The first real title contenders usually emerge around day five of Wimbledon. This is because it is the earliest moment when it is possible for players to seal a coveted second week spot.
Sabalenka Seals Rybakina Clash
Contender number one is Aryna Sabalenka. The big-hitting Belarussian survived a tricky encounter with Great Britain’s Katie Boulter in round two, but she had a much more comfortable time in round three as she dispatched qualifier Maria Camila Osorio Serrano 6-0 6-3.
The Colombian teenager performed superbly in the opening two rounds to reach her first-ever Grand Slam third round. However, she struggled with a thigh injury throughout her match with Sabalenka and she was never able to offer a serious challenge to the number two seed.
Next up for the Belarussian will be Elena Rybakina. The Kazakstani booked her place in the last 16 with an impressive 6-1 6-4 win over Shelby Rogers, the American who knocked out French Open semi-finalist Maria Sakkari in round two.
Rybakina could prove to be a very difficult opponent for Sabalenka. Therefore the match will provide a true test of her title credentials.
Swiatek Earns Jabeur Meeting
The second contender is Iga Swiatek. The 2020 French Open champion has proved to be a quick learner on grass. She is yet to drop a set at Wimbledon this year. And even though today was just her 11th professional match on the surface, she destroyed Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1 6-0 in just 55 minutes.
The Pole’s reward is a devilishly tricky-looking meeting with Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian possesses a huge repertoire of shots, which makes her a very difficult opponent for anyone when she performs well.
To make matters worse for Swiatek, Jabeur just produced one of the best displays of her entire career to knock out 2017 champion and Garbine Muguruza.
The 11th seed was not at her best, but she did not play badly by any means. Her Tunisian opponent was just brilliant on the day, as her 44 winners to 27 unforced errors ratio suggests.
She had to work hard for her victory though – particularly on the Spaniard’s serve. Muguruza saved a remarkable 24 break points during the match.
Pliskova Reaches Round Four Again, Plays Samsonova Next
Title contender number three is Karolina Pliskova. The Czech has always had sufficient talent to win a Grand Slam, but she has never produced her best when she has needed it most.
The 8th seed has had a particularly torrid time at Wimbledon. She has never made it past the fourth round. However, she will have another chance to break her quarter-final duck after she notched up a relatively straightforward 6-3 6-3 triumph over compatriot Tereza Martincova in round three.
Ludmilla Samsonova stands in her way in the last 16. The Russian was ranked outside the top 100 less than a month ago, but she has enjoyed a meteoric rise courtesy of her first WTA title in Berlin and her progress so far at SW19.
During her current 10-match winning streak, Samsonova has beaten Marketa Vondrousova, Madison Keys, Victoria Azarenka, Belinda Bencic and Jessica Pegula. Today, she added Sloane Stephens to that list after battling to beat the American 6-2 2-6 6-4. She could prove to be a very dangerous opponent for Pliskova.
Keys Marches On
The fourth contender to emerge from the bottom half of the draw is Madison Keys. The American loves the grass and has won two of her five WTA titles on the surface. However, this has somehow never translated to success at Wimbledon, where she has never gone further than the last eight.
Things look promising for the 23rd seed this time around though. She has won all three of her matches so far in straight sets and has rarely looked troubled. And the American was understandably pleased with her 7-5 6-3 victory over 13th seed Elise Mertens today.
“I am absolutely beyond happy,” Keys said in her on-court interview. “I think I just played a really great match. Also, I think this is the first time I’ve ever won on this court, so that’s a bonus.”
Viktorija Golubic awaits the American in round four. The Swiss is currently enjoying arguably the best year of her career so far, and she dismissed Madison Brengle 6-2 6-1 in impressive style to reach the last 16. Despite this, it is hard to imagine her beating Keys unless the 23rd seed has a bad day.
Sorana Cirstea Makes Winning Start To French Open After Seeking Help From Djokovic’s Coach
The Grand Slam winning mentor was seen in the crowd watching Cirstea play her first round match in Paris.
Heading into her 14th French Open main draw Sorona Cristea decided to take a shot and ask for advice from one former Grand Slam champion.
The 32-year-old Romanian has endured a mixed results on the clay this year with a run to the semifinals of the Istanbul Open followed by three straight first round losses on the Tour. It has been a frustrating past few weeks for the Tour veteran who is currently ranked 27th in the world. Just six spots below her career-high.
Seeking further guidance for her French Open bid, Cirstea approached Goran Ivanisevic for help. The former Wimbledon champion who now works as coach of the men’s world No.1 Novak Djokovic. To her delight, he agreed to give her some pointers.
“He came to one of my practices two days ago. Basically, I just asked for his help and I was lucky enough to get an hour of his time,” Cirstea told reporters.
“I talked with him a little bit about what’s going through my head and just tennis. It was a very, very pleasant hour.”
Ivanisevic was seen courtside watching Cirstea play her first round match at Roland Garros on Sunday morning. The 26th seed defeated Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-3, in just over an hour. Hitting a total of 34 winners against 26 unforced errors.
“I was very surprised to see him because I know he’s very busy with Novak,” she continued. “He was very, very kind to be there and I was happy to see him there.’
“He’s just been giving me a few tips and tricks from a Grand Slam champion, and as a coach of No. 1, and someone that has so much experience. I’m very grateful and very lucky to have the chance to spend that hour on court with him.”
This year’s French Open is the 53rd Grand Slam Cirstea has played in. She has reached six WTA finals, winning the 2008 Tashkent Open and 2021 Istanbul Open. Against top 10 players she has recorded a total of 16 wins to date.
Reflecting on her development as a player, the Romanian believes a change in perspective has enabled her to enjoy more success on the Tour in recent years. Cristea has been continuously ranked in the world’s top 100 since September 2019.
“When I was younger, I was taking the losses a bit much, they were hurting a bit too much, where now I am much more relaxed, much more at peace,” she explains.
“You cannot change what happened last week, so why bother? Try to learn and then just go forward with the positive mindset.”
Cirstea will play Sloane Stephens in the second round of Roland Garros. Stephens, who is unseeded in the draw, battled back from a set down to defeat Germany’s Jule Niemeier 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
Former Finalist Marketa Vondrousova To Miss French Open Following Surgery
The Olympic silver medallist will miss a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in two-and-a-half years.
Czech world No.35 Marketa Vondrousova has pulled out of next week’s French Open after undergoing what she describes as a ‘small surgery.’
Vondrousova, who reached the final at Roland Garros back in 2019, underwent a procedure on her left wrist after experiencing recurring pain. She decided to do so following a medical consultation and will be soon going through rehab. It will be the first Grand Slam event she has missed since the 2019 US Open which she also withdrew from due to a wrist injury.
“The last few weeks were not easy, I have been experiencing recurring pain in my wrist,” Vondrousova wrote in an Instagram post published on Monday. “After seeing a couple of doctors I decided to get this small surgery done to be able to play pain-free.”
“Staying positive through the recovery and can’t wait to be back on the court soon,” she added.
The 22-year-old last played on Tour at the Stuttgart Open where she lost in the first round to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur. So far this season she has achieved a win-loss record of 13-5 with her best run being to the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships as a qualifier. Vondrousova also reached the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and defeated Emma Raducanu in the Billie Jean Cup.
A former junior world No.1, Vondrousova has been ranked as high as 14th in the world. So far in her career, she has won just one WTA title which was back in 2017 at the Lugano Open in Switzerland. However, she has reached the final at another four events with the last being at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. She has scored a total of six wins over top 10 players.
Another player in doubt for the French Open is defending champion Barbora Krejcikova who hasn’t played a match on the Tour since February. The world No.2 has been sidelined from action due to an elbow injury but remains on the entry list for the Grand Slam which will begin on Sunday.
The French Open draw will take place on Thursday.
Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina Announces Pregnancy
Tennis’ power couple are set to become parents later this year.
Former world No.3 Elina Svitoliva has announced that she is expecting a baby girl in October on social media.
The 27-year-old made the announcement on Sunday morning with a picture of her and her husband, French tennis star Gael Monfils. Known by some as the sports ‘power couple,’ the two tied the knot last July in Geneva ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games after first going public about their relationship in 2019. They even have their own Instagram account called ‘g.e.m.s. life’ which has more than 139,000 followers.
“With a heart full of love and happiness, we are delighted to announce that we are expecting a baby girl in October,” the couple wrote on Twitter.
Svitolina hadn’t played on the Tour since losing to Heather Watson at the Miami Open in March after deciding to take time away from the sport due to events happening in her home country. Russia launched a military operation against Ukraine earlier this year which has claimed thousands of lives. Svitolina is one of the sport’s most outspoken players regarding the conflict. She has previously spoken out against the decision to ban Russian and Belarussian athletes from Wimbledon by arguing that they should be allowed to participate if they condemn the actions of their home countries.
“We don’t want them banned completely,” Svitolina told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast.
“If players don’t speak out against the Russian government then it is the right thing to ban them.”
Prior to announcing her pregnancy, Svitolina has achieved a win-loss record of 5-8 on the Tour this season with her best runs being to the third round of the Australian Open and the quarter-finals of a WTA event in Monterrey.
During her career, the Ukrainian has won 16 WTA titles and reached the semi-finals of two Grand Slams during 2019.
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