I’m not sure eventful cuts it in trying to describe day 4 of the 2020 French Open. It all started with the sad news that Serena Williams was forced to pull out of this year’s French Open with an achilles injury. Within an hour or so, the four seeds in Serena’s eighth were all out of the tournament. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova played a tremendous match to beat Victoria Azarenka, 6-2 6-2. Schmiedlova has snapped a 13 match losing streak at the Slams by beating Venus and Vika back-to-back.
The potential Azarenka-Putintseva R3 clash that I had low key circled as one of the most exciting prospects from the first week was blown to smithireens as Nadia Podoroska, advancing to the third round of a Slam for the first time in her career, beat Putintseva, 6-3 1-6 6-2. Yulia wasn’t so thrilled, as demonstrated by two classic and repeated racquet smashes upon losing the first set and then the match 😂.
Not as surprising but Barbora Strycova completed the exodus of seeds in this section as she was beaten by fellow Czech player, Barbora Krejcikova. This now means that one of Schmiedlova, Podoroska, Pironkova or Krejcikova will reach the quarters!
The drama didn’t subside from there, in fact, we were just getting started. I’m not sure if it’s the recency bias talking but the match featuring Kiki Bertens and Sara Errani was one of the most dramatic WTA matches that i’ve watched in a long, long time. And I can’t say I expected it from a Bertens-Errani match. This match dominated my scattered watching on Wednesday (a shout-out to Martina Trevisan’s late night win over Coco Gauff, 7-5) so Bertens-Errani is my central focus on the blog today.
The headline without context. Kiki Bertens saved a match point to beat Sara Errani, 7-6(5) 3-6 9-7 in three hours and 11 minutes. To try and make sense of what unfolded in front of our eyeballs requires a story of events.
Errani started very brightly and quickly went up 5-2 in the first set. Errani failed three times to serve out the set at *5-2, *5-4 and *6-5. The talking point was Errani’s serve as she began to endure all kinds of woe with her ball toss. The game at *6-5 was extraordinary as Errani received multiple time violations because she ket aborting the ball toss over and over again. Twice she had to go for the underarm serve. Bertens eventually won the set on the first set tiebreak, 7-6(5).
Errani was much more stable on serve in the second set. The pair traded long drawn-out rallies in some arduous games with six out of nine going to deuce. Errani’s baseline game flourished and this time round, she served out the set in rather convincing fashion as Bertens missed big on return, going for too much. Errani, 6-3.
A new plotline was added to the mix as Bertens began to struggle physically, seeming to clutch her leg/foot and wince in pain. It clearly got worse from about 4-4 in the third set and she had the trainer on after this game although there was no official medical time-out. Errani stared over in Bertens’s direction a few times.
The pair exchanged 10 (!) consecutive breaks of serve and through this period, the magic number three again, Errani three times failed to serve out the match at *5-4, *6-5 and *7-6. Errani’s lone match point came at *6-5 which was extinguished by a Bertens forehand winner. Bertens, clearly impeded, began hitting out with her shots and was increasingly aggressive. Towards the end, there was a moment where Errani appeared to mock her opponent’s injury as Bertens kept reaching for her leg.
An elusive hold came at 7-7 for Bertens and on her fourth match point, with a couple of hot shots for good measure in the final game, she clinched the match. Bertens sunk to her knees in uncontrollable emotion, while Errani pretty much stormed off the court. Bertens attempted a racquet tap but Errani was having none of it! It was sad to see Bertens having to be wheeled off court in a wheelchair.
Firstly, Errani’s serve. I was under the impression that Errani’s worsening serve throughout her career was due to a long-term shoulder injury. There has to be something mental there too because it got progressively worse in the pressure moments. I’ve never seen anything like it before and for a player to get repeated time violations! Errani’s game crumbled at the end of the first set because of the extreme pressure created by simply trying to land the serve in court.
It’s easy to laugh and joke about it. I don’t particularly like making fun of a player who is trying their best. It’s quite remarkable really what Errani has achieved in her career and coming so close in this match, essentially playing without a serve. Her return game and rally game, particularly on clay, are so good and she drove Bertens mad with her consistent ball striking, sharp movement and devilish drop shots and touch around the net.
Having watched Bertens on and off the court for many years, I find it hard to believe that Bertens was putting on this injury as Errani seemed to make out. Errani became completely transfixed by what was happening on the other side of the court and lost focus on her own game. In the heat of the moment emotions can run wild and we’ve been all there. However, I did think Errani’s behaviour was out of order and mocking an opponent’s injury is low. Errani had a wealth of opportunities to win the match and she didn’t take them.
I’m still reeling from this match! It was a tortuous affair, not a pretty watch AT ALL, but one you just couldn’t take your eyes off as both sadly experienced different feelings of pain. I won’t forget about this one anytime soon.
Day 5 watchlist 📺
Aryna Sabalenka vs. Daria Kasatkina: Both have had some rough moments post-lockdown but perhaps the tide is turning? Both enjoyed impressive first rounds wins. I can’t make my mind up on this one.
Karolina Pliskova vs. Jelena Ostapenko: Pliskova’s tough route continues against the former champ, Ostapenko who hit a barrage of winners in the first round. The last time Oatapenko won a round at the French, she won the whole caboodle. Definitely an upset alert and heyyy i’ve fallen for it. I’ll be a fool and go for Ostapenko.
Julia Goerges vs. Laura Siegemund: An all-German clash and actually the only two remaining in this draw! Goerges went round the houses to beat Riske for her first win post-lockdown. Siegemund’s never made it past the second round of RG before which still surprises me. I like Siegemund to break new ground here.
Elena Rybakina vs. Fiona Ferro: Two champs in 2020, one pre-lockdown and one post-lockdown. Ferro won her first match since winning the title in Palermo, beating Heather Watson in two tight sets. Could be an interesting match. I’m pretty sold on Rybakina at this tournament.
Danielle Collins vs. Clara Tauson: Don’t know what to expect with this one but i’m there… in spirit, as i’ll be working 😭😂.