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French Open PIX: Federer survives, Nadal, Djokovic march into 4th round

Last updated on: June 06, 2021 13:59 IST
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Images from Day 7 of the 2021 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris on Saturday

Federer registers scrappy win over Koepfer in late night battle

Switzerland's Roger Federer in action during his third round match against Germany's Dominik Koepfer.

IMAGE: Switzerland's Roger Federer in action during his third round match against Germany's Dominik Koepfer. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Roger Federer reached the last 16 of the French Open but needed all of his fighting qualities to scrap his way past Germany's Dominik Koepfer on an empty and eerie Court Philippe Chatrier in Saturday's night match.

The 39-year-old 20-time Grand Slam champion was ragged at times and lacked his usual zip against the tenacious Koepfer but the eighth seed slogged his way to a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 7-5 victory with the time approaching 1am local time.

It was Federer's first taste of a Grand Slam match played without fans, courtesy of Paris's 9pm COVID-19 curfew, and it was not an experience he seemed to enjoy as he was given a torrid time by the 27-year-old left-hander.

 

Yet the fact Federer prevailed in such surreal circumstances, having hardly played in the last 17 months because of a knee injury, illustrated the passion that still burns within him for the game.

Former world number one Andy Murray, watching at home, summed it up nicely on Twitter.

"I'm not bothered by the outcome of this match at all. Just seeing Federer at 39 off the back of 2 knee surgeries playing to an empty stadium at 12.30am getting fired up is inspirational to me. Do what you love," the Scot wrote.

Federer had looked superb in his opening two matches here, but was rattled by the heavy hitting of the world number 59 and struggled for rhythm, racking up 63 unforced errors.

But he dug deep to win the night's opening tiebreak, helped by a Koepfer double fault at a crucial moment.

 Dominik Koepfer made Roger Federer sweat during their third round duel

IMAGE: Dominik Koepfer made Roger Federer sweat during their third round duel. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Federer piled on the pressure at the start of the second set and secured an early break. But Koepfer broke back and after breaks were traded again, the set reached a tiebreak.

Koepfer moved 6-2 ahead as mistakes flowed off Federer's racket and he levelled the match thanks to another unforced error from the Swiss who was playing only his sixth match in 17 months following knee surgery.

Federer, the 2009 champion, was wobbling when he dropped serve early in the third but battled back from 2-4 down and after missing a set point in the 12th game he reeled off the last three points of the night's third tiebreak.

Sensing his chance of taking the biggest scalp of his career was slipping away, Koepfer's temper boiled over when his service was broken at 1-1 in the fourth and he was docked a point for spitting on the court after a close call went against him.

The former American college player was not done though and Federer could not locate the extra gear he usually engages to see off troublesome opponents, dropping serve in the next game.

Federer showed amazing reflexes to return a smash when Koepfer served at 5-5 and he pounced for a crucial break as Koepfer struck a forehand over the baseline.

The Swiss then held serve to claim a gruelling victory, albeit an ugly one by his usual standards, and set up a clash with Italian Matteo Berrettini.

"It was very important for me, I certainly hadn't practised for three hours 35 minutes," Federer told reporters. "I certainly didn't expect to win three matches here.

"Playing without fans I knew was going to hit me at some point. It maybe benefits players like myself who are very focussed when they go to practice. It wasn't easy tonight, was unique in many ways, but I'm happy I found a way.

"I was playing for all those watching at home on TV."

Rafael Nadal

IMAGE: Rafael Nadal plays a forehand during his third round match against Cameron Norrie of Great Britain. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

A relentless Rafael Nadal cruised into the last 16 of the French Open for the 16th time on Saturday, with a brutal 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 dismantling of Briton Cameron Norrie.

Nadal, who won his 13th title at Roland Garros last year, extended his run at the claycourt Grand Slam to an unbelievable 30 sets won in a row. He last dropped a set against Dominic Thiem in the 2019 final.

Norrie, the world number 45, battled gamely against the third seed, even breaking Nadal twice in the second set, but the ruthless Spaniard reeled him back in on both occasions, before serving out the one-sided contest a shade over two hours.

Nadal sent down 35 winners, including three aces, and broke Norrie's serve six times in the match as he stormed into round four, where he will battle Italy's Jannik Sinner, the 18th seed, for a place in the quarter-finals.

Djokovic marches into fourth round with Berankis thrashing

Novak Djokovic

IMAGE: Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his third round match against Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis.Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

World number one Novak Djokovic booked his spot in the second week of the French Open with a dominant 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 third-round win over 93rd-ranked Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis on Saturday.

The 34-year-old Serbian came into the match with a 3-0 head-to-head record against Berankis, who had never won a set in their previous meetings, and put in a clinical show on Philippe Chatrier court to stay on course for a 19th Grand Slam title.

Djokovic broke his opponent's serve six times in the match and such was his domination that he did not face a single breakpoint on his own on the way to the fourth round at Roland Garros for the 12th consecutive year.

The 2016 champion, who hit 30 winners against 18 unforced errors, is yet to lose a set in his three matches and will next face teenager Lorenzo Musetti, who defeated fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Swiatek overcomes slow start to reach fourth round

Iga Swiatek

IMAGE: Poland's Iga Swiatek celebrates after winning her third round match against Estonia's Anett Kontaveit. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Defending champion Iga Swiatek overcame a sluggish start to book her place in the last 16 of the French Open with a 7-6(4), 6-0 victory over Estonian Anna Kontaveit.

The eighth-seeded Polish player was out of sorts as she fell 3-1 behind in the opening set, but eventually found her range to advance smoothly, making 12 unforced errors throughout and only one in the second set.

The 20-year-old Swiatek, who last year became the youngest player to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup since Monica Seles in 1992, found better angles as the match went on to set up a meeting with Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk.

Kostyuk, 18, has progressed without dropping a set.

Swiatek, who won the WTA 1000 event in Rome, has now won her last nine matches on clay and looks more and more like the favourite for the title after the withdrawal of world number two Naomi Osaka and world number one Ash Barty, who suffered an injury in her second-round match.

The start of her match against 30th seed Kontaveit, against whom she had lost her two previous encounters, reminded her that there would be no room for complacency.

"She was playing really fast, from the beginning, she was dominating, so I kind of had a late start today," said Swiatek, who has now won 20 straight sets at Roland Garros.

"I'm really happy because I was losing in our head-to-head 0-2 against her, so I broke that, so I'm really happy about that."

Beyond the match result, Swiatek was happy that she found some consistency after her 2020 breakthrough.

"I'm really happy that I'm playing consistently and I'm just trying to approach every match the same way, as I did last year," she explained.

"I'm really happy I'm able to do that because many players struggle after coming back, after winning a Grand Slam, so I'm really happy that I'm able to handle it."

Kenin roars back to topple Pegula in all-American clash

Sofia Kenin

IMAGE: Sofia Kenin of the US celebrates after winning her third round match against Jessica Pegula. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Fourth seed Sofia Kenin rallied from a set down to book a place in the French Open last-16, defeating fellow American Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

Kenin, who finished runner-up to Iga Swiatek last year, made a bright start to take a 3-0 lead before unforced errors crept into her game, allowing Pegula to find her rhythm and draw level at 4-4.

Pegula, whose only WTA title came in 2019, showed incredible court coverage as she broke her opponent for the third time for a 5-4 lead before serving out the opening set.

But Kenin roared back, dropping just one game in the second set and pushing Pegula around the court with pinpoint groundstrokes.

The 2020 Australian Open champion carried the momentum into the final set as she broke Pegula twice in the opening three games before serving out the final game, booking a spot in the second week of the tournament.

American Stephens ousts 18th seed Muchova to reach fourth round

Sloane Stephens

IMAGE: Sloane Stephens of the United States plays a forehand. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens overcame an attacking Karolina Muchova at the French Open on Saturday, ousting the Czech 18th seed with a 6-3, 7-5 victory and progressing to the fourth round.

Former world number three Stephens, who reached the final at Roland Garros in 2018, has slipped down the rankings to 59th currently. But the 28-year-old's experience and consistency enabled her to fend off the challenge from Muchova, four years her junior.

Australian Open semi-finalist Muchova had plenty of problems on her serve in the early stages of the match, and a lone break in the fourth game was enough for the American, who won her home major in 2017, to take the opening set on the Simonne Mathieu court.

After a double exchange of breaks in the second set, Stephens then took a third break to seal the win.

Outplayed Svitolina joins top names tumbling at French Open

Elina Svitolina

IMAGE: Ukraine's Elina Svitolina in action during her third round match against Czech Republic's Barbora Krejcíkova. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina crashed out of the French Open with a third-round 6-3, 6-2 loss to 33rd-ranked Czech Barbora Krejcikova, as the big names in the women's draw continued to fall at the claycourt Grand Slam.

Roland Garros is already without its top three women's seeds, and Ukrainian Svitolina joined them after failing to find a way to rein in the 25-year-old Krejcikova's power-packed, attacking game in their first meeting.

American fourth seed Sofia Kenin, defending French Open winner Iga Swiatek and 23-time major champion Serena Williams are the only top-10 seeds left. World number one Ash Barty retired injured, while second-ranked Naomi Osaka withdrew.

Continuing her form from a maiden title-winning run in Strasbourg ahead of the French Open, Krejcikova broke Svitolina's serve three times in each set to cruise to victory on the Philippe Chatrier court.

Krejcikova won the doubles title at Roland Garros in 2018 with Katerina Siniakova and has now extended her unbeaten run in singles to eight matches.

"I'm super happy that I can't really believe it," Krejcikova said in her on-court interview.

"I'm so happy that I was able to play my tennis, that my game plan was working. I think most of my shots have been actually amazing.

"It was so far I think my best match. I'm just really happy that I'm here, that I'm enjoying the game, that I'm entertaining the crowd."

The highlight of the two-hour contest was Krejcikova holding her serve for 5-3 in the opening set in a game with 13 deuces and lasting 21 minutes.

"I thought it was really a key maybe to the match," Krejcikova told reporters. "After that I just did better and I broke."

She hit 38 winners to Svitolina's 20 and set up a fourth-round clash against former US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Sinner saves match point en route to French Open second round

Jannik Sinner

IMAGE: Italy's Jannik Sinner in action during his third round match against Sweden's Mikael Ymer. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Italian prospect Jannik Sinner saved a match point as he laboured to a 6-1, 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4 victory against France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the first round of the French Open.

The 19-year-old Sinner, who reached the quarter-finals on his Roland Garros debut last year, was 5-4 down in the fourth set when Herbert sent a backhand wide to give the world number 19 a lifeline.

Sinner barely got out of first gear in a one-sided opening set before Herbert started to put pressure on his first serve, rushing to the net to unsettle the Italian.

The plan worked to perfection as Sinner misfired and appeared to lose his cool. But his powerful groundstrokes eventually wore Herbert out, who missed out on an upset a year after forcing German Alexander to a five-setter - which he had lost, too - in Paris.

"When I saw the draw I knew it would be tough, also knowing that the crowd is for him but it's good to have crowds," said Sinner on court Suzanne Lenglen.

"Being a match point down and winning... it's a crazy sport but I'm happy it went my way."

Sinner next faces fellow Italian Gianluca Mager on his way to a potential fourth-round clash with 13-time champion Rafael Nadal, who ended his run last year.

Gauff eases through to last 16 as Brady retires

Coco Gauff

IMAGE: Coco Gauff reacts. Photograph: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Teenager Coco Gauff reached the last 16 of the French Open for the first time after fellow American Jennifer Brady quit having lost the first set 6-1.

The 17-year-old was in complete command as she won the first set in 23 minutes, with only one unforced error to her name.

Australian Open runner-up Brady then asked for medical assistance and decided that she could no longer continue.

Gauff, who has now reached the last 16 of three of the four Grand Slams, will face Tunisian 25th seed Ons Jabeur.

Her win means there are four American women in the fourth round, with Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens and last year's runner-up Sofia Kenin also through.

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