Unseeded American veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands provided the biggest upset at the French Open on Thursday, sending former champion and No. 6 seed Li Na on a plane back to China 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 on another day where rain halted play early at Roland Garros.
“That’s one of the best wins of my career,” said Mattek-Sands, who hit 32 winners during the aggressive assault. “I knew she wasn’t going to give it to me. She’s a champion, and I had to play some of my best tennis ever to beat her…It was kind of a battle of who can take control of that middle court.”
Top 10 players advancing into the third round were No. 3 Victoria Azarenka who defeated German Annika Beck, No. 7 Petra Kvitova who beat China’s Peng Shuai, and No. 9 Sam Stosur who defeated France’s Kristina Mladenovic, all in straight sets.
“I think it was very hard conditions today in terms of waiting, and there is so much on, off, on, off — it’s not consistently raining or consistently not raining,” said Azarenka after defeating the reigning French Open junior champ. “[Beck] came into the match really aggressive and getting every ball back too. So I lost my focus a little bit, but I’m glad I could turn it around and step it up in the important moments.”
Azarenka will next meet No. 31 seed Alize Cornet, who defeated S�lvia Soler-Espinosa 6-1, 6-3.
Stosur will next meet former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, a 6-3, 6-0 winner over Garbine Muguruza.
“It’s always tough playing Jelena,” Stosur said. “We played about four or five weeks ago in Stuttgart and she beat me there. We played in the semis here in 2010. So we certainly played enough times on all different surfaces.”
Other upsets on Thursday were New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic toppling No. 16 Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 2-6, 6-4; and Argentine qualifier Paula Ormaechea downing No. 27 Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4, 7-6(6).
Ormaechea and Mattek-Sands will meet in the next round.
Other Americans joining Mattek-Sands in the winner’s circle on the day were No. 18 Sloane Stephens who has little problem with compatriot Vania King, and unseeded Jamie Hampton who topped Slovak qualifier Anna Schmiedlova in straight sets.
“I’ve been playing better and better,” Stephens said. “It’s always tough playing another American, so when I got out there I was a little nervous, but I’ve been playing well so I was also excited to get out there.”
Matches suspended due to rain were No. 2 Maria Sharapova leading Canadian upstart Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 4-2; No. 12 Maria Kirilenko tied with Aussie wildcard Ashleigh Barty 3-3, and Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi leading fellow un-seed and Swiss Stefanie Voegele 6-5.
On the men’s side only seven matches were completed due to the rains.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic made quick work of Guido Pella, rolling over the Argentine 6-2, 6-0, 6-2. Djokovic will next face No. 26 seed Grigor Dimitrov, another winner Thursday.
“I think he’s got more confident as he was getting big wins in the past few months, and so he’s a tough player now to beat now, definitely,” said Djokovic of Dimitrov, who he lost to in Madrid. “Even though maybe his style of play could be better on the hard court or faster surfaces, he’s showing that he can play equally well on clay.”
Other seeds advancing were No. 13 Kei Nishikori, No. 17 Philipp Kohlschreiber receiving an injury walkover from Yen-Hsun Lu, No. 24 Benoit Paire, No. 27 Fabio Fognini, along with Victor Hanescu the only unseeded winner after Dmitry Rursunov retired in the second set with a left thigh injury.
Friday’s embarrassing riches of highlights include (2) Roger Federer vs. nemesis (30) Julien Benneteau, an all-French in (6) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. (25) Jeremy Chardy, French tough out Virginie Razzano vs. (14) Ana Ivanovic, (3) Rafael Nadal vs. Slovak Martin Klizan, (1) Serena Williams vs. (26) Sorana Cirstea, Gael Monfils vs. (32) Tommy Robredo, an all-Spanish in Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez vs. (4) David Ferrer, big-hitting German (32) Sabine Lisicki vs. (5) Sara Errani, upset-minded American (29) Varvara Lepchenko vs. (8) Angelique Kerber, (12) Tommy Haas vs. Jack Sock, former champ Francesca Schiavone vs. (21) Kirsten Flipkens, (15) Gilles Simon vs. (18) Sam Querrey, Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco vs. (8) Janko Tipsarevic, Puerto Rican riser Monica Puig vs. (20) Carla Suarez Navarro, an all-American in Ryan Harrison vs. (19) John Isner, and the serving contest of (14) Milos Raonic vs. (23) Kevin Anderson.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Rafael Nadal hasn’t played since Monday…Roger Federer has lost only 11 games in two matches, but both against qualifiers…The Thursday rains have made the tournament 14 matches behind schedule, meaning someone like John Isner will have to win back-to-back five-set matches on clay to reach the fourth round…Sergiy Stakhovsky was fined $2,000 for taking a picture of a ball mark…Sara Errani is 0-28 lifetime against Top 5 players, good thing she plays Sabine Lisicki on Friday…If you can think of a worse first week of weather at a Slam please let us know. Not only has it been raining, it’s also unseasonably cold in Paris…Sam Querrey beat Gilles Simon the only time they played on clay. Funny reading neophyte tennis writers’ stories painting Querrey, who took a set off Rafael Nadal on clay in Davis Cup, as a claycourt fish out of water…Serena Williams hasn’t been to the semifinals at the French Open since 2003. Serena has also won her last 26 matches…Novak Djokovic won his 499th career match on Thursday, he lost just two games to Guido Pella — we hope it was worth the wait…Agenieszka Radwanska has never lost to anyone outside of the Top 100 at a Slam (20-0)…Venus and Serena Williams pulled from the French Open women’s doubles due to Venus’ ongoing back injury.
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