Saturday, May 28, 2022

One former champion standing--guess who?

When the 2022 French Open began, there were five former champions in the draw--Garbine Muguruza, Alona Ostapenko, Simona Halep, Iga Swiatek, and Barbora Krejcikova. The third round has come to a close, and we've already lost four of those players. 

To be fair, no one who follows tennis expected defending champion Krejcikova to get far. She has been out for a while with an elbow injury and has had no match practice. The good news is that Krejcikova played pain-free in Paris; however, she was physically spent after her first set and lost in the opening round. It's good that the Czech star gave herself plenty of time to heal, but it's sad that she couldn't stick around and go for a title defense.

Halep went out in the second round. After the first set, she received medical attention because she was having difficulty breathing, and she was clearly struggling for the remainder of the match, which she lost. She said in her press conference that she'd had a panic attack, but unless she has a diagnosis of panic disorder, I'm not going to go with that as fact. Halep is no stranger to anxiety, and she may well have had a panic attack, but that would require accompanying symptoms. It could also have been just a moment of anxiety, which is sometimes known as an anxiety attack.

Ostapenko, of course, is totally unpredictable. She could have gone out in the first round or won the tournament again. As it was, she went out in the second round, to Alize Cornet. The two played a topsy-turvy match, which Cornet won in the third. (Sadly, the Frenchwoman had to retire in her third round match, and her trashy, obnoxious countrypeople gave her the same horrible send-off that they had given Ostapenko. Ostapenko's "crime" was to question a call; Cornet's was to be suffering in obviously acute physical pain.)

And then there was Muguruza, who--just when she gets out of a slump--goes back into one. The very talented Spaniard had the bad luck of facing legendary giant-killer Kaia Kanepi in the first round. And while it's true that Kanepi can beat just about anyone on a given day, this was Garbine Muguruza, and this "should" have turned out differently. 

And so we are left with 2020 champion Iga Swiatek, and who could be surprised? Swiatek did meet a challenge in the third round, when she played Danka Kovinic, but she was up to it, and she has now won 31 straight matches. She's also the only player left among the top ten seeds. 

There have been some unfortunate withdrawals and retirements. Both Marie Bouzkova and Barbora Krejcikova (who was set to defend her doubles title with Katerina Siniakova) had to withdraw because they received positive Covid test results. Alize Cornet--who had shown up to play with both thighs tightly wrapped--had to retire, as noted above, and today, 3rd seed Paula Badosa retired because of a right calf injury in her match against Veronika Kudermetova. Also, Mayer Sherif retired in the second round because of a foot fracture.

While all withdrawals, retirements and losses that are caused by injury or illness are unfortunate, perhaps none is as unfortunate as the retirement of Karolina Muchova (really bad luck for Czechs at this tournament!). The talented Czech player has always been prone to injury in her career, and the last one--an elbow injury--kept her off of the tour for quite a while. She returned this spring, and re-announced herself at Roland Garros by upsetting 4th seed Maria Sakkari in the second round. But then she had to retire against Amanda Anisimova in the third round when she rolled her ankle.

I don't like to see any player injured, and I really don't like to see a player sustain consecutive injuries. In this case, it just feels especially unfair that someone with Muchova's considerable talent and potential just can't catch a break.

There were a couple of notable third round matches. Leylah Fernandez defeated Belinda Bencic in a high quality three-set match, and Jil Teichmann--rising to a scary high level--defeated Vika Azarenka, also in a three-set match, and this one lasted three hours and 18 minutes.

Here is the round of 16 draw:

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Zheng Qinwen
Jessica Pegula (11) vs. Irina-Camelia Begu
Veronika Kudermetava (29) vs. Madison Keys (22)
Daria Kasatkina (20) vs. Camila Giorgi (28)
Martina Trevisan vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich
Leylah Fernandez (17) vs. Amanda Anisimova (27)
Elise Mertens (31) cs. Coco Gauff (18)
Jil Teichmann (23) vs. Sloane Stephens

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