Serena, top men cruise into French Open last-16; Sabalenka crashes out

Paris, Jun 4 (EFE).- American great Serena Williams got into some trouble for the third straight match at the French Open, but she rallied from a 4-1 second-set deficit to defeat countrywoman Danielle Collins 6-4, 6-4 on Friday and advance to the round of 16.

The top-ranked players in the bottom half of the men’s draw also moved through to the fourth round of tennis’ clay-court Grand Slam event with relatively comfortable victories, but the fourth-ranked woman, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, was upset by Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Williams appeared to be in total control of the match after winning the opener and breaking Collins’ serve at the start of the second set, but her opponent stormed back to win four straight games and take a 4-1 lead.

Serena, however, found her highest level when she needed it most to reel off five straight games, including a service hold in the last game after she had fallen behind 0-30.

“That felt really good for me,” said the eighth-ranked Williams, who will next take on Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in the round of 16. “Things were not going my way. It’s not like she gave me those games. I had to earn it and turn it around. That was really positive for me going into the next match.”

Serena is now the top-ranked women’s player in the bottom half of the draw after Sabalenka, this year’s Madrid Open champion and one of the tournament favorites, was upset by Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 on Friday.

The big-hitting Sabalenka struck 35 winners and committed just 22 unforced errors through the first two sets but then went off the rails.

Her French Open hopes quickly evaporated in the six games of the decider, with the 23-year-old Belarusian making 17 unforced errors and winning only 11 points.

By contrast, three of tennis’ most promising young men’s stars showed their maturity Friday with convincing third-round wins.

Sixth-ranked German Alexander Zverev earned seven service breaks in a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 victory over 55th-ranked Serbian Laslo Djere.

The most important one came in the ninth game of the second set, when the 24-year-old Zverev saved three set points to rally from a 3-5, 0-40 hole and get back on serve.

Djere never recovered, losing nine of the next 11 games.

“I was down 3-5, 40-0 on his serve and you don’t always come back from that score,” the 2021 Madrid Open champion said. “He played a fantastic match, he is playing great on this surface so I knew I had to play much, much better than the first two rounds and I did that today.

Russian world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and Greek world No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas both faced similar, big-serving American opponents and passed their tests with flying colors.

The 25-year-old Medvedev broke Reilly Opelka’s serve an impressive five times en route to a comfortable 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 victory. He also pulled off the rare feat of out-acing the 2.11-meter (6-foot-11) American (10-5).

In the night session, the 22-year-old Tsitsipas lost the first set against the 2.08-meter John Isner but took control of the match in the second set for a 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 victory.

Tsitsipas withstood 19 aces and was nearly impeccable on his own serve after the first set.

Zverev will next take on Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the round of 16, while Medvedev and Tsitsipas will play Spain’s Pablo Carreño Busta and Chile’s Cristian Garin, respectively. EFE


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