by Kevin Craig
Angelique Kerber fought her way into the semifinals of the Australian Open on Wednesday when she beat Victoria Azarenka, 6-3, 7-5. Despite being the higher seed, Kerber was the underdog in the eyes of many tennis fans. Azarenka had been in great form to start off 2016 after winning the title in Brisbane and not losing a set in her first four matches at the Australian Open, along with the fact that she held a 6-0 record against Kerber, but the German proved why she is the higher ranked player and now has the opportunity to make her first grand slam final.
Kerber got off to a hot start in the quarterfinal as she broke Azarenka at love in the opening game of the match before grabbing another break and running out to a 4-0 lead. Azarenka, though, had been making Kerber’s service games tough as well, as she had a break point in Kerber’s first service game and then was able to get one of the two breaks back and brought the score to 4-3. When Kerber served at 4-3, Azarenka had two more break chances in a game that lasted 16 points, but could not capitalize and ended up losing the game, before being broken in the next game to drop the set.
The tides appeared to turn in the favor of Azarenka in the second set as she broke in the opening game and got out to a quick 2-0 lead. Neither player had much trouble on their serves until Azarenka saw a break point on Kerber’s serve at 4-2 and took advantage of it to take a double break lead at 5-2. While trying to serve out the set and take the match to a third set, Azarenka got up 40-0 before losing five points in a row to get broken. She had another opportunity to close out the set at 5-4 and was up 40-15, but again ended up being broken thanks to the resilience from Kerber, combined with a hesitant style of play from Azarenka. With the German back on serve at 5-5, she held comfortably before applying pressure on the Azarenka serve again and breaking to close out the match for the straight sets win.
A major problem for Azarenka, clearly, was her inability to defend her serve. Kerber won more than half of the points in Azarenka’s service games, including 62 percent of her second serve points. Kerber’s steady play was also a huge factor, as she limited her unforced errors to 16 while she hit 31 winners.
Kerber became the first German to reach the Australian Open semifinals since 1998 and will go on to face Johanna Konta for a spot in the Australian Open final after Konta beat Zhang Shuai in straight sets in their quarterfinal match.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Friday at the Citi Open brought plenty of good tennis action to the District of Columbia. Players in the gallery below include Angelique Kerber, Dmitry Tursunov, Marinko Matosevic, Alize Cornet, Andrea Petkovic, Magdalena Rybarikova and more!
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 30, 2013) Tuesday at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. included players Jack Sock, Angelique Kerber, Ryan Harrison, Caroline Garcia, Heather Watson, Eugenie Bouchard, Alize Cornet, and Sorana Cirstea.
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Monday action at the Citi Open took place over five courts, with the last ball being played just before midnight, earning American Melanie Oudin a spot in the second round.
Players roamed, stretched, practice and played all over the grounds, including Angelique Kerber, David Goffin, Steve Johnson, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Dmitry Tursunov, Radek Stepanek, Juan Martin del Potro, Sloane Stephens, Magdalena Rybarikova, Alize Cornet, Bernard Tomic, Tim Smyczek, Eugenie Bouchard, and Taylor Townsend.
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
As the Premier Five tournament in Canada looms, four of the top ten women hone their skills at tournaments on opposite coasts. The resort atmosphere at Carlsbad, long a player favorite, contrasts with the urban surroundings of the national capital.
Top half: World No. 3 Victoria Azarenka has not lost a match away from clay all season. Of course, Azarenka has played only four matches away from clay since winning the Doha title in February. Walkovers and withdrawals ended her campaigns at Indian Wells, Miami, and Wimbledon, so attention will hover around her battered knee this week. Azarenka’s health may attract even more attention than it would otherwise because she faces a relatively mild early slate of opponents. An all-Italian battle between Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone tantalizes only for nostalgic reasons, and Urszula Radwanska seems little more likely than her elder sister to vanquish Vika. Among the surprises of the spring was Jelena Jankovic, a semifinalist in Miami and quarterfinalist at Roland Garros. Jankovic troubled Azarenka in her prime, but the momentum has shifted in that rivalry to reflect their divergent career arcs
The most compelling first-round match in Carlsbad will pit defending champion Dominika Cibulkova against former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic. Defeating Bartoli to win last year’s title, Cibulkova exploited a much weaker draw in the week of the Olympics. Still, she will bring plenty of confidence from her title at Stanford, whereas coaching turmoil once again enshrouds the Serb. The route will not grow much smoother for whoever survives that early test. Although the second round looks uneventful, Roberta Vinci could await in the quarterfinals. This crafty Italian has domianted Cibulkova on all surfaces, winning five straight from her, and she has taken her last three outdoor matches from Ivanovic. The relatively slow surface in San Diego should help Vinci outlast the heavy serve of Bethanie Mattek-Sands before then.
Semifinal: Azarenka vs. Vinci
Bottom half: Around this time last year, Petra Kvitova caught fire with a Premier Five title at the Rogers Cup and a semifinal in Cincinnati. The somewhat slower surface in San Diego may suit her game less well than those events, and North America historically has not brought out her best tennis. A rematch of her epic Australian Open loss to Laura Robson might await in the second round. Both women have oscillated wildly in their results this year, suggesting another rollercoaster ahead. A former Carlsbad champion lurks unobtrusively near eighth seed Carla Suarez Navarro, enjoying her best season so far. That former champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, has revived her career with two major quarterfinals in 2013. An abdominal injury has sidelined Kuznetsova since Roland Garros, but she should have time to play herself into the tournament.
The fourth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska reached finals in each of her last two Carlsbad appearances. Disappointed at Stanford on Sunday, Radwanska wil aim to erase that memory with her second title here. She should outmaneuver Daniela Hantuchova, whom she has defeated here before, and may not have much to fear from Samantha Stosur unless the Aussie’s form improves dramatically. Little in Stosur’s dismal performance at Stanford boded well for her chances of escaping a challenging opener against Varvara Lepchenko. That 27-year-old American lefty could meet Radwanska in a quarterfinal for the second straight week.
Semifinal: Kuznetsova vs. Radwanska
Final: Azarenka vs. Radwanska
Top half: Overshadowed by the men’s event at the same tournament, this WTA International event did succeed in luring a top-10 player as a wildcard. World No. 9 Angelique Kerber has fallen on hard times over the last few months, so a dip in the quality of opposition could prove just what the doctor ordered. Some of the women who might face her in the quarterfinals exited early at Stanford. Formerly promising American Christina McHale continues a rebuilding campaign in 2013 against Magdalena Rybarikova. Her period of promise long behind her, Melanie Oudin hopes to stay somewhat relevant nearly four years after her illusory surge at the US Open.
Like McHale, Rybarikova, and Kiki Bertens in the top quarter, Madison Keys looks to bounce back from a disappointing Stanford loss. Anchoring the second quarter, she might meet star junior Taylor Townsend in a second-round preview of future matches on more momentous stages. The reeling but canny Monica Niculescu hopes to fluster Townsend with her distinctive style before then. More young talent stands atop the section in Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard and France’s Caroline Garcia. These impressive phenoms must navigate around Australian Open quarterfinalist Ekaterina Makarova, a lefty like Townsend. Plenty of storylines and suspense will unfold in a very short time.
Bottom half: Building on her momentum from Stanford, Sorana Cirstea eyes one of the draw’s softer sections. Home hope Alison Riske looks to prove herself as a threat outside the small grass event in Birmingham, while Heather Watson traces the same trajectory as McHale on the long, slow road back from mononucleosis. Ending her clay season on a high note, Alize Cornet won an International title in May. But she threatens much less on hard courts and might well fall victim to the enigmatic Yanina Wickmayer at the outset.
By far the most established of the home threats, second seed Sloane Stephens faces high expectations this summer. American fans know much more about the Australian Open semifinalist, Wimbledon quarterfinalist, and conqueror of Serena Williams than they did a year ago. The 15th-ranked Stephens has produced much more convincing tennis at majors than at non-majors, where she barely has cracked the .500 threshold in 2013. Her sturdiest pre-semifinal obstacle could come in the form of Andrea Petkovic, still producing results more disappointing than encouraging in her comeback from serious injuries. A relatively minor illness may blunt Petkovic’s injuries this week, though, while compatriot Mona Barthel retired from her last tournament with a sore shoulder.
Final: Makarova vs. Stephens
Adidas tennis has come out with their women’s US Open series line for both their Adizero kit worn by Ana Ivanovic and Angelique Kerber, as well as their Stella McCartney line worn by Caroline Wozniacki, Laura Robson and Andrea Petkovic.
Here’s a breakdown of all the styles you will see on the adidas ladies this fall.
Ana Ivanovic, Daniela Hantuchova: The adizero line has already looked beautiful at Wimbledon in all-white, and the brand continues the bold lines in their adidas Women’s Fall Adizero Dress. The added color palette of Hero Ink Blue and Hi-Res Red/Orange bring a stunning and eye-catching design to the mesh fabric.
Thanks to @Curtos07, we now have a photo of Ivanovic in the adizero dress.
Angelique Kerber, Christina McHale, Francesca Schiavone: Adidas extends the colorful design into their adidas Women’s Fall Adizero Tank, though the mesh doesn’t cut nearly as low as on the dress. The top comes in White with Hero Ink and Hi-Res Red/Orange.
Flavia Pennetta: Adidas has lifted it’s mesh cutout even further in their adidas Women’s Fall Adizero Cap-Sleeve. It features a crew neck with contrast binding, mesh insert at right shoulder, a slight cap-sleeves, and comes in Hi-Res Red/Orange, Hero Ink and White with Hero Ink.
Adizero Line Skirt and Shoes: All of the adizero ladies will also be sporting the simple and elegant adidas Women’s Fall Adizero Skort in Hero Ink Blue or Hi-Res Red/Orange, and the adidas adizero CC Tempaia II Women’s Shoe in either White/Red or White/Blue/Red.
Maria Kirilenko, Andrea Petkovic: As big of a hit as the adizero line looks, the Stella McCartney line leaves one feeling confused. The numerous cutouts, mesh and color combinations and layers overdo the look a bit, but the materials are definitely breathable. The adidas Women’s Stella McCartney Fall Tank 1 features a scoop neck, racerback straps, mesh inserts at neck and upper back for increased ventilation, and colorblocking. It comes in Ultra Green, Ultra Bright Orange and White.
Caroline Wozniacki: Stella continues the intense colorblocking in their adidas Women’s Stella McCartney Fall Tank 2 which has the same features as above but additionally has a large back opening. It comes in Shell Beige with Ultra Bright Orange, and White with Ultra Bright Orange, and is paired with a similarly colored sports bra which shows through the mesh.
Laura Robson: The Brit will be adorned in the adidas Women’s Stella McCartney Fall Cap Sleeve, and comes in Ultra Bright Orange, Ultra Green and Whtie.
Stella McCartney Line Skirt: Though the athletes have the adidas Women’s Stella McCartney Fall Short in taffeta fabric available to play in, most of the adidas ladies will most likely be wearing the flattering style of the adidas Women’s Stella McCartney Fall Skort in Shell Beige, Ultra Green, Ultra Bright, or White.
An additional fall top is also available for those chilly evenings, and the adidas Women’s Stella McCartney Fall LS Top continues the colorblocking, re-introducing what looks like last fall’s adidas colors again. It features a wide scoop neck and back, three-quarter sleeves and mesh panel on back.
What do you think of adidas’ Fall and US Open series styles?
Wimbledon Rewind: Murray Shines, Janowicz Soars, Kerber Crumbles, Ferrer Survives, Kvitova Wobbles on Day 5
The rain continued to make its presence felt on Friday as a mixture of postponed second-round matches and third-round matches unfolded. Here are the studs and duds from the fifth day of Midsummer Mayhem, where no seed is safe.
Match of the day: The tremors of Wednesday’s earthquakes have not quite left Wimbledon. In his second-round match, David Ferrer split the first two sets with compatriot Roberto-Bautista Agut and needed a tiebreak to salvage the third. Perhaps emboldened by the feats of other underdogs, Bautista-Agut battled deep into the fourth set before the last Spanish man left in the draw limped through. After arduous four-set victories in the first two rounds, though, blood is in the water around Ferrer, the victim of multiple turf tumbles. His future opponents await their chances to pounce.
Upset of the day: This upset mostly happened yesterday, in fact, when Grega Zemlja and Grigor Dimitrov exited the court locked at 9-8 in the fifth set. The longest final set of the tournament in terms of games ended with Dimitrov excused to join Maria Sharapova at a sunnier location. Despite his enormous promise, he still has not reached the second week of a major and continues to struggle in the best-of-five format.
Gold star: A non-entity a year ago, Jerzy Janowicz hammered 30 aces against the 15th-seeded Nicolas Almagro to reach the second week of a major for the first time. Janowicz has not dropped a set in the tournament and should be considered the favorite to reach the (gasp) semifinals in the quarter vacated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He has shown far more discipline this week than at most previous tournaments this year.
Silver star: Last year’s runner-up has become the only top-15 man left in the bottom half of the draw. Andy Murray dispatched Tommy Robredo methodically for a third consecutive straight-sets win. He will enter every match until the final as an overwhelming favorite, adding to the pressure already on him at his home major.
One-hit wonder: The man who slew Roger Federer fell victim just one round later, no more able to build on his accomplishment than the man who slew Rafael Nadal. Sergiy Stakhovsky dropped a four-setter to Jurgen Melzer two days after Steve Darcis withdrew from the tournament with a shoulder injury. But both of these men outside the top 100 will have a story to tell for the rest of their lives.
Question of the day: Brought back today for the third and fourth sets of his second-round match, Jeremy Chardy returns tomorrow to face Novak Djokovic. The French shot-maker reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year and could threaten the Serb on grass with his forward-moving attack. But will he lack the energy to make a match of it?
Upset of the day: Six of the top ten women have started their midsummer holiday already, most exiting in uneventful fashion. World No. 7 and 2012 semifinalist Angelique Kerber looked likely to survive the tsunami of upsets when she led the dangerous Kaia Kanepi, a former Wimbledon quarterfinalist, by a set and by 5-1 in the second-set tiebreak. Undeterred by those odds, Kanepi swept five straight points and eventually the tiebreak. She asserted control early in the final set against a reeling Kerber, who suffered the latest in a string of painful three-set losses this year.
Comeback of the day: Still in the draw with Victoria Azarenka’s withdrawal, Flavia Pennetta has made the most of the opportunity. The Italian veteran had earned mostly tepid results since returning from injury this spring, but she now finds herself in the second week of Wimbledon. Pennetta dropped a first-set bagel to fellow clay specialist Alize Cornet, only to wrest away the momentum in a second-set tiebreak and cruise through the third. Call it Kanepi-Kerber Lite.
Gold star: Depending on the result of a postponed match, Marion Bartoli might find herself the highest-ranked woman in the bottom half of the draw when Monday arrives. The 15th seed and 2007 finalist notched another straight-sets win over another mediocre opponent. It is possible that Bartoli could reach the semifinals without facing anyone ranked higher than No. 70 Christina McHale, but one cannot fault her for the shortcomings of those around her.
Silver star: The adrenaline of playing a top-ten woman at Wimbledon probably carried Laura Robson to her first-round upset of Maria Kirilenko. Another rush of adrenaline arrived when Robson stepped onto Centre Court for her next match. She used it to her advantage in a comfortable victory over Mariana Duque Marino. With no seed left in her vicinity, a quarterfinal berth would not come as a shock.
One-hit wonder: Like Stakhovsky, Michelle Larcher de Brito subsided meekly in the wake of her massive upset. She fell to the equally unremarkable Karin Knapp, giving Italy at least two women in the second week pending Roberta Vinci’s match tomorrow. The last supposedly rising star who defeated Maria Sharapova in the second round of Wimbledon, Alla Kudryavtseva, never went on to achieve anything more significant. We will see whether Larcher de Brito can build something stronger from it.
Americans in London: In a tale of two very different sets, No. 17 Sloane Stephens eked out a tiebreak against qualifier Petra Cetkovska—and then gulped down a bagel in the second set. She will return tomorrow with one set to decide who reaches the second week. If Stephens does, she would have advanced to that stage at every major this year, more than eight of the top ten women can say. Meanwhile, Alison Riske avenged compatriot Mallory Burdette’s loss to Urszula Radwanska by battling past Agnieszka’s sister in three sets.
Question of the day: Leading fellow lefty Ekaterina Makarova by a set and 2-1, world No. 8 Petra Kvitova lost seven straight games. The easily flustered former champion now trails Makarova by a break in the final set as a golden opportunity to plow deep into a major draw threatens to slip away. Can Kvitova collect herself when play resumes tomorrow?
The schedule of play in singles has shrunk to two courts as the second week starts at Roland Garros. Categories have started to shrink as well in the latter stages of these recaps.
Match of the day: That pesky Gilles Simon just won’t do the decent thing and retreat respectfully from Roger Federer, bowing every two steps. Simon has defeated Federer twice and now taken him to a fifth set in both of their major meetings. Reeling off 10 of 13 games in one stretch, the Frenchman even led the former champion by two sets to one until Federer compiled a seven-game surge of his own and eased through the final set without drama.
Comeback of the day: Maybe we should rename this category the “Tommy Robredo Comeback of the Day.” The Spanish veteran became the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive matches at a major after losing the first two sets. At least Robredo did not need to save match points this time, as he did against Gael Monfils, but he trailed Nicolas Almagro by a break in both the fourth and fifth sets. Of course, this was Nicolas Almagro.
Gold star: Assigned the tallest man in the draw, David Ferrer trimmed him down to size with a clinical efficiency worthy of Procrustes. Serena Williams also would have appreciated Ferrer’s demolition of Kevin Anderson and his massive serve, which ended with consecutive breadsticks. Alone among the men in his half, he has not dropped a set or played a tiebreak through four matches.
Silver star: Like Ferrer, Tsonga has not lost a set en route to a second straight quarterfinal here. His victory over Viktor Troicki produced a routine scoreline like those before it, a departure from his usual trends but good news for his future here.
Stat of the day: By rallying against Simon, Federer extended his streak of consecutive quarterfinals at majors to 36. That’s nine years, reaching back to Wimbledon 2004.
Question of the day: Tsonga threw quite a scare into world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the quarterfinal stage here last year, holding four match points in the fourth set. He took Federer to a fifth set in the same round at the Australian Open this year. Does another heart-stopping epic lie in store?
Match of the day: A 48-winner barrage from Svetlana Kuznetsova avenged a loss in Madrid to world No. 8 Angelique Kerber. Kuznetsova has reached the quarterfinals at both majors this year, something that at least half of the WTA top ten cannot say pending tomorrow’s results. Unseeded former champions plowing deep into the draw always adds an extra layer of interest to the second week of a major.
Comeback of the day: Her first three matches had tumbled into the win column almost too easily. Like Federer, Sara Errani encountered her first serious test of the tournament today against Carla Suarez Navarro and nearly flunked it. She regrouped to secure her tenth win at Roland Garros in the last two years, having won one match in four previous appearances. Predictably, neither woman hit an ace.
Gold star: Never at her best on clay, Agnieszka Radwanska seemed ripe for an early upset when she lost early at the key clay non-majors and withdrew from Brussels last week with a shoulder injury. Radwanska thus has surprised by reaching the quarterfinals without losing a set, comfortably knocking off 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic to set up an intriguing clash with Errani. All of the top four women are still in the draw.
Silver star: To Roberta Vinci’s credit, she gave Serena Williams something to ponder in the second set as she stayed level until 3-3 and made inroads toward a break in the seventh game. Unwilling to throw her opponent a lifeline, Serena snuffed out the threat, broke, and then served out her 28th straight win. Four matches, ten games lost.
Stat of the day: In five years and 20 majors since she won her in 2008, Ana Ivanovic has reached one major quarterfinal.
Question of the day: Four years ago, Serena and Kuznetsova combined on a quarterfinal thriller that the Russian snatched late in the third set. Could we see a worthy sequel in the same round on Tuesday, or is Serena simply too bulletproof at present?
Now that the second week has arrived, you can find previews of every match on this site. This article covers all eight on Sunday.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Viktor Troicki: While their head-to-head stands more evenly balanced than you might think, Tsonga has won both of their clay meetings convincingly. Troicki has sandwiched a tortuous five-set win over a clay specialist between two straight-sets victories, the latter an upset of Marin Cilic. For a man with a losing record this season headed into the tournament, an appearance in the second week marks an excellent step forward. The bad news for Troicki is that Tsonga has not lost a set through three matches, showing uncommon discipline and purpose. With the French crowd behind him on the biggest tennis stadium in his nation, he should make short work of a man who often gets rattled in hostile or tense environments.
Gilles Simon vs. Roger Federer: When they first started to collide in the second half of 2008, Simon seemed to have Federer’s number. He rallied from losing the first set to grind past him twice that year on the hard courts of the Rogers Cup and the year-end championships. Surely chagrined that his stylistic flights of fancy could not trump a mechanical counterpuncher, Federer labored to finish him off at the 2011 Australian Open after squandering a two-set lead. Rome this month marked the first time that he finally seemed to solve his “Simon problem.” Displaying his superior clay skills, Federer yielded just three games to a Frenchman who lost his first two sets at his home major and needed to come from behind in the third round as well. Simon lost 23 games in his last match. Federer has lost 23 games in the tournament. Not even the crowd, which adores Federer, will give him a meaningful edge.
Kevin Anderson vs. David Ferrer: The tallest man in the draw faces the shortest man in the draw. On clay, though, David Ferrer looms much larger than does Kevin Anderson despite the South African’s appearance in the Casablanca final this spring. Ferrer has dominated all of his first three opponents without dropping a set, pouncing on a weak draw after Madrid and Rome assigned him quarterfinals against Nadal. The Spanish veteran has made a living out of defanging huge servers like Anderson, using his deft reflexes and compact swings to blunt their single overwhelming weapon before outmaneuvering them along the baseline. Anderson bounced Ferrer from the second round of Indian Wells in March, but that victory may have owed something to Ferrer’s busy South American clay schedule just before and the deflating loss to Nadal that ended it.
Tommy Robredo vs. Nicolas Almagro: This all-Spanish battle should feature plenty of traditional clay tennis with extended rallies from behind the baseline. A former member of the top ten, Robredo launched an impressive comeback from injury this spring by winning the Casablanca title and upsetting Tomas Berdych in Barcelona. He has emerged from one of the draw’s most star-studded nuggets, which included not only Berdych but Gael Monfils and Ernests Gulbis. Saving match points against Monfils in the last round, Robredo has rallied from losing the first two sets in each of his last two matches. By contrast, Almagro has grown famous for choking away huge leads. But he has won all five of his meetings with Robredo, all on clay, while losing one total set. Look for him to control the rallies as Robredo slips into retrieving mode.
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Angelique Kerber: Two of their three previous meetings have gone deep into a final set and ended with almost identical scores, the most recent in Madrid this spring. Kerber’s burst from anonymity into the top 10 occurred near the same time that Kuznetsova plummeted from trendy dark horse to forgotten woman. True to those trends, the German lefty has won both of their matches this year. Kuznetsova should hold a clear surface edge, however, and she showed by reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals that she still can bring her best tennis to the biggest tournaments. An upset of Agnieszka Radwanska at Roland Garros last year suggests that Kerber has plenty to fear, although she will bring momentum from gritting through a hard-fought contest with dirt devil Varvara Lepchenko. This match may hinge on whose forehand does the dictating.
Serena Williams vs. Roberta Vinci: Headlines would ripple through the tennis world if somebody merely stands up to Serena, much less defeats her. A canny veteran with plenty of clay skills, Vinci will resist more tenaciously than most of her previous victims. Serena will deny her the time to construct her artful combinations, though, and handled her doubles partner Sara Errani with ease. This match could develop some intrigue if the world No. 1 struggles with her timing on her return, which can happen on clay. But otherwise Serena should break serve too consistently and land too many punishing punches with her own serve to feel any serious pressure.
Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Sara Errani: The answer to Robredo vs. Almagro in the men’s draw features a contest between two clay specialists of the sort rarely witnessed in the WTA these days. Errani routed Suarez Navarro in the Acapulco final, which makes sense. In no area of her game is the tiny Spaniard better than the small Italian, who even aced her in Acapulco. On the other hand, Suarez Navarro scored a stunning upset over Errani in the first round of the last major, signaling an appropriate start to the best year of her career. The two women combined for just a handful of service holds in that match, a pattern that could resurface. Having conceded only nine games through three matches, barely more than Serena, Errani has looked as dominant as a woman without weapons other than drop shots ever will.
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Ana Ivanovic: To state the obvious, the most important shots of a point are the first and the last. (If you’re Serena Williams, it’s often the same thing.) In the language of the WTA, that means penetrating first serves, aggressive returns, and the ability to finish points with clean winners. Ivanovic has struggled in both of those categories during her current six-match losing streak to Radwanska over the last three years. Earlier in her career, she controlled her matches with the Pole by excelling in both of them, but the tide turned in 2009 when the Serb let a 4-0 lead slip away in a third set. The pace of her serve and forehand has dwindled since she won Roland Garros five years ago, although Ivanovic has grown more comfortable in the forecourt with time. Beyond tactics and technique, though, her main challenge lies in believing that she can defeat a top-five woman at a major. The last time that Ivanovic did? Two days before she lifted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.
A sweeping slate of second-round and third-round matches filled the slate on Friday as the tournament caught up from a rainy Thursday. Here is a look back at the rapidly unfolding action.
Match of the day: Banished from the televised courts, Fernando Verdasco and Janko Tipsarevic continued their history of fascinating meetings with a five-set sequence of twists and turns. Tipsarevic appeared to have seized control for good when he dominated the second set after winning a tight first-set tiebreak. To his credit, Verdasco battled all the way back and took the eighth seed to 8-6 in the fifth. Vulnerable all year, Tipsarevic found just enough courage to ward off the massive collapse:
Comeback of the day. Tommy Robredo did it again. Not known for flamboyance or drama, the Spanish veteran did what his compatriot Verdasco could not and charged back from two sets down to halt home hero Gael Monfils. Fatigue from an overstuffed schedule may have hampered Monfils late in the match, for Robredo closed out the fifth set with surprising ease.
Surprise of the day: Third-ranked Serb Viktor Troicki had struggled to string together victories all season, so an upset of the tenth-seeded Marin Cilic on Troicki’s worst surface raised eyebrows. (Of course, clay is Cilic’s worst surface as well.) The key to this match may have come as early as the first-set tiebreak, which Troicki saved multiple set points to win 14-12 before dominating thereafter.
Tale of two Spaniards: Nine sets played, nine sets won for—not Rafael Nadal, but David Ferrer. None of his first three opponents have tested the second-ranked Spaniard, whereas his top-ranked countryman has dropped the first set in both of his first two matches. Nadal, who comes back to face Fabio Fognini tomorrow, looked strangely uncomfortable for much for his four-set victory against Martin Klizan despite his outstanding clay campaign.
Gold star: Tremors rippled through Court Philippe Chatrier when Roger Federer lost his opening service game, a departure from his routs in the first two rounds. Against chronic nemesis Julien Benneteau, however, Federer swiftly buckled down to business and never looked seriously troubled thereafter.
Silver star: Top-ranked Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga continued his bulletproof progress with a surprisingly routine dismissal of compatriot Jeremy Chardy. Tsonga lost only eight games in staying on track to meet Federer in the quarterfinals, a rematch of their Australian Open meeting.
Americans in Paris: Winless in five-set matches, Ryan Harrison let a two-set lead escape him as his 2013 woes persist. At least his disintegration benefited fellow American John Isner, who snapped his own four-match losing streak in final frames. Less fortunate was the top-ranked American Sam Querrey, falling in five sets to Gilles Simon after coming within a tiebreak of victory. Also gone on Friday was Jack Sock, overmatched by Tommy Haas in a competitive but rarely suspenseful straight-setter.
Question of the day: Does the impressive form displayed by Tsonga and Ferrer suggest that they can challenge Federer more than they usually do?
Match of the day: Overcoming an 0-4 record against Varvara Lepchenko, Angelique Kerber withstood 46 winners from her fellow lefty to prevail 6-4 in the third. Lepchenko’s history of strong results on clay underscores the significance of Kerber’s victory as she reached the second week for the fifth straight major. Up next for her is 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who recently played a thriller against her in Madrid.
Comeback of the day: Pounding more winners in two sets than Lepchenko did in three, Mariana Duque-Marino served for both sets against Marion Bartoli. The top-ranked Frenchwoman spent much of the match with her back to the wall, as she did in the first round, but she edged through a first-set tiebreak and swept the last four games of the second set to survive.
Surprise of the day: In a day with no notable upsets, a match between two unseeded players produced the greatest surprise. Brussels champion Kaia Kanepi failed to exploit a crumbling section of the draw, instead adding to the uncertainty caused by the exits of Li Na and Yaroslava Shvedova. Having won barely a single match on red clay this year, Stefanie Voegele ousted last year’s quarterfinalist 8-6 in the third as part of an excellent day for Swiss players.
Gold star: Top seed Serena Williams has dropped just six game in six sets here, extending the longest winning streak of her career. Her momentum and aura has built to the point where many opponents seem to lose hope before they even take the court. What a difference a year makes.
Silver star: All three Italian women in action today prevailed. Only slightly authoritative than Serena here, Sara Errani bageled imposing server Sabine Lisicki in a demonstration of how her clay-court skills can compensate for immense gaps in power. Less persuasive was second-ranked Italian Roberta Vinci, who weathered a second-set lull to survive in three. But the brightest headline of the day came from 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone, able to edge seeded opponent Kirsten Flipkens to reach the brink of the second week.
Most improved: After she had lost the first set in each of her first two matches, Carla Suarez Navarro navigated through her third more routinely. Perhaps Nadal should take a page from his countrywoman’s book.
Fastest finish: Defending champion Maria Sharapova seemed to spend more time warming up before and interviewing after the completion of her second-round match than she needed to play the match itself. About ten minutes of live action sufficed to move Sharapova past Eugenie Bouchard, although she needed a massive second serve to save a break point that would have leveled the second set.
Question of the day: Which former champion has a better chance to upset a top-eight seed, Kuznetsova against Kerber or Ana Ivanovic against Agnieszka Radwanska?