Has Simona Halep staked a claim to the French Open crown? The Romanian’s was just one of a number of strong performances on day nine of Roland Garros. The #SmashTalk team digested it all.
Vivienne Christie: Simona Halep made it a statement win as she took exactly ah hour to dismantle Carla Suarez Navarro with the loss of just two games. Hitting 19 winners to five from the typically capable Spaniard, Halep is clearly not afraid to be aggressive as she warms to the role of French Open favourite.
Paul Moore: Without a doubt Elina Svitolina. Trailing 2-5 in the decider it looked like the Ukranian was down and out. The fightback that followed not only propelled her to a maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal, but proved she has the guts and determination to win this thing.
Leigh Rogers: Caroline Garcia. In six previous attempts the Frenchwoman had failed to make it past the second round in Paris – now she’s a quarterfinalist. Sure, she was favoured to beat Alize Cornet in the fourth round, but as a player who has typically struggled with expectation, that was a confidence-boosting win.
VC: While wins went largely according to rankings, it’s always unfortunate to see injury play a part. Kevin Anderson became the sixth man to retire hurt at Roland Garros this year, a thigh injury forcing him to withdraw in the second set against Marin Cilic. If there’s any consolation, it’s that the latest “hiccup” is unrelated to the more serious shoulder injury that undermined Anderson’s form last year.
PM: Was there a ‘biggest loser’? Everything seemed to go to form. Petra Martic blowing a 5-2 lead in the third against Svitolina would probably take that title if it had to be awarded, but the results were largely as expected.
LR: Carla Suarez Navarro. There’s no shame in losing to Simona Halep on clay, but only winning two games? The Spaniard is better than that – yet she continues to fail to deliver when she gets to a second week of a Grand Slam. That was her sixth loss late in a Grand Slam where she won six games or less, an alarming record for a player who has been ranked as high as No.6.
VC: Novak Djokovic v Dominic Thiem will tell us a lot about the short-term future of men’s tennis. As Djokovic has struggled to achieve his usual dominance, Thiem has been on an upward trend all year. It’s a theme at this French Open too: while Djokovic was pushed to five against Diego Schwartzman, the 23-year-old Austrian is one of four men (alongside Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic) not to drop a set. Interestingly, Djokovic is the only top five player that the improving Thiem is yet to defeat – is there a turning point in sight?
PM: There’s only one match worth watching on day ten: Novak Djokovic v Dominic Thiem. This is the first real blockbuster clash of Roland Garros, and I don’t expect Thiem to roll over in the way that he did against the Serb in Rome.
LR: Jelena Ostapenko v Caroline Wozniacki. On paper a former world No.1 against a teen competing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal looks a mis-match, but the reality is this match is a whole lot more complicated. Ostapenko holds a 3-0 win-loss record against the world No.12, including two wins on clay earlier this season. Yet Ostapenko and predictability don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, so anything could still happen in this one.
VC: Karen Khachanov. Playing the Roland Garros main draw for the first time – and only the third Grand Slam of his career – the 21-year-old Russian stunned Tomas Berdych in the second round and backed it up with a win over John Isner. Khachanov was schooled by world No.1 Andy Murray in the fourth round but with a big serve and fierce forehand, the Russian’s early comparisons to countryman Marat Safin are making sense.
PM: Who would have thought that Caroline Wozniacki’s name would be amongst the favourites for a maiden major title? The Dane, who doesn’t exactly have a great pedigree on the red stuff, has not only found her feet and form, but is the one player who knows what it takes to perform on the biggest stage in our sport.
LR: Marin Cilic. Arriving in Paris with a 13-10 season win-loss record, the Croat’s form was far from impressive, yet he’s stormed into his first French Open quarterfinal with the loss of only 26 games. He might not win the title, but he’s remarkably turned his season around on his least preferred surface.
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