French Open

Ruud, Swiatek gain momentum at French Open as Sinner punished


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Ruud, Swiatek gain momentum at French Open as Sinner punished

TOP FORM. Poland's Iga Swiatek in action during her second-round match against Claire Liu of the US.

Kai Pfaffenbach/REUTERS

Iga Swiatek stays on track of her title defense as Casper Ruud, who lost to Rafa Nadal in last year's final, still looks rock solid

PARIS, France – Fourth seed Casper Ruud and holder Iga Swiatek stayed on course to reach consecutive finals at the French Open while a couple of unheralded names in the women’s draw continued to show their immense potential on a sunny Thursday, June 1, at Roland Garros.

Elena Rybakina also booked a third round spot with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over rising Czech teenager Linda Noskova with the fourth seed and Wimbledon champion dazzling again on Parisian clay as one of the top contenders for the Grand Slam title.

Ruud, who lost to Rafa Nadal in last year’s final, is aiming to capitalize on the 14-time champion’s absence through injury this year and looked rock solid for much of his 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 victory over Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri.

“It was a tough match,” Ruud said. “I started well, got a break early and served well myself. That’s the beauty of best-of-five sets. In a normal match I would have won 6-3, 6-2, but here you have the chance to fight like he did.

“He played much better in the third set and the fourth set, and it became very tough.”

Ruud will next play Chinese trailblazer Zhang Zhizhen, who beat Argentine qualifier Thiago Agustin Tirante, 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-4 to become the first man from his country since 1937 to reach round three.

Swiatek, who is looking to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup for the third time in four years, briefly struggled against American Claire Liu but returned to her rampant best with another bagel in her 6-4, 6-0 victory.

Dream debut

Russian qualifier Mirra Andreeva continued to enjoy a dream Grand Slam debut as the 16-year-old stormed into the third round with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Frenchwoman Diane Parry, though she admitted to having butterflies in her stomach.

“I’m happy that you don’t see that I’m nervous,” said the world No. 143, who became the youngest player to reach the third round in Paris since a 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva stormed into the last eight in 2005.

“I hide it pretty well.”

Up next for Andreeva is 19-year-old Coco Gauff – a player who knows all about negotiating instant stardom, with last year’s runner-up having subdued Julia Grabher 6-2, 6-3 to set up the third-round showdown.

American Kayla Day made no secret of her success after a stunning 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win over compatriot Madison Keys, thanking her Czech roots for enhancing her tennis skills.

“My mum, she was born and raised in Prague, and I speak fluent Czech. That’s the only reason why I’m good at tennis, because I’m half Czech.”

Sinner falters

Jannik Sinner later squandered two match points in his 6-7(0), 7-6(7), 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 loss to German Daniel Altmaier in an epic battle lasting more than five hours.

“Playing every point you can with the best effort, that’s what keeps you in reality,” Altmaier said about his escapes on match point.

“I was just thinking that and the competition says it all. We’ve had historic matches with so many match points… I don’t know if you can call this a ‘historical’ match, but I think it was one to remember.”

While Sinner’s hard-hitting approach works on hard courts, he struggles on the slowest surface, which proves more challenging, and he was eventually worn down by the world No. 79, who won on his fifth match point on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

“Usually I’m smiling inside and that was not the case today, my attitude was not right, I did things I don’t usually do,” Sinner, who at one point smashed his racket onto the court – very rare behaviour from him – told a press conference.

“This year I have this goal to qualify for (the ATP Finals in) Turin and maybe I put too much pressure on myself, having this objective. So maybe I need to change my mindset.”

French exit

Another German, Alexander Zverev, eased into round three by making light work of Slovakian Alex Molcan, 6-4 ,6-2, 6-1, looking increasingly closer to the form that took him to the semifinals in Paris last year when he retired with a serious ankle injury.

Next for the 22nd seed is American 12th seed Frances Tiafoe, who beat Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.

Croatian Borna Coric was made to work hard by Pedro Cachin before the 15th seed prevailed, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 but it was a day to forget for Australian 18th seed Alex de Minaur who fell to a 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-3 defeat against Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

Tunisian world No. 7 Ons Jabeur came through a tricky test against risk-taking Oceane Dodin with a 6-2, 6-3 victory to ensure that no French player will make the third round of the women’s competition for the third time in five years.

French presence in the singles’ draws was ended altogether in the last match of the day when Arthur Rinderknech was knocked out by American ninth seed Taylor Fritz 2-6, 6-4 ,6-3, 6-4.

Sustained boos and whistles rained down from the Court Philippe Chatrier stands after the American shushed the fans repeatedly, having beaten Rinderknech in four sets under the lights.

As he was preparing to do his post-match interview, Fritz kept his cool as he came under fire, barely able to exchange words with courtside interviewer Marion Bartoli.

“I’m sorry I actually can’t hear you,” he told the former Wimbledon champion.

“The crowd was so great honestly… that I had to let it fire me up. They cheered so well for me I wanted to make sure I won,” he added, having ended the French presence in the singles draws at Roland Garros by beating the last home favorite. –

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