2021 French Open, Thursday R2 Highlights: Stephens’s best win since 2018, Barty retires

The second round at the 2021 French Open is in the books. Not the best of tennis days as the world number one, Ash Barty, was forced to retire from her second round match. The rest of the matches were mostly uneventful. Just a short post from me today as I was playing tennis myself this evening. I’m pleased to report that I was truly abysmal.

Day 5️⃣ Highlights

Sloane Stephens d. (9) Karolina Pliskova, 7-5 6-1

This was Stephens’s first top ten win since the 2018 WTA Finals when she beat… Karolina Pliskova! I think Sloane has been on a slow but steady upward trajectory for the last few months and this was one of her best performances of the year. It’s uplifting considering what Sloane has been through this past year. There was a match she played in Charleston earlier this year against Ajla Tomljanovic which completely won me over. It was peak Sloane hitting. Granted, that level hasn’t been sustained since then but there were flashes of it again today as she was hitting the ball beautifully and really going after her groundstrokes.

The first set of this match built to a pretty high level. I was impressed how Stephens didn’t shy away when Pliskova started to surge. Stephens failed to serve out the set in a brilliant game at *5-4, but sealed the deal second time round at *6-5. Pliskova came in two aggressive waves, twice breaking Stephens to get back on level terms. Pliskova then rather tamely gifted the break back on both occasions. Once again, Pliskova was a shadow of her former self on serve as she held serve in just four of her ten service games.

Circling Stephens’s third round match with Karolina Muchova as one to watch.

Magda Linette d. (1) Ash Barty, 6-1 2-2 ret.

Oof. What a crusher. We knew Barty was struggling from her first round match and it became quickly apparent in this match that the hip injury was still bothering her. Barty took a medical time-out after the first set and continued on for four games before pulling the rip cord. This tournament sucks 😂 . In much the same vein as Halep, Muguruza, Kvitova and Osaka, I have everything crossed that Ash will be all good for Wimby.

Linette advances to the third round to play Ons Jabeur. Linette played a superb first set. I think it must be a real challenge to play an injured opponent. Linette was focused and tactically aware, moving the ball from side-to-side and exploiting Barty’s movement into her backhand wing.

Best of the rest 🎾

Barbora Krejcikova defeated the number 32 seed, Ekaterina Alexandrova for the second time in a week. Krejcikova, who is now riding a seven match winning streak, won 6-2 6-3.

The only other seeds to go three sets on Thursday were Elise Mertens and Jen Brady, the latter who twice came from a break down in the third set to beat Fiona Ferro, 4-6 6-2 7-5.

In a rematch of the Parma final, Coco Gauff beat Wang Qiang again, 6-3 7-6(1). Gauff played a superb second set tiebreak which included a jumping backhand winner, immense anticipation at the net in a classic pinball point and a backhand passing shot winner.

Most of the seeds had a good day. Elina Svitolina, Anett Kontaveit, Iga Swiatek, Sofia Kenin, Ons Jabeur, Karolina Muchova, Jessica Pegula and Maria Sakkari all won through to the third round in straight sets.

H&H 🤗

Lovely touch from Jen Brady 🥰 .

Favourite snap 📸

This picture gets me 😭.

Press musings 📰

Gutted for Ash.

Day 6 watchlist 📺

(7) Serena Williams vs. Danielle Collins

(15) Victoria Azarenka vs. (23) Madison Keys

(3) Aryna Sabalenka vs. (31) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

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5 thoughts on “2021 French Open, Thursday R2 Highlights: Stephens’s best win since 2018, Barty retires

  1. Glad to see Sloane Stephens playing well. Although I feel like Pliskova has unfortunately shown all she is going to show. Her game appears to be regressing and she just doesn’t seem to have much determination or hunger to win left.

    I watched both Ukrainian girls – Svitolina and Kostyuk. Marta backed up her big win over Muguruza with another display of controlled aggression and athleticism. I feel like she’s on the brink of breaking through to the top of the game. This is a big opportunity for her to make the second week of a Slam for the first time! Although she faces another talented youngster first.

    A friend was saying to me that Svitolina is their favourite to win the title. Having watched her play this week, I don’t agree. It’s funny because the first set against Li was one of the best sets of tennis she’s ever played. She was focused and striking the ball incredibly. Then in the second set her first serve dropped off, she retreated behind the baseline, and Li was able to string a few games. But the worrying thing for me was that Svitolina looked SO panicked when she went down a break. I feel like she has some major emotional scars from losing leads in matches. You can see it in her eyes. And even though she managed to turn it back around this time, her opponents know that she’s fragile when closing out these matches. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Barbora pulls the upset on Saturday…

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    • Agreed on Pliskova. Her serve isn’t winning as many free points as it used to and I feel like it’s exposing the rest of her game.

      Big opportunity for Kostyuk! I don’t see Svitolina as a contender to be honest and same, would not be surprised in the slightest to see Krejcikova win that. I just can’t shake off last year’s French Open.

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  2. Good to see Sloane playing well again. I’ve long thought that when she’s playing her best tennis she’s easily a top 5 player – to me, she’s what Aga would have been if she’d had more stamina for the final stages of big tournaments. Her problems seem to be more in her head (especially with motivation) than anything else.

    There was a time after Brisbane 2017 when I thought Karo Pliskova was heading for a slam, but I can’t really see it now – other, younger players have caught her up and her game doesn’t seem to have progressed at the same time as, as James says, her serve is no longer the weapon it was.

    Sadly I think the same’s true of Svitolina now, whom I like – other, younger players have come along behind her and her game hasn’t really developed any further from about four years ago. I agree that Marta (her compatriot) looks very promising – hard to believe she’s still only 18.

    A (Sloane / Serena) – Iga Swiatek final perhaps?

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    • I actually do disagree with you re Svitolina’s game. I feel like it HAS progressed – she’s far more aggressive, she has more variety, she looks better coming in, she’s got better footwork and balance, she mixes up the serve more. All of which begs the question as to why she isn’t getting the results she had when her game was far more one dimensional. The only conclusion I can come to is that she’s got that mental baggage. When it comes to pressure moments (e.g. last year’s French Open, where she became the favourite) she just loses all the good stuff she’s added to her game…

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      • Happy to defer to your greater knowledge of her game Andrew and take back what I said. There have certainly been times over the last four or so years where she’s looked like she was going to win a slam very soon (such as a final, I think 2018, where she beat Simona).

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