Roland Garros Rewind: Djokovic, Dimitrov, Azarenka, Stosur Beat the Rain on Thursday; Li Falls
For the second time in three days, inclement weather limited the action in Paris. This rewind tilts more towards the women’s side, which featured more headlines and more matches overall.
Match of the day: In a sequel to the Battle of the Sexes between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, Mother Nature confronted a host of ATP players today and defeated most of them. Fewer than half of the scheduled men’s matches finished on Thursday.
Gold star: Probably aware of the rain clouds overhead, Novak Djokovic lost no time in disposing of Guido Pella in 86 minutes. The world No. 1 lost just four games and gains a timing advantage over rival and semifinal opponent Rafael Nadal, who never took the court because of the rain.
Silver star: Grigor Dimitrov reaches the third round of a major for the first time, dispatching home hope Lucas Pouille in straight sets. Granted, Dimitrov would have had nobody to blame but himself had he failed to knock off the 324th-ranked Pouille, but a milestone remains a milestone. And the rematch with Djokovic looms on Saturday with both men on full rest.
Most improved: Also beating the raindrops was Benoit Paire, who regrouped from an unsteady four-setter against Marcos Baghdatis to oust Lukas Kubot in straight sets. People called Lukas generally had a bad day, though, as…
Rematch that won’t happen: Lukas Rosol fell to Fabio Fognini in four sets, the expected outcome but not the outcome that many of us wanted. With a mini-upset, Rosol would have faced Rafael Nadal in a bid to repeat his staggering Wimbledon upset.
Anticlimaxes of the day: The trickle of injuries continued to flow from the men’s draw with a walkover by Yen-Hsun Lu, advancing Philipp Kohlschreiber, and a retirement by Dmitry Tursunov, sending Victor Hanescu through.
Tough luck: Suspended within three games of a comfortable victory over Horacio Zeballos, Stanislas Wawrinka must come back tomorrow. His ability to finish off Thiemo De Bakker just before darkness in the previous round looks even more clutch now.
Question of the day: How much difference does it make that Djokovic can maintain his regular schedule, while Nadal will not?
Awards sweep of the day: Match of the day? Check. Comeback of the day? Check. Surprise of the day? Check. Across three sets and two rain delays, Bethanie Mattek-Sands rallied from a disastrous start against 2011 champion Li Na to oust the sixth seed. The upset bolsters a surprising resurgence on clay by the American veteran and ends a deeply disappointing clay season for Li, who fell short of the quarterfinals in Madrid and Rome before exiting Paris in the second round. For Mattek-Sands, the door lies open for a deeper run in this relatively weak section of the draw.
Gold star: Building on her comfortable first-round victory, Samantha Stosur cruised past home hope Kristina Mladenovic on Court Philippe Chatrier. Stosur held the status of the heavy favorite in that match, but one could have imagined the difficult weather conditions and the challenge of playing a Frenchwoman on a show court might have flustered her. Not the case.
Silver star: Beating the rain more easily than anybody, Jelena Jankovic also built on a solid start to the tournament by dropping just three games to Garbine Muguruza. Like Stosur, Jankovic has reached three semifinals here, so she will bear watching as the tournament reaches its midpoint.
Lesser surprises of the day: A meager 2013 for Dominika Cibulkova continued when the former Roland Garros semifinalist fell in three sets to Marina Erakovic. Much less skilled on clay than her opponent, Cibulkova could muster fewer excuses for her loss than could the recently injured Yaroslava Shvedova. Last year’s quarterfinalist will lose plenty of ranking points after falling to qualifier Paula Ormaechea.
Most improved: After she wobbled through three sets against Aravane Rezai, Petra Kvitova advanced much more efficiently against a far more creditable opponent in Peng Shuai. This section of the draw has become fascinating with Stosur set to face Jankovic and the winner due to meet Kvitova.
Least improved: Dominant in her first match, Victoria Azarenka struggled to finish off the overmatched Annika Beck in two sets closer than they looked. Perhaps the rain derailed Vika’s rhythm. The good news of the day for her is that she cannot face anyone ranked higher than No. 12 Maria Kirilenko en route to the semifinals.
Tough luck of the day: Defending champion Maria Sharapova stood six points from victory at 6-2 4-2 deuce before the tournament suspended play for the night. Sharapova will need to return tomorrow for the coup de grace. On the other hand, she can thank Djokovicfor finishing his match so swiftly that she could play as much of her match as she did.
Good luck of the day: Top Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli would have faced Mariana Duque-Marino on an outer court had she played on Thursday. Following the rain and the rescheduling, she will return to Court Philippe Chatrier to start Friday’s matches. That setting and the amplified crowd support should boost Bartoli as she attempts to work through her serving woes.
Americans in Paris: Sloane Stephens pulled rank on Vania King, moving within one victory of a second straight appearance in the second week here. If you just look at majors, Stephens has compiled an excellent season. The rest of the American contingent stood at deuce, with Jamie Hampton a comfortable winner and Melanie Oudin a resounding loser to Zheng Jie.
Question of the day: After Li’s loss, who is most likely to face Azarenka in the quarterfinals?