Muguruza powers past Svitolina into French Open fourth round
Spaniard Garbine Muguruza laid down an impressive marker at the French Open as she overpowered ninth seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 to reach the fourth round on Friday.
The 19th seed has struggled for consistency this year but Roland Garros tends to bring the best out of her and so it proved again as the 2016 champion outplayed the Ukrainian on a sunny Court Philippe Chatrier.
Muguruza made her intentions clear from the start, planting herself on the baseline and blazing away with her baseline power-game that Svitolina struggled to contain.
Making mincemeat of Svitolina's serve, she broke five times in the opening set, allowing her opponent only seven points on her own delivery, albeit dropping her own serve three times.
A series of service holds broke the pattern at the start of the second set before Svitolina speared a forehand winner to break and nudge 3-2 ahead.
Muguruza raised the intensity again, however, and won an exhausting 22-stroke rally to level at 3-3.
The two-time Grand Slam champion then powered through the last three games to book her place in the fourth round for the sixth time in eight appearances.
She will face either last year's runner-up Sloane Stephens or Polona Hercog next.
Vondrousova leading new Czech generation
Minutes after second seed Czech Karolina Pliskova was dumped out of the French Open, Marketa Vondrousova underlined her credentials as the leader of the country's new generation by reaching the last 16 for the first time.
With Pliskova, 27, beaten by Petra Martic, twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova having pulled out injured before the tournament and former Roland Garros runner-up Lucy Safarova this week confirming her retirement, the Czechs needed a boost.
Vondrousova, 19, provided it with a superb 6-4, 6-4 victory over Spain's claycourt specialist Carla Suarez Navarro.
"I think this is the biggest result of my career," 38th-ranked Vondrousova, who will face Latvian 12th seed Anastasija Sevastova, for a place in the last eight, told Reuters.
"It's the second time in the fourth round (of a Grand Slam for me) but to beat Carla who is such an amazing player, especially on the clay, that a big win for me today."
Graceful left-hander Vondrousova grew up playing on clay in Sokolov in the west of the country, moving on her own to Prague to practice as a 15-year-old.
One of her favourite memories was, as a 12-year-old, watching on television as Kvitova won her first Wimbledon title.
Whereas Kvitova has always been at her most dangerous on the faster courts, Vondrousova has the perfect tools for clay, great defence, superb movement and plenty of baseline firepower.
Soaring confidence also helps after a win in Rome over French Open champion Simona Halep.
"It's amazing to be in the last 16," she said. "I played my first junior Grand Slam here and made the semis so I have like a really good relationship with this place.
"I remember watching here when Lucy (Safarova) made the final in 2015 and I won the girls doubles."
Now, along with 23-year-old Katerina Siniakova, who faces world number one Naomi Osaka on Saturday, Vondrousova is looking to ensure that the Czech Republic maintain their place as one of the strongest nations in women's tennis.
Last month she led the Czechs to victory in the Fed Cup World Group playoff win over Canada -- her first tie at home.
That is a right of passage for young Czech players and it further boosted the confidence of a player who has made enormous strides this year with consistent results.
She has a 25-6 win-loss record on Tour this year, compared to just 14 Tour wins in the whole of 2018 -- reaching the quarter-finals or better in her five most recent tournaments.
"I think this year I have more experience but also have a bigger team around me in Prague, and I'm working hard with them," Vondrousova, who has been coached by Jan Hernych since the start of the year, said.
Vondrousova broke in the opening game on Friday but two double-faults betrayed some early nerves as she lost serve immediately and then was broken again to trail 3-1.
She quickly settled down though and took the opening set after twice breaking the Spaniard's serve.
Vondrousova dominated the second set with her deep aggressive grounstrokes and clever changes of pace and brought up a break point at 2-2 with a deft stop volley before Suarez Navarro caved in to the pressure and netted a backhand.
With victory beckoning Vondrousova was remarkably calm, losing just one point in her last three service games.
"It was a very tough match for me but I think it was a great match and I think I was just trying to keep focussed and stay aggressive," she said.
Second seed Pliskova slides to defeat by Martic
Karolina Pliskova's quest for a maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open came to an end as the second seed lost 6-3, 6-3 to Croatia's Petra Martic.
The powerful Czech struggled throughout to find the range on her feared serve and forehand as 31st seed Martic matched her best performance by reaching the last 16.
Martic broke in the seventh game and then again two games later as Pliskova hit a backhand long to drop the opener.
A lacklustre Pliskova then dropped serve again at the start of the second set before hitting back with a flurry of winners to break her 28-year-old opponent twice in a row.
The fightback did not last though and Matic regained control with two more breaks before serving it out at 5-3.
Martic will play an unseeded player next, either Estonia's Kaia Kanepi or Russian Veronika Kudermetova.
There was better news for Pliskova's fellow-Czech Marketa Vondrousova; the 19-year-old reached the last 16 with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Spanish 28th seed Carla Suarez Navarro.
Latvia's Sevastova defeats Mertens in triumph of will
Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova ground out a gruelling 6-7(3), 6-4, 11-9 win against Elise Mertens to move into the fourth round of the French Open, her best ever showing at the claycourt major.
In a marathon three hour 18 minutes match, the longest contest in the women's draw so far, Sevastova overcame the Belgian to set up a match against Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova.
Both players struggled with their service rhythms, with Sevastova producing just 58 percent of first serves in and facing a total of 15 break points. Mertens faced even more.
The 23-year-old Belgian, who arrived in Paris following two first-round defeats in Madrid and Rome, won a comfortable tiebreak to claim the first set. For Sevastova, the errors kept piling up and she frequently turned to her box in anguish.
The Latvian came back strongly in the second set, however, breaking the Mertens serve three times as she found her groove on the backhand.
That set up a monster third set in which the two players slugged it out for 101 minutes, Mertens using her long reach to retrieve seemingly lost points and Sevastova disrupting her opponent's groundstrokes with an array of deft drop shots.
As the contest headed towards its nerve-jangling finale, Sevastova served five times to stay in the match before finally breaking Mertens for a 10-9 lead that left the Belgian totally deflated.
In the end, Sevastova made it look easy, winning the final game to love.