TENNIS US OPEN – As if the women’s draw could not get any more open, heavy rains washed away two more top. Both Jankovic and Safarova were dismissed in straight sets by opponents who were looking for their first ever quarterfinal appearance in a major. Jankovic lost to 17-year-old Belinda Bencic and Safarova to Shuai Peng. From New York, Cordell Hackshaw
As if the women’s draw could not get any more open, heavy rains washed away two more top seeds by the end of Day 7 play. Both Jelena Jankovic (9) and Lucie Safarova (14) were dismissed in straight sets by opponents who were looking for their first ever quarterfinal appearance in a major. Jankovic lost to 17-year-old Belinda Bencic 6-7 3-6 and Safarova to Shuai Peng 3-6 4-6. The more experienced Jankovic looked to be in the driver’s seat in the first half of the match but in the end, the teenager was the one who played the big points like a tour veteran. Peng on the other hand took complete control of the match against Safarova from the get-go and never relinquished her hold.
With the heavy rains and lightening passed, Safarova and Peng matchup was moved to Court 5 from its originally slated venue on Grandstand. Peng raced out to 3-0 in the opening set before Safarova was able to get on the scoreboard. She knew the importance of the early lead as she lost to Safarova in their last four encounters. This lone break would be all Peng needed to stay ahead as she maintained the lead to take the set 6-3 in 35 minutes. Safarova would fail to convert on the single break point she saw in that set. Unfortunately for her, it would be the only break opportunity she would have for the entire match.
In the 2nd set, it would be more of the same. Peng broke early, in the 3rd game and held serve to take the win 6-3 6-4 in 71 minutes. Peng was clean and efficient throughout the match with 9 aces and 17 winners to 7 errors. Safarova was mostly steady but having made 21 errors particularly during those two service breaks, made her life very difficult. She was also unable to make any impact on Peng’s serve. “The last couple of times I was in the fourth round I would always lose to good players, like Maria and Kvitova, I had two match points against Radwanska once, and I went to a third set with Kirilenko and Pennetta. I didn’t win, but I got a lot of experience from those losses,” Peng said after the match.
However, the real golden story of the day is the surprise victory of Belinda Bencic over Jankovic. Jankovic came into this tournament in excellent shape and through her first three rounds here, she looked very much like the player who made the 2008 finals. With so many of the top seeds being dispersed, many imagined that Jankovic could make another run for the title. Bencic is also receiving much attention as she is coached by 5-time major champion Martina Hingis’s mother and former coach, Melanie Molitor. However, the Swiss teen is standing out in her own right as she has showed herself to be mentally tough through her last two rounds where she too like Peng, knocked out two seeded players.
Coming into this match, Jankovic was the only remaining player in the women’s draw who had not had her serve broken. However, after breaking Bencic to open the match, she could not consolidate and she was broken for the first time. Jankovic remained persistent and broke Bencic again to lead 3-1. Yet that previously impenetrable service came under serious attack by Bencic. Jankovic was broken two more times serving for the set at 5-4 and 6-5. Therefore, the set had to be decided by a tiebreak. Again, Jankovic took the early lead but could not maintain it. Bencic fought her way back to 6-5 and despite being unable to convert on her first set point, she did so on her second after 72 minutes; 7-66 Bencic.
In 2nd set, Jankovic’s concentration began to break down. She continued to let the missed opportunities in the 1st set linger. She was impatient and constantly gesturing in fits of agitation. Bencic continued to be aggressive on the big points and soon had a 4-2 lead. Serving to stay in the match at 3-5, Jankovic was broke for the 6th time to hand Bencic the win 7-6 6-3.
After the match, Bencic stated, “I definitely didn’t feel any pressure because it was my first time on the Arthur Ashe in the night session. So I really just tried to enjoy it. I think she had all the pressure because she needed to win.” Jankovic definitely cracked under the pressure particularly for an experienced player. More problematic for Jankovic was the fact that her serve had very little impact on Bencic. Jankovic was able to get 70% of her 1st serves in but only won 48% of the points and even less, 46%, on her 2nd serve. This gave Bencic numerous opportunities to break her and thus secure the win. Both Bencic and Peng will play for a chance at a first major semifinal.
Venus Williams Shuts Down Season After French Open Exit
The American veteran ends 2020 with just one recorded win on the WTA Tour in eight tournaments played.
Former world No.1 Venus Williams says she will not play another tournament this year after crashing out of the French Open.
The 40-year-old slumped to a 6-4, 6-4, loss against Anna Karolína Schmiedlová who is currently ranked almost 100 places lower than her in the WTA rankings. Williams struggled to find consistency in her serve throughout and was unusually broken six times in a row between the first and second sets. A former finalist back in 2002 it is the third year in a row where the American has fallen at the first hurdle in Paris.
“It’s been a very long year of quarantine. Now I’ll get to rest. So I’m looking forward to that,” Williams told reporters.
Williams will be eager to forget 2020 and not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic which caused the sport to pause for months earlier this year. On the Tour she played in eight tournaments with her sole victory being against Victoria Azarenka at the Top Seed Open last month. Making it by far her worst season on the Tour. When asked if she plans to play anywhere else after the French Open, Williams stated that she has no intentions to do so.
“I’m going home from here. I’m done. If there is somewhere to play, I won’t be there,” she said.
“Being separated from the people you love probably is the challenging part (of 2020). Obviously not being able to be on tour is also a challenge and not having the fans is pretty rough, also.”
Despite a dip in results in recent times, the five-time Grand Slam champion says she isn’t ready to hang up her racket just yet. Williams is currently the second oldest player to have a WTA ranking and oldest to be inside the top 400. When she made her French Open debut in 1997 Schmiedlová was only two-years-old.
“I just stepped off the court. So even though it hasn’t been a ton of tournaments, it’s still been a very long year. I’m not looking forward to it (2021) yet,” she concluded.
Meanwhile, Schmiedlová faces a tough test in the next round when she takes on 10th seed Victoria Azarenka who has defeated five top 20 players in her 15 most recent matches. It will be the first ever Tour meeting between the two.
Simona Halep Hails ‘Unique’ Birthday Present At French Open
The world No.2 reacts to her opening win at Roland Garros.
Simona Halep has described playing at Roland Garros on her birthday as ‘unique’ after easing into the second round of the tournament on Sunday.
The top seed marked turning 29 with a 6-4, 6-0, win over Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo after recovering from a lacklustre start. Halep dropped her serve two consecutive times to fall behind 2-4 in the opener before winning 10 games in a row to seal victory. Extending her winning run on the Tour to 15 matches.
“It was a really special day playing on Roland Garros on my birthday. So it’s pretty unique, maybe forever,” Halep said afterwards.
“I cannot celebrate much because I have to stay in the room (due to COVID-19 restrictions), so I will have a bottle of water.”
This year’s French Open is taking place later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was originally scheduled to take place between May and June. Due to the change of dates, players are finding themselves playing in much more trickier conditions in Paris which has raised the alarm bells for some.
Halep, who has won two WTA titles on the clay leading up to Paris, actually produced more unforced errors than Tormo (23-16) but hit more than twice as many winners (23-10). Furthermore, she 69% of her first service points but only 44% of her second while playing under the newly built roof on Court Phillippe-Chartier.
“I was very honoured to actually open this roof, to be the first women’s match. It was much better because we could play and the rain didn’t stop us at all,” she said.
“Even if it was a little bit heavy, because of the weather, the conditions were good to play on this rainy day.”
The world No.2 is seeking her second title at Roland Garros after 2018 when she won her first ever Grand Slam trophy. Reflecting on how her game has developed over time, Halep believes she is more mature on the court than what she was 12 months ago. Last year she was knocked out in the quarter-finals of the French Open by Amanda Anisimova.
“I think I improved a lot. I’m more mature on the court. I feel very good on court. I’m relaxed. I’m just trying to give my best every time. I don’t give up any points. So I think I changed a lot in the last 12 months.”
Halep will play either compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu or Switzerland’s Jill Tiechmann in the second round. Should she go on to win the title this year she will also reclaim the world No.1 ranking from Ash Barty.
Fuming Victoria Azarenka Walks Off Court Amid Poor Conditions At French Open
The clay court major has had its first controversy less than an hour after getting underway.
Former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka has voiced her anger at French Open officials as her first round match came to a halt after just three games played.
The 10th seed entered the Suzanne Lenglen wearing a coat as the rain fell steadily on what was also a cold and windy day. From the onset both Azarenka and her opponent, Danka Kovinić, struggled on court with the conditions. After three holds of serves Azarenka demanded to speak with the tournament supervisor as the rain got harder but the umpire didn’t stop the match.
“You guys are not playing so you have no idea what the conditions are. I’m down to play whatever but this is getting ridiculous,” she said to tournament official Claire Wood.
Wood, who was waiting for further instruction from the tournament referee, pleaded with Azarenka to wait a bit longer on the court to see if the rain would pass. However the two-time Australian Open champion was having none of it.
“I’m not sitting here because I am going to get frozen. It’s eight degrees, I live in Florida and I am used to hot weather,” she complained.
Continuing to voice her anger, Azarenka then asked Kovinic if she was happy sitting on the court and awaiting further instruction in which the Montenegrin replied ‘no.’ Resulting in both players walking off before they were technically allowed to do so. Although it is unlikely that such an action would result in either of them getting disqualified with the argument being remaining on the court posed an injury risk.
“It’s ridiculous, it’s too cold. What’s the point? We’re sitting here like ducks,” Azarenka said before leaving the court.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year’s French Open has been moved from the end of May until now. The weather forecast for the coming days consists of intermittent rain showers with Court Phillipe Chartier being the only one to have a roof.
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