Day six at the French Open had the top-seeds venture into the second week, starting with women’s defending champion Garbine Muguruza. Muguruza’s fellow Spaniard, Rafael Nadal also moved into the fourth round, as did men’s defending champion Novak Djokovic.
The day wasn’t without mishaps, however, as there seemed to be two simultaneous retirements; that of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in his third round match against Milos Raonic, and more notably that of the David Goffin against Horacio Zeballos.
Meanwhile, away from the court, the Margaret Court controversy simmered and bubbled with a new set of players’ voices emerging against the 74-year-old former world No 1.
The big news:
Nine-time Roland Garros champion Nadal, who was marking a century of best-of-five matches, ushered in the milestone with quite a victory. The Mallorcan turned back the clock to his seemingly bygone days of dominance on the red dirt of Paris as he romped over the hapless Nikoloz Basilashvili, 6-0, 6-1, 6-0. This was also the first time, in all his 98 wins at the French Open that Nadal has ever won a match dropping solely one game in the process.
Djokovic also had a unique way of asserting his presence in the draw, coming back into his match against Diego Schwartzman, after trailing the Argentine by two-sets-to-one.
In the women’s side, Kristina Mladenovic fought off another spirited American challenge, after her first round matchup against Jennifer Brady, to move into the fourth round. Trailing her opponent of the day, Shelby Rogers, at 2-5 in the third set, Mladenovic effectuated a turnaround worthy of a champion to win the decider – and the match – 8-6.
Venus Williams became the oldest player to reach the pre-quarter-finals of the French Open after her 6-3, 6-1 win over Germany’s Elise Mertens. The senior Williams sister, who will turn 37 later in June, has been the story of the tournament, irrespective of the fact that she isn’t considered to be one of the contenders to win the title.
Sliding...and twisting, on the tarps:
Players sliding to retrieve shots is a common sight on clay. And, it was a usual day at the office for the 10th seeded Goffin, who was serving for the opening set against Argentine Horacio Zeballos. But, his right foot on the tarp kept right at the back of the court wouldn’t have been on Goffin’s mind. The twist to his ankle looked really painful and as he limped off being helped by two people, it became painfully obvious that the injury was the end of Goffin’s French Open road.
There was, however, a small note of good news for Goffin in the aftermath of his fall. That he hadn’t had suffered a tear to his ligaments or had impaired his ankle severely.
Newer day, newer displays of sportsmanship:
Goffin’s opponent Zeballos came up with an emotive display of sportsmanship as he packed the Belgian’s bags after the match had to be called off, before carrying them off the court for Goffin.
If that was the case of a rival lending a helping hand – literally – to his injured opponent, Dominic Thiem came up with some emotional support to Steve Johnson, who lost his father right before the start of the French Open. The Austrian won their third round match, but the words the two shared at the net was quite heartfelt.
Brewing upsets in the doubles draw:
The third seeded Bryan brothers were upset in the second round by Sam Groth and Robert Lindstedt, while the fourth seeded team of Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo were ousted by Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus. With the top two-seeds already exiting in the tournament in the days previously, the doubles draw looks to have come unglued.
“I do this on my own time and my own dime.”
– Andre Agassi revealing he is not paid to coach Novak Djokovic.
“What did I say? What did I say? You understand Serbian?”
– Djokovic after being warned by umpire Carlos Ramos for unsportsmanlike behaviour in his five-set win over Diego Schwartzman.
“He’s my singing partner so I need to support that.”
– Grigor Dimitrov on the return of Roger Federer in Stuttgart later this month. At Indian Wells this year, Federer, Dimitrov and Tommy Haas, dubbing themselves the Backhand Boys, performed “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” during an on-court interview.
“Maths was the only subject that I failed in the last year at school. That doesn’t mean that the numbers don’t worry me now.”
– Rafael Nadal on his 100th best-of-five claycourt match.
“I think it’s sort of really shocking comments to hear. I won’t get necessarily into the politics on what something should and shouldn’t be called, but I think to some extent definitely there should be some kind of apology and whatever repercussions.”
– Milos Raonic weighs in on the Margaret Court controversy.
“I know in Wimbledon I will go to the same house. I know the kitchen, and I know that the owner, the woman loves to bake, so I have everything I need for muffin, cakes, and stuff.”
– Garbine Muguruza on how baking helps her forget the stress of tennis.
From the sidelines:
Hands off our ball boys
– Djokovic was criticised for his on-court demeanour in his match with Schwartzman, including his attitude to ball boys who were told to feed the ball and towel to him a lot faster than they were.
“A lot of things I am fine with when players lose their shit on court – those in glasshouses etc but when players yell @ ballkids,” tweeted former tour player Rennae Stubbs.
Two is a lucky number
– Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur was only the second lucky loser in the last 20 years to reach the third round of a Slam joining Russia’s Daria Kasatkina who made the last 32 at the 2015 US Open.
– Shelby Rogers, who lost to home hope Kiki Mladenovic despite being 5-2 ahead in the final set, refused to blame a stoppage in play for extreme weather for her loss. “Neither one of us wanted to play in lightning. That’s not very smart,” said the American.
12 – points on serve lost by Nadal in his 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 mauling of Nikoloz Basilashvili.
16 – points in a row won by defending champion Garbine Muguruza in her match against Yulia Putintseva.
63 – unforced errors from Svetlana Kuznetsova in her marathon three-set win over China’s Zhang Shuai
(With inputs from AFP)