2020 French Open, Day 4 Highlights: Still reeling from the drama of Bertens-Errani

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.

Set 1

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).

Set 2

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.

Set 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.

Thoughts

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 😭😂.

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter and Facebook. Feature photo by Omar Boraby Photography.

13 thoughts on “2020 French Open, Day 4 Highlights: Still reeling from the drama of Bertens-Errani

  1. To me the match of Bertens shows that the conditions at Roland Garros are harsh, knowing that Bertens used to be one of the best gravel players in the world. The shock loss of Azarenka also contributes to this analysis. And Cori Gauff lost her match to Trevisan. Halep did well, but is her current game sufficient to withstand Anisimova this year ? I have a strange feeling we will have many unexpected semi finalists this year …

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    • It’s a tough year, whoever wins this title will have well and truly earnt it! I’d probably go along with your strange feeling. I think there will be more upsets to come. Enjoying watching this tournament unfold. There have been some thrilling matches already!

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    • I’m actually expecting more seeds to fall. This is really a ‘different’ kind of Roland Garros event they are contending with, coupled with the fact that there hasn’t been much preparation. Clay does favour some form of rhythm coming in. I think you’ll have to embrace it and wrestle through with a ‘sorry, not sorry’ kind of attitude. Pretty much like how Ostapenko does sometimes, seemingly switched off to the adversity.

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  2. You may not believe this but Errani’s serve has markedly improved from where it was at the beginning of last year. She had several games where she served about 20 double faults. In Bogota against Bibiane Schoofs she served just about every second serve under-arm and by the end was serving under-arm on first serve too. She still won 6-2 6-1! She did the same in the next match against Astra Sharma but lost; presumably Sharma had been practicing against underarm serves! It’s a case of the “yips” for Errani; she repeatedly throws the ball too far over her left shoulder where it’s impossible to reach.

    It’s rather more sad to see Cori Gauff’s troubles with her serve. She served another 19 double faults today. It’s affecting her all round game and it’s really going to set her back if she can’t sort it out soon.

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    • Thanks Vince for the info. I’m surprised Errani didn’t underarm serve more today when she got the yips. Definitely a recurring issue on serve for Gauff. I’m not too concerned for now because she’s still so young.

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    • Just checked. In the previous three rounds (including qualifying) she served 18 double faults in each match (of 74, 79, and 84 service points) and, obviously, won all three matches!

      Still, it’s nice to see Jelena Ostapenko generally managing to keep her double fault count in single figures at the moment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Brings back memories of Elena Dementieva, she used to get me so invested in the possibilities only to be left with a sickening feeling watching her collapse. Well spoken and a nice personality, the painful part being she was very much aware whenever the onset begins, but all her mental efforts were for nought.

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  3. Errani’s serve is a mystery really. I know that she abbreviated the motion after a severe shoulder injury. It was really slow – which made her vulnerable against power players – but it generally worked for her. At this point, I would say that I serve better than she does, and I barely play.

    Gauf was the biggest shock for me today. Gutted about Serena. Schmiedlova was phenomenal (remember when I thought she would be a top 5 player? This was why…) Oh and Svitolina randomly getting bagelled was pretty bizarre, although she figured a way through it. And I’m wondering if not having on court coaching might actually be a blessing for Svitolina in the Slams. Because she’s getting used to figuring things out for herself…

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  4. Admittedly I didn’t see the whole incident but IMO Errani should be sanctioned for how she behaved (and in particular, her outburst at the end when she walked off court); she should get a fine at least, if not a suspension from a tournament or more. If she isn’t. I think it would set a deplorable example for young players coming up through the ranks as to how to behave on court (and to treat their opponent if they lose).

    To think of all the grief Aga got over her drive-by handshake with Sabine after their Wimbledon semi in 2013 …

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    • Yeah I remember Kuznetsova getting blasted for *years* for refusing to shake Rodionova’s hand at Wimbledon way back when. We’ve really come a long way since then…

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    • Rather harsh on Errani, I think! If Bertens is going to lie on the court at the end of the match, I don’t think that her opponent is obligated to hang around and wait for her.

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