA main-draw nor faced a Top-50 player before this week, was playing a Top-100 player for just the second time in her career. The first-time was against Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain in Tuesday’s first round. All the while, she was making her Grand Slam debut this fortnight – and, like all French players at Roland Garros, she’s competing under a focus of major attention.

Meanwhile, Pliskova, who reached the French Open semifinals in 2017, had not lost to a player ranked outside the Top 100 at a major since Roland Garros in 2016. However, Pliskova, who has struggled on clay at times this season – bowing in the second round at Stuttgart, the opening round at Madrid and the second round at Rome before making a semifinal run last week in Strasbourg – came in with just six match wins.

Jeanjean, who played collegiately in the United States at Lynn University in Baca Raton, Fla., and at the University of Arkansas, got the job done in 75 minutes against Pliskova. She hit 17 winners and took advantage of Pliskova’s 28 unforced errors and four breaks of serve. Jeanjean outpointed her opponent 63-41.

“I’m very surprised,” Jeanjean said in press after her victory. “The Top 50 player I played during the first round, I won. I didn’t know I would win. I was surprised. It seems that my level of play disturbs them. I thought that I would not win, but it’s not the case. I’m very surprised, but I’m also very happy, because it means that maybe I have the leave to be there on the tour.

“This match was full of emotions through and through. I managed to unroll my tactics to make her move back and forth, to put spin on my ball. I didn’t know it would happen this way, once again. It’s incredible thinking that I actually won in two sets against a Top 10 player, a previously No. 1 worldwide. It’s incredible.”

With her improbable win, Jeanjean becomes the third-lowest ranked player to defeat a Top-10 opponent this season, following No. 409 Daria Saville’s upset of Ons Jabeur at Indian Wells and No. 231 Laura Siegemund’s win via retirement over Maria Sakkari at Stuttgart. She’s also the lowest-ranked female player to win a match at Roland Garros against a Top-10 opponent since Conchita Martinez in 1988 against Lori McNeil.

Next, Jeanjean will face No. 63 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, who earned her fourth career win in as many meetings against No. 30 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4.

Scandinavians Ruud, Rune advance to third round

Two days after winning an emotional first-round match against retiring Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, World No. 8 and eighth seed Casper Ruud equaled his best result at the French Open, reaching the third round for the fourth straight year, with his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland in two hours and 10 minutes on Court 14.

Ruud, 23, who won his eighth ATP Tour title in Geneva last week, saved all four break points he faced and outpointed the 61st-ranked Ruusuvuori 100-77 in capturing his sixth straight win and 26th of the season. It was the first time the Ruusuvuori had made it to the second round at Roland Garros. Next, Ruud will face No. 32 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, who defeated 63rd-ranked Geneva runner-up João Sousa of Portugal, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4.

“It was [a] high-quality match from the first to the last point,” Ruud said in his press conference. “I think we both played better than what we did in Barcelona. The level was a little bit higher. Emil is playing much better on clay. He’s moving better and playing well from the baseline.

“It was definitely a challenge. Even though it was three straight sets, there were some tough moments in the match, and some chances I didn’t get, but some chances I got. All in all, I’m very happy with the performance.”

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Danish teenager Holger Rune built on his upset of No. 14 seed Denis Shapovalov earlier this week by taking down No. 96 Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3, in an hour and 51 minutes on Court 12.

The No. 40 Rune, currently third in the Pepperstone ATP Race To Milan among the NextGen ATP rising stars, is enjoying his debut in Paris after having already won his first ATP Tour title in Munich last month.

Rune hit six aces and won 86 percent (42 of 49) of his first-serve points en route to his 12th win in 15 European clay matches this season. Next, he will play No. 74 Hugo Gaston of France, who defeated 153rd-ranked lucky loser Pedro Cachin of Argentina, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Tsitsipas survives another long challenge, beats Kolar

Last year’s French Open runner-up, fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, has logged nearly eight hours on the Stade Roland Garros show courts in his first two matches. After coming back from two sets down to beat Lorenzo Musetti of Italy on Tuesday night, Tsitsipas was taken to four sets by 134th-ranked Czech qualifier Zdenek Kolar before advancing with a 6-3, 7-6 (8), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (7) victory that stretched just beyond four hours on Court Suzanne-Lenglen Thursday evening.

Tsitsipas saved three set points in the second set and four in a crazy four-set tie-break. The victory improved the Greek’s win-loss record to an ATP Tour-best 33-10.

“He drove me crazy,” said the World No. 4 Tsitsipas, who will play Sweden’s Mikael Ymer in the third round after he beat No. 29 seed Dan Evans of Great Britain, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. “It was really frustrating. He was putting every part of his body behind the ball. … It was an incredible effort.”

Around Roland-Garros

• World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland extended her winning streak to 30 matches, longest on the WTA Tour since 2013 and just the fourth player this century to record such a streak, with her 61-minute 6-0, 6-2 win over No. 43 Alison Riske of the United States on Court Suzanne-Lenglen. The 20-year-old Swiatek, who won the 2020 French Open title, has dropped just four games through the first two rounds of this fortnight. During her winning streak, she’s now won 15 6-0 sets and has won 46 of the last 47 sets she’s played overall.

Swiatek, who hit 23 winners to 15 unforced errors, dropped just four points on her first serve and broke Riske five times. She outpointed her opponent 58-30 and is now 3-0 lifetime against Riske, all on clay.

“Always I feel like there is something I can do better,” Swiatek said in her on-court interview. Later, she told Tennis Channel that she has tried to not think about the winning streak. “I’m really happy I can just play tennis,” she said.

About the only thing that went wrong for Swiatek – maybe, it was more an embarrassment – came after holding serve in the first game of the second set. She sat down in her chair and began sipping from her water bottle, not realizing it was not a full changeover. After being reminded of this by chair umpire Emmanuel Joseph, Swiatek did a spit-take, apologized, and sprinted back out on the court where Riske already was waiting at the baseline to serve.

Next, Swiatek will play No. 95 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, who advanced with a 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 92 Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia.

• World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev reached the third round in Paris with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 56 Laslo Djere of Serbia on Court Philippe-Chatrier that lasted two hours and 35 minutes as the bottom half of the men’s draw was in action.

The Russian second seed, who missed much of the European clay season after undergoing a hernia procedure, showed his resilience against Djere. He pounded out seven aces, won 68 percent (48 of 71) of his first-serve points, converted seven of 18 break points and won half (63 of 127) of his receiving points, playing from deep behind the baseline. It added up to a win that puts Medvedev into the third round in his sixth French Open.

“Today, I think to be honest, Laslo was playing the better clay-court tennis,” Medvedev admitted in his on-court interview. “But I managed to fight and just put one more ball in the court than him and it was a very tough match. But I am happy to win.”

Next, Medvedev, who has not won any titles this season, will play No. 28 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, who advanced with an entertaining 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 42 Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan. Medvedev has a chance to return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings (the week of June 13 when ranking points from the 2021 French Open drop) if he reaches the Roland Garros final.

• No. 7 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus is through to the third round after powering her way to a 6-1, 6-3 win over 57th-ranked American Madison Brengle on Court 14. It sets up a third-round clash between Sabalenka and No. 28 seed Carla Giorgi of Italy, who beat No. 37 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, 6-3, 7-5. Meanwhile, No. 9 seed Danielle Collins fell to fellow American Shelby Rogers, 6-4, 6-3.

• No. 11 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States advanced to the third round but it wasn’t easy. She was ahead a set and serving for the match at 5-2 against No. 36 Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine. Pegula squandered three match points and couldn’t close it out. Soon, she found herself on the losing end of seven straight games as Kalinina leveled the match and went ahead 1-0 in the third set. Next, Pegula collected herself and took a double-break lead at 4-1 before the Ukrainian rallied to even the set at 4-all. Then, Pegula broke again for 5-4, but Kalinina fought off another four match points before Pegula finally won on her eighth on a backhand volley winner.

Upcoming, Pegula will play No. 24 seed Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, who was a Paris semifinalist last year. She advanced via walkover after a foot injury forced Egypt’s Mayar Sherif to withdraw.

• After losing in the opening round in each of his three previous Paris appearances, No. 12 seed Hubert Hurkacz has reached the third round for the first time. He defeated No. 132 Marco Cecchinato of Italy, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, striking 30 winners to 13 unforced errors while facing no break points on his serve. The Polish star got the job done in an hour and 29 minutes on Court 14 to set up a third-round match with No. 48 David Goffin of Belgium, who advanced with a 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2, 6-4 win over 24th seed Frances Tiafoe of the United States on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

• In just the second Grand Slam of her young career, 19-year-old Zheng Qinwen of China lent credence to her rise in the rankings over the past 18 months – improving from 287th at the en of 2020 – after beating 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep of Romania, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, in an hour and 56 minutes on Court Simonne-Mathieu. It was the 74th-ranked Zheng’s first Top-20 win.

Zheng is playing in just her second major after debuting at this year’s Australian Open. Previously, she was 0-3 against Top 20 competition, including a straight-set loss to Halep during the Melbourne Summer Set 1 semifinals in January. This time, she beat the No. 19 seed Halep after hitting 27 winners to nine.

• French wild card Gilles Simon won his 500th career match – and did it in front of a near-capacity gathering on Court Philippe-Chatrier to close out the afternoon session. The 158th-ranked Simon, a native of Nice, defeated 92nd-ranked American Steve Johnson, 7-5, 6-1, 7-6 (6), in just over two-and-a-half hours to reach the third round at Roland Garros for the first time since 2018.

Simon won his first career match in 2005 when he beat Thomas Johansson in Marseille. He’s the 56th man in the Open Era (since 1968) to accomplish the feat and the third Frenchman, joining Richard Gasquet (574) and Gaël Monfils (523). Simon plans to retire from the ATP Tour at the end of the season.

• Other seeded men advancing include: No. 7 Andrey Rublev of Russia, who defeated Federico Delbonis of Argentina, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3; No. 11 Jannik Sinner of Italy, who beat Roberto Carballes Baena of  Spain, 3-6 6-4, 6-4, 6-3; and No. 20 Marin Cilic of Croatia, who bested Martin Fucsovics of Hungary, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

• Other seeded women moving into the third round include: No. 22 Daria Kasatkina of Russia, who beat qualifier Fernanda Contreras Gomez of Mexico, 6-0, 6-3; and No. 22 Madison Keys of the United States, who defeated France’s Caroline Garcia, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

Thursday’s French Open results

Friday’s French Open order of play

By the numbers

Rafael Nadal‘s 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Corentin Moutet on Court Philippe-Chatrier Wednesday evening was his 300th career Grand Slam win. He became just the third man to reach the 300-win plateau at the majors, behind Roger Federer (369) and Novak Djokovic (324).

Nadal also improved to 14-0 against left-handed competition at the French Open (114-16 overall) and 52-0 prior to the fourth round (not including his 2016 walkover to Marcel Granollers).

Passing shots

“Quotable …”

“I always enjoy good support here in Paris. I think the people here know how special this place is for me and how important and how much respect I always had for Roland Garros. I think they appreciate all the things that I did in this event. So, I feel a lot of love from the people here.”

Rafael Nadal, 13-time French Open champion, following his 300th Grand Slam victory Wednesday evening.