The second round of the 2020 French Open is complete. Day 5 featured the biggest upset of the tournament so far by seeding. It wasn’t a big surprise though and it felt like a calmer day compared to the previous two. The two clear favourites in each half of the draw, Simona Halep and Garbiñe Muguruza, are both still in contention. There’s been a lot of upsets elsewhere and new faces emerging with eight players, that’s a quarter of the players remaining, reaching the third round of a Slam for the first time in their career. Read on for thoughts about the three matches that I watched on Thursday, Ostapenko-Pliskova, Sabalenka-Kasatkina and Ferro-Rybakina.
Ostapenko ousts Pliskova
Jelena Ostapenko scored the biggest upset of the tournament so far, ousting the number two seed, Karolina Pliskova, 6-4 6-2. I’m not surprised at the result. I didn’t expect Ostapenko to win in such convincing fashion though. This seems to be a favourable match-up for Ostapenko who has now split her six career meetings with Pliskova.
Ostapenko played a brilliant match. Dare I say Ostapenko’s hitting was rather controlled – never did I think i’d put the words Ostapenko and controlled in the same sentence 😂. It didn’t feel like Ostapenko’s standard all-or-nothing tactics. She even threw in some cute drop shots, taking full advantage of Pliskova’s lacklustre movement on the clay.
Pliskova was hampered in the Rome final just over a week ago with a back injury and I wonder if that was still an issue for her in these cooler conditions. Pliskova was poor on both serve and return. Ostapenko outserved Pliskova which you don’t see every day. In fact, Ostapenko simply outplayed Pliskova and it wasn’t close to being a contest in the second set. If not already, I think it’s time to sit up and take notice of Ostapenko at this year’s French Open.
Sabalenka’s best result at the French Open
Aryna Sabalenka is into the third round of the French Open for the first time in her career, In fact, it’s just her third appearance (!) at this stage of a Slam. Sabalenka edged a tight first set tiebreak before easing past Daria Kasatkina, 7-6(6) 6-0. It was all about the first set which was fascinating because I didn’t have a clue who was going to win it. Sabalenka saved a set point with the most unlikely of tactics, producing a drop shot-lob combo! It was even more curious because she’d lost the point prior to that with a drop shot that Kasatkina had tracked down with ease.
It was an up-and-down opener that featured the good, the bad and the ugly. In the first set tiebreak, Sabalenka landed a trio of big forehands and was ultimately rewarded for being more positivie as she just about kept her unforced errors in check. I was generally encouraged by Kasatkina’s performance in the first set. She’s looked flat and subdued for much of the year. I felt there was a spark in her ball-striking and demeanour that has been missing for a long time. Kasatkina’s focus and confidence still wavered and all too often she retreats, not helped by the vulnerability on serve. She was always going to be up against it with Sabalenka. Kasatkina won just two of 17 points behind her second serve.
Ferro’s win streak continues, takes out Rybakina
The final women’s match of the day saw Fiona Ferro produce an attacking display to beat last week’s Strasbourg finalist, Elena Rybakina, 6-3 4-6 6-2. Ferro won the first tournament on the restart in Palermo with victories over Alexandrova, Giorgi, Errani and Kontaveit. Ferro has since been sidelined by a rib injury and skipped the hard court events in the US. Because of that, Ferro has gone under-the-radar. Safe to say she’s back on it now!
I expected Rybakina to be the aggressor in the match. That was not the case at all as Ferro hit nearly double the amount of winners compare to Rybakina (36 to 19). After a superb start, the Frenchwoman lost her way in the second set with a series of errors off the forehand wing. Rybakina’s calm temperament held her in good stead as she defended valiantly and turned the match around.
The pair exchanged four consecutive breaks at the start of the decider. Ferro saved three break points at 2-2 and never looked back from there, racing to the finish line in a blaze of flashy winners as her forehand locked in again. Despite the loss, I still adore Rybakina’s groundstrokes. This was a decent match overall with some delightfully pure ballstriking from both players. Ferro has now won seven matches in a row on the tour and even more if you count a pair of French exhibitions prior to the restart!
Day 6 watchlist 📺
Iga Swiatek vs. Eugenie Bouchard: I’m excited about this one! Swiatek has beaten Vondrousova and Hsieh in style, while Bouchard played a great match to beat Gavrilova in the second round. I was really taken aback by Bouchard’s resilience and level of play. I’m tempted to go for Bouchard. However, i’m sticking with Swiatek as I think her clay court craft could give her the edge.
Simona Halep vs. Amanda Anisimova: A significant match, a QF RG rematch from last year where Anisimova stunned Halep to win, 6-2 6-4. I think this is a big match for Halep. I haven’t watched Anisimova at this tournament yet but she has dropped just 4 games in 2 matches! Tend to think Halep, who has looked steady so far, will be up for this one.
Elise Mertens vs. Caroline Garcia: Garcia leads the head-to-head, 2-0, and has once again found some form at a Slam. Intrigued to see how their games stack up on the clay. I’m sticking with Mertens who has been so, so reliable of late.