The first week of the 2021 French Open is in the books. It’s felt like a long first week! I have to be honest i’ve got one eye on the grass court season already as most of my favourite players are already out. One random note – I absolutely ADORE the Simonne Mathieu court and i’ve made it my new tennis goal to watch a match on that court at sunset. Read on for Saturday’s more comprehensive diary from Paris. I’m taking a day off from the tennis tomorrow to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.
Day 7️⃣ Highlights
Sloane Stephens d. (18) Karolina Muchova, 6-3 7-5
There is a real purpose with the way that Stephens is striking the ball this week. This was another superb performance and noteworthy win for Sloane as she advanced to the second week of the French Open for the seventh time in ten main draw appearances. That’s a stat!
Stephens was hitting the ball beautifully in the first set and played with tremendous width, drawing a subdued Muchova out wide into the corners. The second set was much, much closer and it was a riveting watch. Muchova stirred into life as she broke Stephens back at 1-2 in undoubtedly the game of the match. Muchova was much more proactive in the second set. This didn’t always translate into winners though as she was frequently burned coming forward to the net as Stephens conjured up an assortment of precise passing shot winners. In the end, there were just too many loose errors from Muchova.
Stephens served out the match at *6-5 with a confident close. There was a nice moment of appreciation between the pair at the end and Stephens, as she always does, clapped Muchova off court. Class act. The defence, movement and athleticism were all on show today for Stephens. As mentioned above, i’m just so happy to see Stephens going after the ball and really hitting her forehand with venom. Sloane is one to watch heading into the second week.
(4) Sofia Kenin d. (28) Jessica Pegula, 4-6 6-1 6-4
It wasn’t pretty but you have to hand it to Sofia Kenin. For the second straight year, she’s come into Roland Garros off the back of a tough loss in Rome and with many doubters (me included 🙈) and she’s made it to the second week with a pretty tricky draw.
This was a scrappy and strange-in-places affair. The third set was rather gripping! Kenin ran the show in all three sets. From 4-2 and game points up in the first set, Kenin’s radar went off in quite spectacular fashion. Smart, steady and solid, Pegula won 11 of 12 points on Kenin’s second serve and held her nerve to claim the opener.
Still playing aggressively, Kenin reined in her margins and took commanding control of the match. It was Kenin’s turn to take apart the second serve of her opponent with five successive breaks of the Pegula serve. Kenin was always up in the third set and it was a complete mish-mash of winners, errors and angst. Ultimately, Kenin went after her shots, didn’t back off in the slightest and her positivity and bravery was rewarded in the end with the win.
(8) Iga Swiatek d. (30) Anett Kontaveit, 7-6(4) 6-0
Kontaveit hit 23 winners to 11 unforced errors in the first set and lost it!!! That was an indication of how good the first set was, probably the highest quality set i’ve watched at this tournament, and obviously how well Swiatek played too. Swiatek has looked sensational so far this week. I did think she would struggle to deal with the pressure and expectation. So far, she’s risen to every challenge in exemplary fashion.
Kontaveit came racing out of the blocks and was firing backhand winners at will. Swiatek didn’t panic, recovered the early break and then played an excellent tiebreak. The difference was two meaty returns from Swiatek that ultimately set up the points in her favour. The second set was plain sailing.
Gutted for Kontaveit because she often gives a good account of herself when she plays the top players on tour but always seems to comes up second best. I hope she will get her a moment and I will be cheering for her!
(17) Maria Sakkari d. (14) Elise Mertens, 7-5 6-7(2) 6-2
I think Sakkari-Mertens would have been odd-on favourite to be the longest match of the day. It turned out just as expected in an entertaining three set attritional affair lasting two hours and 52 minutes. Sakkari advanced to the second week of the French Open for the first time in her career. Sakkari is 75% of the way to the career second week showings at the Slams!
This was a super impressive reset from Sakkari in the third set. Sakkari was two points from the win at 7-5 5-4* 30-0* and then played a shocking second set tiebreak. Absolutely shocking! Two double faults, nerves aplenty, not good. Considering how the second set ended, Sakkari played a terrific third set. Nine aces from Sakkari and good to see the improvements on serve helping her out in a big match like this.
Best of the rest 🎾
Barbora Krejcikova extended her winning streak to eight as she handily defeated the number 5 seed, Elina Svitolina, 6-3 6-2. Krejcikova was in complete control after winning a 21-minute game (!) at *4-3 in the first set. The result was not surprising at all as an in-form Krejcikova produced some wonderful angles.
The 18-year-old, Marta Kostyuk is into the second week of a Slam for the first time in her career! Kostyuk beat Varvara Gracheva, 6-1 6-2 in 61 minutes. Kostyuk has dropped just 15 games in three matches.
Ons Jabeur won 12 of the last 13 games to beat Magda Linette, 3-6 6-0 6-1. Back-to-back last 16 showings at the French Open for Ons!
Coco Gauff flew through the first set against Jen Brady, 6-1 in just 20 minutes. A tearful Brady then retired 😞.
Hot shot 🔥
Iga doing Iga things on the Parisien clay.
Aww this was nice!
Favourite snap 📸
Sakkari’s joy at the end of her match was one of my favourite moments of the day.
Press musings 📰
Via WTA Insider, Brady shared in press that she retired due to a foot injury, the same one that forced her out of Rome.
Recommended reading 📚
A must read on Marta Kostyuk.
Day 8 watchlist 📺
(20) Marketa Vondrousova vs. (33) Paula Badosa
(15) Victoria Azarenka vs. (31) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
(7) Serena Williams vs. (21) Elena Rybakina
Sorana Cirstea vs. Tamara Zidansek
2 thoughts on “2021 French Open, Saturday R3 Highlights: Stephens impresses, Sakkari outlasts Mertens”
So disappointed (but not at all surprised) that Svitolina lost. But well done to Barbora for such an awesome upset! Her year just gets better and better.
And I’m made up for Marta Kostyuk. Her game has really come together this week and it’ll give her so much confidence. If Swiatek doesn’t bring it on Monday then Marta will be well up for causing an upset.
I really enjoy watching Krejcikova play. Looking forward to Swiatek-Kostyuk!