The first week of the 2020 French Open is in the books! It was a shame how the schedule panned out on Saturday with four women’s matches all going on at the same time, yet nothing for the first two hours of the day. There were more surprises as another trio of players advanced to the last 16 of a Slam for the first time and the favourite from the bottom half bowed out. Read on for highlights from Saturday’s matches including Jabeur-Sabalenka, Kvitova-Fernandez and Collins-Muguruza.
Jabeur holds off Sabalenka
In a classic WTA rollercoaster clash, Ons Jabeur beat Aryna Sabalenka in three sets, 7-6(7) 2-6 6-3. This match was everything that I had expected with a funky clash in styles and frequent changes in momentum.
Jabeur missed three set points at *6-5 *40-0 in the first set (peak Sabalenka) but then rallied from 1-5 down in the ensuing tiebreak, finally converting on her sixth set point. Sabalenka played a lights-out second set, lasting just 20 minutes (!), as she found her first serve and got the first strike in, not allowing Jabeur to spin her web of variety.
But of course, the pendulum swung again in the third set as Jabeur toughed out an early hold, broke Sabalenka and then defended her serve brilliantly as she landed big first serves when it counted. Jabeur went back to her first set tactic of drawing Sabalenka into the net with drop shots and slices – Sabalenka won less than half of points up at the net (15/35). I admired Sabalenka’s commitment and she gave it everything. Jabeur held onto become the first Arab woman to reach the last 16 of the French Open.
A Kvitova first set fightback, d. Fernandez in straights
Petra Kvitova rallied from 1-5 down in the first set and saved two set points, coming back to beat the talented, Leylah Fernandez, 7-5 6-3. In an entertaining first set, Fernandez had started very brightly and was taking the ball so early. Kvitova’s game was all over the shop. Slowly but surely, Kvitova managed to claw her way back into contention as she toughed some lengthy deuce games. Kvitova cut out the errors and had a lot of joy going back behind Fernandez. Kvitova saved a set point at 1-5* with a gorgeous volley (having landed a decisive return) and then a second set point at 3-5* with a return winner.
While Fernandez’s level dropped a little, I thought it was more about Kvitova cleaning up her game. Kvitova reeled off eight straight games before Fernandez provided some late resistance in the second set. Big respect to Fernandez – her attitude was exemplary and she remained positive. She’s got a great mentality and should be proud of her best result at a Slam.
Collins upsets Muguruza
Danielle Collins rallied from 0-3 down in the third set to knock out one of the favourites for the title, Garbiñe Muguruza, 7-5 2-6 6-4. For two and a half sets, this was a great match of first-strike tennis. Collins found her range in the first set after going down an early break and played a superb return game to break at 6-5. Muguruza lost the first set with over 70% of first serves in and a +6 winners to unforced errors differential. Muguruza maintained her level in the second set as Collins wavered.
Muguruza won the second set and was peaking at the start of the third set as she became increasingly aggressive. Muguruza led *3-0 *40-30. Muguruza lost that game and then completely went into her shell. Her first serve disappeared, she became passive and even stopped grunted. Collins was wasteful at times, nowhere near her first set level as the quality of the match dissipated, but she continued to go after her shots and accepted the late night gifts from Muguruza to win the last three games.
Really puzzled by that conclusion because Muguruza was playing so, so well and then her level dropped into the abyss. I hope everything is OK? Credit to Collins who is such a dangerous player. It feels like years ago but it was this year in Australia when she was thumping quality players left, right and centre. Collins-Jabeur should be a fun one in the next round.
Best of the rest 🎾
Zhang Shuai came from 3-5 down in the first set and saved three set points to beat the Frenchwoman, Clara Burel in two very tight sets, 7-6(2) 7-5.
Sofia Kenin scored a virtual double bagel, coming back from 0-2 down in the first set to cruise past Irina Bara, 6-0 6-2.
In a battle of post-lockdown clay court champs, Fiona Ferro beat Patricia-Maria Tig, 7-6(6) 4-6 6-0 in two hours and 48 minutes. Ferro is into the last 16 of a Slam for the first time in her career.
Laura Siegemund won the last eight games to beat Petra Martic, 6-7(5) 6-3 6-0. This is Siegemund’s best ever Slam result and she has quadrupled her number of main draw wins at the French.
And make that three newbies in the last 16 of a Slam. Paula Badosa silenced the hype around Jelena Ostapenko, winning 6-4 6-3.
Recommended media 📺
Loved this when Fernandez tumbled that she instinctively began to move back into the court without her racquet!
Day 8 watchlist 📺
Simona Halep vs. Iga Swiatek: For the second straight year, Halep and Swiatek will play each other in the fourth round of Roland Garros. Halep’s just overturned last year’s QF loss to Anisimova with a 6-0 6-1 rout. Well, Halep beat Swiatek, 6-0 6-1 last year so it would be rather poetic if Swiatek manages to reverse the result! I think it will be much, much closer than last time. Swiatek has been sensational so far and been able to hit through the courts. I’d give Swiatek a set in this one.
Elina Svitolina vs. Caroline Garcia: Garcia leads the H2H, 3-1, but the pair haven’t played in over two years with Garcia’s three wins coming when she was at her highest career ranking after she peaked in Asia. It really depends on which level Garcia brings. Her best beats Svitolina but she’ll have to play a great match to break through Svitolina’s defences.
Kiki Bertens vs. Martina Trevisan: Both players have saved match points en route to the fourth round! Trevisan’s run has been damn impressive and she showed so much spirit against both Gauff and Sakkari, holding her nerve to score the biggest wins of her career. Bertens was in fine form against Siniakova and looked physically fine after *that* match vs. Errani. This will likely be a more physical match but I tend to think Bertens will be too solid in this match-up.
Barbora Krejcikova vs. Nadia Podoroska: One of the most unlikely fourth round matches we’re ever likely to see at a Slam. Between the pair, they’d mustered just one main draw at a Slam before this week. Now they have seven! I haven’t seen enough of Podoroska this week and ever to really give an assessment on this one. A huge opportunity for both players to reach a Slam QF.