Paris, Oct 2 (efe-epa).- Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Simona Halep, three players on the short list of favorites to win this year’s French Open, tennis’ clay-court Grand Slam tournament, all showed championship form in straight-set wins on Friday.
Thiem struggled in the early going in his men’s singles third-round match on Court Philippe-Chatrier against a promising young player, Norway’s Casper Ruud, but he seized total control after the first set to win 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.
In a match pitting two players known for imparting tremendous amounts of topspin on their ground strokes, Ruud grabbed an early break of serve at 3-1.
After squandering that lead, the No. 28 seed then had three more break points in the sixth game before Thiem finally managed to hold serve.
Thiem then broke serve for a second time in the following game to grab a 4-3 advantage and finished off the difficult first set with a service hold.
The third-seeded Austrian started breaking down Ruud’s resistance in the second set, which began with a break of the Norwegian’s serve in a more than eight-minute opening game.
Thiem then took over completely in the third set and wrapped up the victory with an ace on match point.
“I’m very happy and it was a great match,” Thiem was quoted as saying by the ATP Tour’s website. “Casper is a very good player and we had some nice rallies. He has a lot of confidence after semifinal runs in (clay-court events last month in) Rome and Hamburg, and had a very good attitude from beginning to the end. I didn’t want to give him any chances in the third set.”
The Austrian, who has had to make a quick turn-around after winning the US Open on hard courts earlier this month and has expressed some concerns about fatigue, may have caught a break when his expected opponent in the next round, 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka, was stunned Friday by 239th-ranked Frenchman Hugo Gaston 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Later on Friday, 12-time men’s singles champion Rafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed, raced out to a quick start in his third-round match and also was totally dominant in the third set in brushing aside Italy’s Stefano Travaglia 6-1, 6-4, 6-0.
Nadal’s coach, Carlos Moya, said before the tournament that the world No. 2, who has had limited match play in the coronavirus-interrupted season, is not as big of a favorite at Roland Garros this year. But the Spaniard has not shown any clear signs of vulnerability in any of his first three victories.
“(Today, I made) a step forward in a lot of ways. I think he played a great second set (that) was close. I was able to find a way (and I am) happy for that,” Nadal said afterward. “I don’t feel that I am that dominant. The result says (this), but the game is another story. Every single match is a challenge.
In women’s singles, the top-seeded Halep was expected to face a difficult challenge against Amanda Anisimova, who knocked her out of last year’s French Open in the quarterfinals.
But the big-hitting young American was far too inconsistent on Friday to trouble the 2018 champion, who made just seven unforced errors to her opponent’s 32 in cruising to a 6-0, 6-1 victory.
“I took the game in my hands. Last year, I was very far from the court, and I played fairly short so (Anisimova) could play her game,” the Romanian was quoted as saying on the WTA’s website. “When she has time and she has the ball in the right position, she is very, very dangerous and she plays great. So today I think I did a great job changing a little bit the tactic.”
Halep will next take on another talented young player, Poland’s Iga Swiatek, in the fourth round.
Besides the easy days at the office for the tournament favorites, the big news Friday at Roland Garros was the continued impressive play of two young, potential future stars in men’s singles: 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, who defeated Argentina’s Federico Coria 6-3, 7-5, 7-5, and 20-year-old American Sebastian Korda, who routed Spain’s Pedro Martinez 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.
Both have very difficult challenges in the fourth round, with Sinner set to square off against sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev, who narrowly lost to Thiem in last month’s US Open final, and Korda having earned the chance to test his skills against clay king Nadal. EFE-EPA