In a repeat fourth round clash from Roland Garros 2016, Venus Williams and Timea Bacsinszky will square off on Sunday with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs.
Bacsinszky d. Jabeur, 6-2 6-2 (R3)
Dropping just nine games in three matches, Bacsinszky is looking in fine form heading into the second week of Roland Garros. The Swiss player produced another superb display to take advantage of an increasingly erratic, Jabeur in the third round. The forehand is a good measure of Bacsinszky’s confidence and she was hitting it sweet late on, striking two winners off that wing in quick succession.
The contrast in mood between the players was evident – while Jabeur was stressed and frustrated, Bacsinszky was calm, cool and mostly unaffected. Jabeur had a pair of long service games in the second set with Bacsinszky knocking on the door in the second of those, leading 3-2*. On one break point, Bacsinszky went for a return drop shot which failed rather miserably, barely making the net. Bacsinszky smiled at her team in the crowd and then raised her shoulders as to say “ah well!”. A few points later, Bacsinszky converted on a break point and won the last 11 points of the match to win in emphatic style.
V.Williams d. Mertens, 6-3 6-1
Williams’s third rounder against Elise Mertens was one I had tagged to be a really competitive match with the Belgian player impressing during her first two rounds and the entire 2017 season. In the end, it wasn’t all that close with Williams too strong in a mostly clinical display that matched the scoreline of her second round win over Kurumi Nara.
In heavy and damp conditions, Williams absorbed the pace from Mertens’s groundstrokes and was able to hit through the court too, producing 22 winners to 18 unforced errors and dropping just three points behind her first serve. Mertens came up with a handful of classy winners – Williams on the whole was just too consistent and booked her place in the last 16 of the French Open for the second straight year.
Head-to-head record: Williams leads Bacsinszky, 2-1 in their head-to-head. Of most interest, Bacsinszky beat Williams at the same stage of Roland Garros last year, 6-2 6-4.
Interesting stat(s): Bacsinszky has won three matches in a row this week for the first time in 2017 and since Gstaad last year. For Williams, she has reached at least the fourth round at her past five Slams and eight of the last ten… mightily impressive!
Final thoughts: Compared to this time last year, Williams is playing at a much higher level and with three straight set wins in her bag, looks a contender in this wide-open draw. Bacsinszky too looks a threat and has consistently posted excellent results at Roland Garros, her most successful Slam by a country mile. While struggling for form and momentum in 2017, the Swiss player has had an aggressive edge this week with many ventures forward to the net and her forehand holding up well.
Williams’s form has been the much stronger over the course of the year and her record at Slams has been top-notch. However, an increasingly confident, Bacsinszky playing on her favoured surface of clay should not be underestimated.
Can’t wait for this one!