Saturday, June 26, 2021

Wimbledon first round matches of interest

There are several interesting first rounds in the 2021 Wimbledon draw, just as there were in the French Open draw. Here are some of them:

Katarina Siniakova vs. Jo Konta (27): The Bad Homburg finalist meets the hometown star. Siniakova was most impressive in Bad Homburg.

Clara Tauson vs. Barbora Krejcikova (14): If you haven't seen Tauson play, here's your opportunity--and she gets none other than the French Open champion.

Leylah Fernandez vs. Alona Ostapenko: The young Canadian star will face off against Eastbourne champion Ostapenko, who has reached the semifinals before, and who has really cleaned up her game in the past few months (and weeks).

Alize Cornet vs. Bianca Andreescu (5): I don't think this needs any explanation.

Karolina Pliskova (5) vs. Tamara Zidensek: This is no walk in the grass for Pliskova; Zidensek has proven herself to be a very tough opponent.

Sloane Stephens vs. Petra Kvitova (10): The former U.S. Open champion faces the two-time Wimbledon champion. Stephens is 2-1 against Kvitova, but they have never played one another on grass.

Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Hsieh Su-Wei: Swiatek hasn't exactly been on fire lately, what with her Paris injury, so drawing a trickster like Hsieh probably isn't her idea of a fun first round.

Kiki Mladenovic vs. Elena Rybakina (18): Mladenovic remains inconsistent, but--on a good day-- she could turn this into a match worth watching.

Monica Niculescu (Q) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2):  These two have never played each other, so this will be Sabalenka's first time to experience the sometimes maddening effects of Niculescu's game.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Notice to Women Who Serve readers

As of July, Feedburner is discontinuing its email subscription service, which will shut down the Follow By Email widget on this blog. After giving this matter some thought, I've decided that--at least for now--I won't be replacing Feedburner with another mail subscription service. To those of you who have subscribed to Women Who Serve by email: I thank you for your loyalty, and I hope that you will be minimally inconvenienced by this change. If you follow me on Twitter, you will always see Tweets informing you of new posts on Women Who Serve.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

My French Open top 10

Here are my top 10 French Open phenomena and occurrences, in ascending order:

10. Not like it's anything important: Just the women's doubles final, which was shown on neither Tennis Channel nor NBC. Instead, it was shown on NBC's Peacock Channel, but not really--it was shown on NBC's Peacock Premium Channel, which means that viewers have to pay for the service. I'm all for premium viewing channels; if it weren't for these venues, we wouldn't be able to see most of the matches we want to see. But tossing a major final onto a premium channel (or even onto the regular Peacock channel, because that would force people who have no interest in the channel to have to download the app) is just not right. (In my own case, none of it matters, since watching the final would have required me to be up at 4 a.m., and that's out of the question.)

9. Diede doubles: Diede De Groot (aka Diede De Great) won her second French Open singles title, and her fourth French Open doubles title (with partner Aniek Van Koot--they were the defending champions). The top seed in both events, De Groot dropped only two games before she reached the singles final against second seed Yui Kamiji, whom she defeated 6-4, 6-3.

8. Czechapalooza!: The Czech team of Barbora Krejcikova, Katerina Siniakova and Linda Noskova wound up one match shy of pulling off a double sweep (Noskova lost her junior girls' doubles semifinal), but what they did pull off was impressive enough: Czech players won the women's singles title, the women's doubles title and the junior girls' singles title.

7. Remember my name: Desirae Krawczyk and Joe Salisbury reached the semifinals of the Australian Open mixed doubles draw this year, and in Paris, they did even better--they won the title, defeating Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev in the final. Krawczyk is ranked number 17 in the world in doubles.

6. They have arrived: Coco Gauff, Barbora Krejcikova, Maria Sakkari, Elena Rybakina, Tamara Zidansek, and Paula Badosa all reached their first major quarterfinal at this year's French Open.

5. Living on the edge: They were 1-5 down in the third set, but why let a little thing like that get you down? Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek were just about to lose to the top seeds, Hsieh Su-Wei and Elise Mertens, when they saved seven match points and went on to win the three-hour, eleven-minute match, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.

4. Check my blood pressure: While it didn't involve the drama of being 1-5 down in the third and saving seven match points, the singles semifinal featuring Barbora Krejcikova and Maria Sakkari had plenty of drama on its own. Filled with twists and turns and some superb shot-making, the tension in the third set was almost unbearable--for the viewers. Krejcikova saved a match point, and a controversial line call caused many viewers and commentators to conclude that the Czech player had to win the match twice. When it was over, I was exhausted; I couldn't even imagine how the players and their teams felt.

3. Perseverance (see Pavlyuchenkova): Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a junior number 1, was Russia's next great hope, and--while she has had a good career--she had never reached the level that had been expected of her. In fact, until the 2021 French Open, Pavyuchenkova had never made it past the quarterfinals of a major. But at this tournament, the Russian made it all the way to the final after 52 tries--the most ever for a woman. The 29-year-old didn't quite make it all the way, but--as she said after the final--"I want to believe that the best is yet to come."

2. Next time, invite a friend: So you win your first-ever WTA tournament, then you immediately go to Paris and win the French Open singles title. It's time to let your friend and partner in on the action, and that's just what Barbora Krejcikova did. She and Katerina Siniakova, seeded second, won the doubles title, defeating Bethanie Mattek-Sands (and ending her 5-0 streak in women's doubles major finals) and Iga Switek in the final. This is the pair's second French Open title; they won in 2018, and they also won at Wimbledon that same year.

When they were juniors, Krejcikova and Siniakova got together at Roland Garros in 2013 when neither of them could find a partner. They went on to win the title that year (they won two other majors as juniors), and have been together ever since. (Now, if only they would grace us with that dance again!)

1. At home in the zone: Barbora Krejcikova had known the glory of being the number 1 doubles player in the world, but her dream of being a great singles player was stuck in endless rounds of qualifying, and sometimes even those weren't available to her; qualifying takes place very early in the life of a tournament, and if you're an elite doubles player, you often can't show up for qualifying because you're still playing at the business end of the previous event.

When she was still a teen, the Czech player paid a call on a local resident, the late champion Jana Novotna, and when Novotna saw her play, she took Krejcikova on and coached her. It was Novotna's training and belief that sustained Krejcikova's own belief in her singles skills. Last year, she reached the round of 16 at the French Open, and everything changed for her. Right before she entered the 2021 French Open, in just her fourth major main draw, she won the warm-up 250 event in Strasbourg, This was Krejcikova's first WTA singles title, though--it should be noted--she was the runner-up in Dubai, a 1000 level event--in 2021.

Popular tennis wisdom maintains that playing a warm-up tournament (especially all of the matches), then playing both singles and doubles in the upcoming major, is a recipe for disaster: if you don't collapse physically, you're likely to collapse mentally. This is a logical conclusion, but Krejcikova apparently decided to ignore it altogether and just immerse herself in red clay for three weeks.

The Czech player had already knocked out fifth seed Elina Svitolina, Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff when she encountered an even greater challenge in the semifinals--Maria Sakkari. That match contained enough drama to legitimately earn the description "epic," and Krecjcikova won it. One could be forgiven for having insufficient mental and physical energy left after going through that ordeal, but this particular one was still in fine form. She went on to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the final, but that still wasn't enough for the Czech wonder--she and Katerina Siniakova went on to win the doubles title. Krejcikova is now once again the world number 1 doubles player--as if she hadn't already acquired enough glory in Paris. 

Krejcikova's Roland Garros experience isn't just an amazing tennis story--it's an amazing sports story (though I doubt it will be recognized as such) and a touching story about belief and inspiration. How lovely, too, that Jana Novotna appears as a character in that story.

When you just can't stop winning

A week before the French Open began, Barbora Krejcikova stopped by Strasbourg and won the first WTA singles title of her career. She then went to Paris, unseeded, and won the French Open singles title. Today, she and her partner, Katerina Siniakova, won the doubles title. The Czech player defied the odds, and defied common wisdom about scheduling and fatigue. She couldn't help herself--she just kept winning.

Krejcikova and Siniakova, seeded second at the tournament, defeated 14th seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

Whatever the Czechs have, I want it. Earlier in the week, Linda Noskova became the first Czech player to win the junior girls' singles title since Hana Mandlikova won it in 1978. Noskova and her partner, Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, seeded third, were defeated in the semifinals of the junior girls' doubles competition. Noskova came so close, but didn't quite reach the level of her main tour win-everything countrywoman.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Barbora, Jana and Suzanne--a triumvirate of inspiration

It would have been an amazing story, no matter which way it went: Veteran Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, former junior world number 1, finally--after fourteen years--making it past a quarterfinal in a major, and then reaching a final after the longest number of tries--52--in the Open Era. And Barbora Krejcikova, a former world number 1 in doubles, and known as a doubles specialist, unseeded and playing in only her fifth major main draw. 

One was a story of determination overcoming disappointment; the other, a story of not giving up a dream to become a great singles competitor, and of being mentored and inspired by a tennis great who left us too soon.

Today, at Roland Garros, on Court-Phillippe Chatrier, it was the second story that became part of tennis history, as unseeded Krejcikova defeated Pavlyuchenova to win the 2021 French Open. 

Krejcikova got off to a shaky start, getting broken right away, but--as she has done during the entire two weeks--the Czech player did whatever it is she does to pull herself together, and then went about running over her opponent in the opening set, and winning it 6-1. But, as is usually the case in a big match, the loser of that set came back strong, and won the second set 6-2. We knew we were in for a tense final set.

In that set, Krejcikova--whose second serve had been better than her opponent's throughout the match--had significantly more success with her second serve. She was broken once; she broke Pavlyuchenkova twice. It had the look of a set that could go either way, but then--when it counted--Krejcikova, continuing to make big trouble with both her estimable forehand and her very reliable backhand--prevailed. 

But not until she missed out on breaking Pavlyuchenkova to win the match on her opponent's serve. She then had to serve for the match, and--once again--Krejcikova became shaky (and who could blame her?) and double-faulted on her third match point. But on her fourth, she claimed her 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 victory. Though it was a close (in an odd kind of way) match, it was Krejcikova who played the bigger game, hitting 34 winners to 31 unforced errors; her opponent hit 23 winners to 16 unforced errors.

It should also be noted that Pavlyuchenkova had to deal with injuries in both her left knee and her left thigh, which certainly impeded her service game (she had been serving at a high level throughout the tournament). It's always sad to see a final (or any match, but especially a final) played in which one of the opponents is injured, and this turn of events was most unfortunate.

If I'd had to guess which player might suffer an injury in the final, I would have picked Krejcikova. She spent only about an hour more on court than Pavlyuchenkova in singles play, but she was constantly active (and still is) in doubles play. Also, Krejcikova's matches were very demanding, both mentally and physically (Pavlyuchenkova, however, did have a very demanding quarterfinal match).

Krejcikova becomes the twelfth woman in the Open Era to win a major after saving a match point, and the third such woman to win the French Open. She is the first Czech player in forty years to win at Roland Garros; Hana Mandlikova won the title in 1981.

The new champion has long been known as an elite doubles player, and is, in fact, a former world number 1. She and her partner, Katerina Siniakova, won both the French Open and Wimbledon in 2018, and the pair, seeded second, is in contention to win the 2021 French Open title. Their opponents will be the veteran doubles star Bethanie Mattek-Sands and her partner, 2020 French Open singles champion, Iga Swiatek (who has also sustained a leg injury).

Only nine months ago, Krejcikova was trying to crack the top 100. For five years, she failed to get out of qualifying at majors. But last fall, the Czech player broke through in a big way, reaching the round of 16 at Roland Garros. She lost that round to Nadia Podoroska, who would go as far as the semifinals. After that run in Paris, everything changed. Krejcikova won her first title in Strasbourg two weeks ago, and reached the final in Dubai, a WTA 1000 event. 

In addition to her two major women's doubles titles, Krejcikova also holds three Australian Open mixed doubles titles. At the trophy ceremony, she said "Now I was just telling myself, it would be really nice if I can get the Grand Slam in all three categories. Now it's happening. I cannot believe it. Wow."

"All of this... it's a big achievement that nobody really expected, not even me," the new champion acknowledged.

The 2021 French Open champion is generous with her gratitude for many who have helped her and stood by her, but her most heartfelt gratitude is reserved for the late Jana Novotna, who coached Krejcikova when she was a teenager. Their relationship began when Novotna moved back to Brno, where Krejcikova's family lives. Krejcikova's mother drove her to the Wimbledon champion's house, unannounced--and, after a session of "show me what you got" on Novotna's court--the revered champion decided to coach her.

"Pretty much her last words were 'Just enjoy, and just try to win a Grand Slam,'" Krejcikova told the crowd at the awards ceremony. "All of this that just happened these two weeks, is pretty much because she's looking after me from up there. It was amazing that I had a chance to meet her and that she was such an inspiration for me. I just really miss her and I hope she's happy right now."

And that is how you might end an amazing sports story. Only it isn't over: Tomorrow, Krejcikova will hold one more trophy, in addition to the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen already in her possession. If that turns out to be the champions' trophy, she will be the first woman to pull off the singles/doubles sweep at Roland Garros since Mary Pierce did it in 2000. 

One way or the other, it's a gripping and inspiring story, with a compelling and inspiring protagonist.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Doubles action at Roland Garros gets more exciting, but watching it is another matter

The second seeds, Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova, will contest the French Open title on Sunday against the 14th seeds, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek. Swiatek, of course, is out of singles competition, but she still has a chance to hold a trophy. Krejcikova will play in the singles final on Saturday, and--should she win--she would then be trying to become the first woman since Mary Pierce (2000) to take both titles.

Mattek-Sands and Swiatek (who has a leg injury) have already experienced quite a bit of drama. Down 1-5 in the third set against the tops seeds, Hsieh Su-Wei and Elise Mertens, they saved seven match points and went on to win the their third round match.

You'll probably want to watch the doubles final on Sunday, but good luck with that. Neither Tennis Channel nor NBC is broadcasting it; you have to view it on the Peacock Premium network.

In the meantime, Californian Desirae Krawczyk, with partner Joe Salisbury, won the mixed doubles title, defeating Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev in the final. Vesnina and Salisbury lost, yes, but the Russian WTA player made quite a statement, getting to a final upon her return to the tour after a two-year break. Vesnina, a former doubles world number 1 with five major women's doubles titles, also has an Australian Open mixed doubles title.

Krawczyk and Salisbury were mixed doubles semifinalists at this year's Australian Open.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

A Russian and a Czech create a dazzling pre-final story in Paris

There couldn't have been a greater contrast of on-court personalities: 17th seed Maria Sakkari--playing in her first major semifinal--shouted, fist-pumped, smiled, and scowled. On the other side of the net, the unseeded Barbora Krejcikova--also playing in her first major (singles) semifinal--delivered Evert-like stoicism throughout the entire 198-minute tense, momentum-swinging, physically grueling match. 

To add to the drama, Sakkari and Krejcikova had never before played each other. The Greek player entered the contest after having played a near-perfect quarterfinal match against injured defending champion Iga Swiatek. Her Czech opponent entered as a doubles semifinalist, as well; she and partner Katerina Siniakova are also in the doubles semifinals. 

There was little between the opponents. They both hit more unforced errors than winners, they had similar service stats, they broke around the same number of times (though Sakkari saved more break points), neither hit many aces (five for Krejcikova and two for Sakkari). So with neither player holding control for very long, the match went through a number of twists and turns before it finally ended.

A big twist occurred at 5-3 in the third set, when Krejcikova used her impressive backhand to save a match point. It would be the Greek's last match point, though Krejcikova would have to deal with five of her own. 

A bigger twist occurred at 7-8, 30-40 in the third set, when Sakkari hit a forehand that was called long, and Krejcikova began celebrating her victory. But Sakkari asked for the mark to be checked, and the chair umpire called the shot good. Unlike the other majors, the French Open does not use Hawkeye to check lines. Systems such as Foxtenn were used for the first time this year at other clay tournaments, but not at Roland Garros, and Hawkeye has yet to be declared accurate for clay surfaces.

So play continued, the Czech player remained calm, and on her fifth match point, she prevailed, defeating Sakkari 7-5, 4-6, 9-7.

Tennis Channel Commentator Lindsay Davenport reported that the margin wasn't in question--that the ball was way out on Hawkeye, so it's reasonable to conclude that Krejcikova actually won the match twice.

Earlier, 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated the unseeded Tamara Zidansek 7-5, 6-3. The young Slovenian players didn't make it easy for Pavlyuchenkova; her shot-making was, at times, stunning. But the Russian held fast and weathered the bad patches. 

There are people who are under the deluded impression that the women's draw at this French Open is boring, illegitimate, embarrassing, and any number of other unpleasant things (there are also many people who are under the deluded impression that the French Open isn't a fantastic major). The reality is that we have seen some thrilling and wonderful tennis this week.

The other reality is that seldom do we have such a dramatic backstory for a major final as we do this week. Let's start with Pavlyuchenkova, a former junior world number 1 and major junior champion. Much was expected of the Russian prodigy when she entered the WTA tour, but--as gifted as she is--Pavlyuchenkova had--until now--never been able to get past the quarterfinals of a major. She has also played in more majors--52--without reaching a final, than any other woman.

The 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova said a few days ago that she has matured--that, in the past, she wanted to just hit the ball without thinking too much about strategy. This maturity has obviously paid off in a big way.

In contrast, Barbora Krejcikova has played in only five major singles draws. A former world number 1 in doubles, the Czech player was still playing singles qualifying matches as recently as last year. Only she was shut out of several of them because she was playing doubles in the second week of the tournaments that were played just prior to the ones in which she hoped to qualify. She seriously considered halting her singles career.

Everything changed for her at the 2020 French Open, when Krejcikova made it to the round of 16 in singles. She won her first WTA singles title last month in Strasbourg, and was a finalist in the 2021 Dubai tournament, a WTA 1000 event. Now, she is one win away from being the first Czech player since Hana Mandlikova (1981) to win at Roland Garros. 

It may not show, but Krejcikova has had her share of problems with nerves at Roland Garros, even going so far as to tell her team that she didn't know how she could possibly hang in with Sloane Stephens in the fourth round. As it turned out, she delivered Stephens a bagel, and allowed her only two games.

Krejcikova is the eighth unseeded player to reach the French Open final. Her path may be a little rougher than Pavlyuchenkova's because Krejcikova and her long-time partner, Katerina Siniakova (they won the French Open in 2018), have to play their semifinal tomorrow. (The last woman to win the tournament in both singles and doubles was Mary Pierce, in 2000.)

The revelatory nature of the Czech player's story is made only more dramatic by the fact that Jana Novotna was her coach and mentor.

Here are the players' paths to the final:

round 1--def. Kristyna Pliskova
round 2--def. Ekaterina Alexandrova (32)
round 3--def. Elina Svitolina (5)
round of 16--def. Sloane Stephens
quarterfinals--def. Coco Gauff (24)
semifinals--def. Maria Sakkari (17)

round 1--def. Christina McHale
round 2--def. Ajla Tomljanovic
round 3--def. Aryna Sabalenka (3)
round of 16--def. Victoria Azarenka (15)
quarterfinals--def. Elena Rybakina (21)
semifinals--def. Tamara Zidansek

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Sakkari upsets French Open defending champion Swiatek

It's bad enough to sustain a leg injury during one's quarterfinal match; it's even worse when your opponent is playing lights-out. That was the situation that defending French Open champion Iga Swiatek found herself in today when she played her practice partner, Maria Sakkari, for a spot in the semifinals. Last year, Swiatek won the tournament without dropping a set, and--up to the quarterfinals--she hadn't dropped a set this year.

Swiatek broke right away, but it wasn't long before her usual blend of fluid power and strategy turned into a rush to get things done, and a rush to get things done almost always ends badly. It was the Polish player's right thigh that was giving her trouble, and she had it tended to in the first set, which she lost, 4-6. And while she had moments of Swiatek-like greatness in the next set, she ultimately couldn't move that well. And on the other side of the net, Sakkari was putting on a service clinic and generally controlling points left and right.

Swiatek acknowledged, after the match, that she was also experiencing some mental fatigue. Among that, the injured leg, and Sakkari's outstanding performance, it was a perfect storm to carry off the defending champion.

Sakkari, seeded 17th, is the highest-ranked player left in the draw.

As of this writing, Swiatek and her partner, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, are still in the doubles draw, in which they have reached the semifinals.

Sakkari's 6-4, 6-4 victory pits her against Barbora Krejcikova in the semifinals. The Czech player, known for her outstanding doubles skills, has been on a singles roll for the last year--she reached the round of 16 in the 2020 French Open, and this year, she reached the Dubai final and won the event in Strasbourg. Today, Krejcikova defeated Coco Gauff 7-6, 6-3, saving five set points in the first set. 

Krejcikova and her partner, Katerina Siniakova, are also still in the doubles draw, in which they are seeded second.

Yesterday, Tamara Zidansek defeated Paula Badosa 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 in their quarterfinal match. Badosa said in her press conference that she had been nervous throughout the match. My guess is that high a level of anxiety won't be a factor the next time that the Spanish player is on a big stage; she has nowhere to go but up. In the meantime, the tennis world has gotten a good look at Zidansek, who also took out Bianca Andreescu (in the opening round), Katerina Siniakova and Sorana Cirstea.

Also yesterday, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Elena Rybakina (Pavlyuchenkova's doubles partner at the French Open) 6-7, 6-2, 9-7, marking a huge breakthrough in the Russian's career. A junior world number 1, Pavlyuchenkova is a talented player who showed great promise for many years, and whose career has been a good one--just not as good as many expected it to be. And now, after fourteen years on the tour, she has finally reached a major semifinal.

It's certainly worth noting that Elena Vesnina, who just recently returned to the tour, has advanced (with partner Aslan Karatsev) to the mixed doubles final.

Here is the singles semifinal draw:

Barbora Krejcikova vs. Maria Sakkari (17)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (31) vs. Tamara Zidansek

Monday, June 7, 2021

Swiatek advances to French Open quarterfinals in both singles and doubles

Iga Swiatek, French Open defending champion in singles, has--so far--continued her 2020 pattern of not dropping a set. The Swiss player reached the quarterfinals today with a win over Marta Kostyuk. She has dropped a set in doubles, but that only made the story better. Swiatek and partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands took out the top seeds in the third round, and it took them over three hours to do it--oh, and they had to save seven match points.

It was also a very good day for the revelatory Czech doubles star, Barbora Krejcikova, who defeated 2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-0. And while Krejcikova's rise may be the most dramatic, this year's French Open action has provided a platform for rising stars to shine. Maria Sakkari, whose climb up the rankings has been steady, reached her first major quarterfinal today with her straight-set defeat of 2020 runner-up Sofia Kenin, and Coco Gauff reached her first major quarterfinal when she defeated On Jabeur.

And yesterday, Spain's red-hot Paula Badosa defeated 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova. And let's not forget Tamara Zidansek, who may be 2021's "out of nowhere" player. Zidansek advanced to the quarterfinals when she defeated Sorana Cirstea, who has recently had a resurgence. Then there's Elena Rybakina, on whom we've had an eye for some time. The young Kazakhstani player earned her ticket to the quarterfinals with an upset of three-time champion Serena Williams. 

Finally, in her own "out of nowhere" fashion, Russian veteran Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has returned to the French Open quarterfinals for the first time in ten years, and she did it by upsetting Vika Azarenka, whom she had never before beaten (her one victory was due to Azarenka's retirement).

Not all of the news involves singles play. As noted above, the most thrilling doubles match of the tournament up to this point (and probably up to any point) was the third round upset of top seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Elise Mertens by 14th seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek. 

And Diede De Groot is Diede De Great again. The Dutch wheelchair star was victorious in both singles and doubles. De Groot defeated Yumi Kamiji to win the singles titles, and she and partner Aniek Van Koot won the doubles title. This is De Groot's second French Open singles title, and her fourth doubles title. It's also her second time to sweep both titles.

Here is the quarterfinal singles draw:

Coco Gauff (24) vs. Barbora Krejcikova
Maria Sakkari (17) vs. Iga Swiatek (8)
Elena Rybakina (21) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (31)
Tamara Zidansek vs. Paula Badosa (33)

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Five unseeded players to compete in French Open round of 16

It was an exhausting first week, marked by injuries, withdrawals, upsets--and some really good tennis. And still standing, after three rounds, are five players who are unseeded. They are: Sloane Stephens, Barbora Krejcikova, Marta Kostyuk, Tamara Zidansek, and Sorana Cirstea. Four of them will be competing against other unseeded players, though one tends to place an asterisk next to Stephens' name; she may be unseeded, but she's still Sloane Stephens.

Two of those players have had especially good seasons. Krejcikova, long a doubles star, has made good on her goal to bring her singles level up, as has her doubles partner, Katerina Siniakova. Usually, one member of a doubles team decides to focus on doubles and the team either breaks up or plays fewer events together, but these two--so far--are doing it all. For her part, Krejcikova upset fifth seed Elina Svitolina to advance to the final sixteen.

The other player who has had a "long time coming" boost this year is Cirstea, who recently won her first singles title in thirteen years, and then immediately went on to be a tournament runner-up. 

Three former finalists, Stephens (2018) Marketa Vondrousova (2019) and Sofia Kenin (2020), are in the round of 16 draw, as are two former champions--Serena Williams (2002, 2013, 2015) and Iga Swiatek (2020).

One-quarter of the draw is occupied by players from the USA--Stephens, Kenin, Williams, and Coco Gauff (Gauff's third round match against countrywoman Jen Brady came to an end when Brady retired with a foot injury). 

Last year, Paula Badosa reached the round of 16, in which she was defeated by clay court specialist Laura Siegemund. Badosa, who won a grueling three-hour contest against Ana Bogdan in the third round, is most likely engaged in heavy recovery work--both physical and mental--so that she can be reasonably fresh for her next match.

Here is the round of 16 draw:

Ons Jabeur (25) vs. Coco Gauff (24)
Sloane Stephens vs. Barbora Krejcikova
Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Maria Sakkari (17)
Marta Kostyuk vs. Iga Swiatek (8)
Serena Williams (7) vs. Elena Rybakina (21)
Vika Azarenka (15) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (31)
Tamara Zidansek vs. Sorana Cirstea
Marketa Vondrousova (30) vs. Paula Badosa (33)