Roland Garros: Tsitsipas cruises, Serena fights

  • Matt Trollope

Stefanos Tsitsipas continued his charge through the Roland Garros draw, with a straight-sets win over Pedro Martinez sending him through to the third round.

Tsitsipas, the fifth seed and considered one of the favourites for the men’s title, was joined in the last 32 by Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Casper Ruud and former world No.4 Kei Nishikori, a five-set winner over Karen Khachanov.

At the same time, Serena Williams continued her quest for a 24th major trophy with a gritty three-set win over Mihaela Buzarnescu.

In a loaded quarter of the draw, Williams next faces Danielle Collins, while Aryna Sabalenka, Victoria Azarenka and Madison Keys also progressed.

Serena, Sabalenka on collision course

Williams lost the second set to tricky lefty Buzarnescu before rebounding strongly in the third, completing a 6-3 5-7 6-1 victory in just over two hours at Court Philippe Chatrier. 

Collins looms as her third-round opponent after the American routed qualifier Anhelina Kalinina 6-0 6-2, while also advancing in that segment was No.21 seed Elena Rybakina, a 6-3 6-1 winner over Nao Hibino.

Later on Wednesday, in-form third seed Sabalenka won through 7-5 6-3 over fellow Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich and will play No.31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – a straight-sets winner over Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic – for a place in the last 16.

If they continue winning, Sabalenka and Williams will meet in the quarterfinals. 

DRAW: Roland Garros women's singles

But there will be plenty of hurdles to clear before that, including No.15 seed Azarenka and 23rd seed Keys, who both won in straight sets to set up a high-profile third-round clash.

In a wide-open bottom quarter of the draw, No.20 seed Marketa Vondrousova is the only seed remaining, and was joined on Wednesday’s winner’s list by surging Spaniard Paula Badosa, former top-10 player Daria Kasatkina – who dropped just four games against No.10 seed Belinda Bencic – and last week’s Strasbourg finalist Sorana Cirstea.

Future of men’s game strong

Top-10 stars Tsitsipas, Medvedev and Zverev led a youthful charge into the third round of the bottom half of the draw, where opportunity beckons considering the 'Big Three' of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are all in the top half.

Medvedev continued his breakout campaign at Roland Garros, beating Tommy Paul in four sets in the night match on Chatrier to set up a meeting with 23-year-old Reilly Opelka, who beat Jaume Munar in four.

Tsitsipas is yet to drop a set in Paris this year but will next face strong opposition in No.31 seed John Isner, who continued his impressive season on clay by beating Filip Krajinovic in 7-6(6) 6-1 7-6(5).

Earlier on Wednesday, sixth seed Zverev ousted Roman Safiullin in straight sets to reach the last 32 for the fourth straight year.

He next plays Laslo Djere – who recovered from two-sets-to-love down to beat fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic – while Nishikori looms as a potential last-16 foe after the Japanese improved his record in five-set matches to 26-7 with his 4-6 6-2 2-6 6-4 6-4 triumph over Khachanov.

DRAW: Roland Garros men's singles

No.15 seed Ruud, aged 22, was a straight-sets winner over Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak and will next take on 21-year-old Spaniard Alejandro Davodovich Fokina, a five-set victor over Dutch qualifier Botic Van De Zandschulp. 

Seeds Pablo Carreno Busta, Fabio Fognini and Cristian Garin also advanced, with Garin saving match points to ultimately beat Mackenzie McDonald 8-6 in the fifth.

Upset of the day

One seed to unexpectedly fall, however, was No.11 Roberto Bautista Agut, who lost to Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen in his earliest Roland Garros exit since 2015.

Laaksonen, the 29-year-old world No.150, won 6-3 2-6 6-3 6-2 to notch his fifth straight victory in Paris, and will look to extend that when he faces the weary Nishikori, who has already played 10 sets of tennis in two rounds.

Meanwhile, Katerina Siniakova continued her impressive form by surprising No.29 seed Veronika Kudermetova, the Charleston champion who had built a 14-3 record on clay in 2021.

Siniakova, who beat Serena Williams en route to the recent WTA Parma semifinals, trailed 5-1 in the third set and saved two match points before winning 7-6(7) 5-7 7-5.

Stat of the day

Argentina’s Federico Delbonis has quietly built an impressive 24-9 win-loss record on clay this season – the most match victories on clay of any player in 2021.

Delbonis’ latest triumph was a 4-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-2 decision against Pablo Andujar, the Spanish veteran who stunned Dominic Thiem in round one.

It sees the world No.51 move through to the third round at Roland Garros for the first time in his 14-year pro career.

No.27 seed Fabio Fognini stands between him and a first-ever appearance in the second week of a Grand Slam tournament.

Tweet of the day

Quotes of the day

“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.”
- Serena Williams, who slotted five aces and won 75 per cent of first-serve points in her win over Buzarnescu.

“My body say no, but my mind was just keep playing. It makes tough playing four hours two (matches) in a row. I'm aiming to the final, this is not the best start of the tournament. That's the only thing I don't like it. I feel like playing five matches already (smiling).”
- Kei Nishikori, after his four-hour win over Khachanov.

“I'm looking forward to it. I think we've only played once, but I'm not the best at remembering matches so I could be wrong. She's obviously playing some really impressive tennis the past 18 months. I know it's going to be a really difficult match, super high intensity.”
- Madison Keys, who lost her only previous meeting to Victoria Azarenka in Miami three years ago.

“It's nice to get some recognition (from pundits) that you had a good clay-court swing. I feel the same. I've won many matches. I've built a kind of clay-court reputation for myself, I guess. I've been performing well many tournaments in a row this year. I think this is by far my best clay-court season so far.”
- Casper Ruud, who has won 17 of 21 matches on clay in 2021, including his past six in a row.

“My brain's kind of thinking in a different way now, especially when I'm constructing points from serving. I'm so much more calm because I have so much more confidence, so much more trust in my forehand.”
- Reilly Opelka, the Rome semifinalist who advanced to the third round at Roland Garros for the first time.

Day 5: Ones to watch

A fabulous schedule awaits fans on Thursday, with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal playing back-to-back on Chatrier.

Federer faces Marin Cilic in a rematch of their Wimbledon 2017 and Australian Open 2018 finals, before Nadal takes a 16-0 head-to-head record against Richard Gasquet into their night-time clash.

The day’s play on Chatrier opens with Ash Barty – who is managing a hip injury – taking on Poland’s Magda Linette before a highly-anticipated meeting between ninth seed Karolina Pliskova and former finalist Sloane Stephens.

ORDER OF PLAY: Roland Garros Day 5

Elsewhere, world No.1 Novak Djokovic, defending women’s champion Iga Swiatek and AO 2020 champion Sofia Kenin will attempt to book their places in the third round when they play Pablo Cuevas, Rebecca Peterson and Hailey Baptiste respectively.

And it’s a banner day for Australia, with Alex de Minaur, Astra Sharma and James Duckworth joining Barty in action.