There’s an air of inevitability about this year’s French Open; it’s like the stars are starting to align. As we wander ever deeper into the Roland Garros draw, everything points to two familiar names walking away with the silverware next weekend.
The men’s round-up:
Decimated. That’s the word to describe the top half of the men’s draw at Roland Garros. And an already beleaguered group took another hit yesterday when home hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to retire while leading Ernests Gulbis 5-2 in the first set.
“The first game of the match I went to slide, and I felt a pain,” Tsonga told the press after the match. “I knew it was over. In the past I played on with this pain, tried to win, but it was always wrong because after that I was worse and I was out for a long time.”
Tsonga’s withdrawal means that Tomas Berdych is the highest ranked player Novak Djokovic can face before the final, a man who he has beaten 23 of the 25 times they have played.
The stars are aligning.
In the fading light of Philippe Chatrier, Djokovic swotted aside the challenge of Britain’s Aljaz Bedene 6-2 6-3 6-3. With the match not starting until 7:25pm, Djokovic’s primary concern throughout seemed to be on finishing the match before the light failed for good.
“We went deep into night,” Djokovic mused after the match. “I think we played to the maximum extent of time.
“I just hope that, you know, soon that Roland Garros will at least have lights, at least on the centre court and Suzanne Lenglen.”
Elsewhere, David Ferrer continued his quiet, confident march through the draw with a 6-4 7-6(6) 6-1 win over Feliciano Lopez; Tomas Berdych needed four sets to get rid of Pablo Cuevas; David Goffin won a titanic five-set struggle over Nicolas Almagro; and Dominic Thiem got the better of Alex Zverev 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 6-3.
The women’s action:
When Serena Williams is playing like this, there are few players – if any – who can stay with her. The World No.1 may have had her highs and lows during a tight battle with Kristina Mladenovic, but she was always seemed to be on top during her 6-4 7-6(10) win over the Frenchwoman.
“It was very difficult today she played really well,” Williams said graciously after the win. “She forced me to play my best tennis.”
Venus is another player marching ominously through the draw. In a fiery, late night tete-a-tete on Suzanne-Lenglen, the No.9 side dispatched French favourite Alize Cornet 7-6(5) 1-6 6-0.
Elsewhere, Elina Svitolina, Serena’s next opponent, looked solid during her 6-4 6-4 win over Ana Ivanovic; Timea Bacsinszky maintained her excellent form at the tournament with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Pauline Parmentier; and Carla Suarez Navarro battled past No.22 seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-4 3-6 6-1.
Ones to watch:
There’s always a day in a Grand Slam when you scan the schedule and start thinking ‘that’s tough, so is that one, and that one…’. Today is that day.
Take the men’s matches, for example: Viktor Troicki will fancy his chances against Wawrinka, Gasquet could hurt Nishikori, while Isner and Murray is a stylistic battle royale.
On the women’s side, an in-form Kuznetsova is a dangerous opponent for Garbine Muguruza, as is Pironkova for Radwanska. And then there’s Sam Stosur. She needs to bring her A-Game to the match with Simona Halep, and if she does that she’s got a very, very good chance of making the quarterfinals.
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