French Open: Women’s draw loses top 3, Serena shines
Third seed Aryna Sabalenka crashed out of the French Open on Friday with an error-filled third-round defeat to experienced Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, leaving the women’s draw without its top three seeds at the clay court grand slam.
After the exits of Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka, the Belarusian was the highest seed remaining this week in Paris, but she failed to keep a leash on her unforced errors to lose 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 to the 29-year-old Russian.
Pavlyuchenkova went off court to receive medical attention and returned with her left thigh heavily strapped. But that did not deter her.
Former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka reached the fourth round for the first time since 2013 with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against American Madison Keys. She will now take on Pavlyuchenkova.
Serena Williams powered confidently ahead with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of fellow-American Danielle Collins. The 39-year-old seventh seed is now the highest-ranked player left in the bottom half of the draw.
Serena, seeking a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title but her first since 2017, will play Kazakhstan’s 21st seed Elena Rybakina for a place in the quarter finals.
On his least favourite surface, second seed Daniil Medvedev was impressive in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 victory over American Reilly Opelka. The 25-year-old Russian reached the last-16 at Roland Garros for the first time in five appearances.
World No.6 Alexander Zverev’s campaign gained momentum as the German dispatched Serbia’s Laslo Djere 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the fourth round.
Zverev, who won the clay court title in Madrid and lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarter finals in Rome in the lead-up to Roland Garros, had too much for his 55th-ranked opponent as he set up a clash with Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
He has never been further than the quarter finals here, but his part of the draw seems clear until the last four, where he could face fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, with the “Big Three” — Roger Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic — in the other half.
Nishikori advanced when his Swiss opponent Henri Laaksonen retired with an injury.
On Thursday night, clay court machine Nadal celebrated his 35th birthday by handing his long-time friend Richard Gasquet a 6-0, 7-5, 6-2 masterclass. Thirteen-time Roland Garros champion Nadal showed no mercy as he demolished the Frenchman for the 17th time in as many professional encounters.
Russian player Yana Sizikova has been released from police custody a day after being arrested at the French Open over match-fixing allegations related to last year’s tournament, her lawyer said.