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Wozniacki Ousted; Williams-Azarenka Showdown Set at Roland Garros

The women’s draw at Roland Garros is taking shape as the field was whittled down to 32 players after completion of today’s play. Caroline Wozniacki, Karolina Pliskova, and Svetlana Kuznetsova were the major casualties, while Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova both overcame opening set losses to book their places in the tournament’s third round. The biggest story emerging today at Roland Garros is the hotly anticipated Williams-Azarenka showdown set for Saturday. For a look at the Day 5 men’s results click here

A closer look at today’s matches:

The Good

(16) Madison Keys d. Belinda Bencic

Score: 6-0 6-3

Ask anybody in the know about women’s tennis about who the young players with the most potential are, and you’ll likely get Keys and Bencic as your answer. Keys only just turned 20 and Bencic is two years younger. This match could be a preview of a future great rivalry; today, however, Keys blasted Bencic off the court. After suffering a bagel first set, Bencic inched ahead 3-1 in the second before losing the final five games of the match. Keys gets (23)Timea Bacsinszky next in the third round.

Sloane Stephens d. Heather Watson

Score: 6-2 6-4

Tennis is treating Sloane Stephens well at Roland Garros: after beating Venus Williams in the first round, she scored her first win in five attempts against Heather Watson today. Granted, three of those matches came before Stephens broke through at the ’13 Australian Open. As for right now, she’s been on a decided upswing since Indian Wells, after having started 2015 with a whimper. Should she get past Tsvetana Pironkova in the third round, she will face either Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka in the fourth.

Victoria Azarenka d. Lucie Hradecka

Score: 6-2 6-3

Azarenka looks ready for Serena Williams in the third round. With Williams struggling today, Azarenka must feel better about her chances of improving on her 3-15 record against the world #1. In a rematch of this year’s Rome first round, Azarenka broke the #61 player three times in each set to set up the most anticipated match of the tournament to date. The former world #1 has been on the comeback trail for more than a year now, and with no points to defend at this tournament, a deep run in Paris will aid in getting her ranking up to where she will no longer be an early round worry for top seeds.

 The Bad

Julia Goerges d. (5) Caroline Wozniacki

Score: 6-4 7-6

Today’s play saw Caroline Wozniacki ousted in straight sets by the German world #72. Goerges evened her career record against Wozniacki at four matches apiece, and remained unbeaten against the former world #1 on clay. Their head-to-head, coupled with Wozniacki’s spotty record at the French Open (only once advancing past the third round in eight tries), meant an upset for Goerges was always going to be a possibility today. She gets Irina Falconi next and now has a good chance of securing her first round of 16 showing in Paris.

Andreea Mitu d. (12) Karolina Pliskova

Score: 2-6 7-6 6-4

Mitu joins countrywoman Begu in the third round after taking out 12th seeded Karolina Pliskova. The pair ensure Romania is well represented in the final 32 after Simona Halep failed to advance yesterday. Pliskova has had a fairly good year: she won Prague on clay, made the finals in Dubai and Sydney, and has a further two quarterfinal showings. Prior to today, Pliskova had only one loss on the year to a player ranked outside the WTA top 30; she lost to then #100 Kudryavtseva in Brisbane, the same ranking held by Andreea Mitu today.

 The Worrisome

 (1) Serena Williams d. Anna-Lena Friedsam

Score: 5-7 6-3 6-3

That Serena Williams would struggle in one of her early round matches doesn’t come as a surprise. That she would have trouble with a player who has won only two main draw matches all year surely raises eyebrows. Williams struggled with her serve all match, issuing an uncharacteristic eight double faults and four breaks of serve, three of which came in the opening set. Playing Friedsam for the first time, Williams was able to regroup and take better care of her serve, saving 8 of 9 break points over the final two sets. Perhaps Serena will benefit from being tested in the second round, as Victoria Azarenka awaits her in the next. The Belarusian former #1 looks good after two routine wins to start her campaign.

(4) Petra Kvitova d. Silvia Soler-Espinosa

Score: 6-7 6-4 6-2

Today’s second round adventure was the second consecutive three-set struggle for Kvitova, having to overcome first set deficits in both. Thus far, Kvitova hasn’t shown the form that allowed her to blitz through the draw in Madrid. Against Soler-Espinosa, she converted only 6 of 20 break points, and sprayed 54 unforced errors before finding more consistency in a 39-minute deciding set. Things only get harder for Kvitova as she plays Begu in the next round, then the winner of Keys/Bacsinszky in the round of 16. If she’s to secure a second career quarterfinal berth in Paris, Kvitova will have to clean up her game considerably.

 In the Spotlight

Francesca Schiavone d. (18) Svetlana Kuznetsova

Score: 6-7 7-5 10-8

In a duel featuring two former Roland Garros victors, Francesca Schiavone tapped into her clay magic of old to defeat tournament dark horse Svetlana Kuznetsova. The pair own the distinction of having contested the longest women’s match (in terms of minutes on court) in Grand Slam history at the 2011 Australian Open. They now occupy the #1 and #5 spots on that list as the two slogged away for six minutes shy of four hours on Court 1 today. Tragically for Kuznetsova, she’s been on the losing end both times.

The match featured: 18 breaks of serve, 99 winners to 97 unforced errors, and 64 points won at net; Schiavone and Kuznetsova entertained. This result is a welcome turn of events for Schiavone; she’s lost in the first round in 9 of the last 10 Grand Slams in which she’s competed. Turning 35 in June, the Italian could be in for one last hurrah in Paris. Bouchard and Kuznetsova were expected to emerge from this section of the draw, and now Schiavone has a chance to go deeper than anyone might have imagined when the draws were revealed last Friday.

Other winners included: Tsvetana Pironkova, Andrea Petkovic, Sara Errani, Irina Falconi, Irina-Camelia Begu, Timea Bacsinszky, Kristina Mladenovic.

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