Sabalenka Holds Off Stephens Wild French Open Affair, Svitolina Wins; Swiatek, Gauff Monday

by Staff | June 4th, 2023, 6:08 pm
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After 20 minutes of the first women’s night match, Aryna Sabalenka was cruising past Sloane Stephens 5-0 in the fourth round at the French Open. But then things changed.

Amid nerves and errors, Sabalenka’s game completely derailed and Stephens’s defense and speed frustrated the Belarussian. The crowd, which was is a lull at the one-sided start, came to life to support the former finalist.

Stephens would incredibly win five straight games to even things at 5-all. And the two went toe-to-toe to force a breaker in which Stephens would lead early before Sabalenka got on top.

Sabalenka would go up a break in the second to lead 4-2 but Stephens again came back. Serving 40-0, 4-all, Stephens inexplicably wouldn’t win another point. Sabalenka pulled herself back up with power tennis to win the last nine points and reach her first French Open quarterfinal with a 7-6(7-5), 6-4 win.

“It’s a good match to play on the clay court,” Sabalenka said. “It’s a good preparation. If you can get through this match, you can get through whatever happens to you, you know. Like, it was a really tough, tough match.

“A lot of balls coming back. It wasn’t easy to finish the point. So I always had to find this perfect shot to finish it, and that was tricky.”

Stephens falls to 0-4 against Sabalenka.

“It was a really tough battle, and that she came back from 0-5, and it says a lot that she’s a great fighter and that she’s not going to give me that win easily,” Sabalenka added.

Sabalenka takes an 11-match Slam win streak into her Tuesday showdown with former quarterfinalist Elina Svitolina. Svitolina continued her torrid run ousting 2022 semifinalist Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 7-6(7-5).

“I don’t have that pressure that I used to have before,” Svitolina said. “Of course, me personally, I put pressure for myself because I want to win a Slam. This is the ultimate goal for me.

“But definitely not the pressure from outside. No one expects that I’m going to come into Roland Garros and make quarterfinal at the beginning of the tournament. That’s why I feel like this really helps me. I feel almost like I’m 17 again coming on the tour fresh. I’m not defending any points. Not here, not next week. Definitely, I feel more free.”

Svitolina had a match point serving 5-4 in the second but eventually put the Russian away in the breaker to improve to 7-0 against Kasatkina. Svitolina also returns to the French quarters for a third time and she’s now won her last eight matches, having won Strasbourg coming in.

Former finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova upended No. 28 Elise Mertens 3-6, 7-6(7-3), 6-3 in a marathon 3+ hour match. She’ll now get Karolina Muchova who topped lucky loser Elina Avanesyan of Russia in straight sets 6-4, 6-3.

“I’m trying to play the first option even though it’s not the best one here and there,” Muchova said. “It happens that I play the third or fourth. You know, it’s something like terrible. I always am, ‘Oh, I hope nobody saw this’, but there is plenty of people around. So I’m still working on this.

“Here and there I manage to take the first thing and here and there, no. It is like that sometimes. It’s unbelievable shot, sometimes it’s not so good. But I’m just going with it.”

Tomorrow, top seed Iga Swiatek clashes with Lesia Tsurenko. Swiatek is 2-0 against Tsurenko winning recently in Rome last month. Swiatek has won 19 straight games!

No. 6 Coco Gauff collides with Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, No. 7 Ons Jabeur tests Bernarda Pera and No. 14 Beatriz Haddad Maia gets Sara Sorribes Tormo.

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