French Open Day 3 Women’s Recap:  Osaka and Halep Survive Scares, Ostapenko Out


Opening round matches have now been completed and we’re ready to move on to Round 2. Out of 64 matches, 20 matches went the distance. That should give you a clear picture of how competitive play has been. Few matches were easy, and former Champion Jelena Ostapenko was ousted. Things will not get easier in Round 2.

French Open Day 3 Recap

The seeds came through, with difficulty
Naomi Osaka somehow escaped Anna Karolina Schmiedlova’s challenge. The #1 seed looked sluggish, her fabulous footwork nowhere to be seen. Schmiedlova claimed the first set 6-0, and did that without hitting a single winner. Osaka’s errant balls were the key to Schmiedlova’s first set success. And, even when Osaka’s play started to pick up, the Slovakian still had chances. Twice Schmiedlova served for the match and both times she was denied. A combination of nervous Schmiedlova errors and Osaka’s improved play gave the World #1 the second set tiebreak. By the third set, the clay had dried, giving Osaka a surface more suited to her game. The Japanese took the third set 6-1 and lived to see another day. Cleaning up the high unforced errors will be mission critical when Osaka meets Victoria Azarenka in Round 2. Azarenka won’t wait for unforced errors to win a set. The Belarus will take a much more aggressive approach and blast winners off her powerful forehand.
Simona Halep  looked to be in control of her opener, taking the first set 6-2. However, Australian Ajla Tomljanovic found a way to break the Halep serve and take the second set. In the decider it was one way traffic from the #3 seed. The Romanian played each shot with confidence, cleanly directing winners up the line and to the open court. The World #3 will meet Poland’s Magda Linette on Thursday. It should be a much easier match for the oddsmakers’ favorite, Simona Halep.

Other seeds in action didn’t have as tough a test. Daria Kasatkina (#21) yielded just five games against Italian Jasmine Paolini, and Caroline Garcia (#24) gave up just six games to German Mona Barthel.  It took Aryna Sabalenka (#11) some effort in the first set to eventually dispatch Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 7-5 6-1. Madison Keys (#14) dropped just three games, while Maria Sakkari (#29) gave up just a single game. Wang Qiang (#16) ousted countrywoman Zheng Saisai in straight sets.

Lesia Tsurenko (#27) made quick work of the former Canadian superstar. Canada had pinned such hope on Eugenie Bouchard. After her locker room injury, the hard hitting, sharp playing Bouchard has not returned. The new Canadian rising star Bianca Andreescu (#22) was put to the test against Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova. After splitting sets on Monday, the match was suspended for darkness. When play resumed, Andreescu was able to bring in the win, taking the decider 6-4.

Only one seed fell today

The #17 seed, Anett Kontaveit was discharged by Karolina Muchova. After losing the first set, the 22-year-old Czech upped her own first serve percentage and dialed in on the Kontaveit serve. Those adjustments allowed the Czech to run away with the match, dropping just four games in two sets. Muchova moves on to Round 2 where she’ll face Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu – a match the young Czech can certainly win.

For the Win
Victoria Azarenka (def Jelena Ostapenko 6-4 7-6) spent  1 hour, 45 minutes on court, fending off an unpredictable Jelena Ostapenko. The streaky Latvian can launch a missile to the baseline just as easily as she can send it mid-net. Between the wind, rain and an erratic Ostapenko, Azarenka played with a focus resembling her former #1 self. Good movement, stellar footwork and precise set-up led Azarenka to the win. Though, she definitely benefit from Ostapenko’s faltering serve. The Sharapova-esque 17 double faults off the Ostapenko racquet helped the Belarusian garner free points. However, Ostapenko clearly pointed out the deficient Azarenka second serve. Ostapenko made her pay for her numerous second serves landing mid-box. Fodder for any good returner, Ostapenko blasted those balls for clean winners. Vika’s next opponent, Naomi Osaka, will punish short serves equally as brutal. Any chance of eliminating the #1 seed means that the Azarenka first serve must be spot on.
Amanda Anisimova (def Harmony Tan 6-3 6-1) had an easy opener. Frenchwoman Harmony Tan lacks the form which seems to come so easily to the young American. Usually a sharp server, the teenage phenom had no aces in today’s outing. Rather, Anisimova used her clever shot redirection and easy power to claim round one. A much tougher challenge awaits the 17-year-old when she takes the court against the #11 seed Aryna Sabalenka. If the American can hold her nerve (and there’s no reason to expect she won’t) this match should be a battle. The Belarus can turn in patchy moments and you can expect Anisimova to capitalize on those.
Going Home
Daria Gavrilova (retired 3-6 2-2 against Aleksandra Krunic) had hopes of newfound success with the influence of coach and compatriot David Taylor. It was Taylor’s influence on Stosur which saw her to the  2011 US Open victory. Looks like Taylor won’t have much chance to help the injury-plagued Gavrilova’s French Open bid. Gavrilova retired at 2-2 in the second set, sending Alexsandra Krunic on to the second round.
Timea Babos (lost 6-3 2-6 1-6 to Priscilla Hon) is certainly an unexpected exit. Australian Priscilla Hon claimed five breaks of serve and gave up just three games in the second and third set. The Hungarian has so much more talent that this match shows. A Lucky Loser in the singles draw, Babos is the #2 doubles seed. Hopefully she’ll fare better on the doubles court alongside doubles expert Kristina Mladenovic.
A Look at Day 4

The original field of 17 American women has been culled to but a handful. Hoping to continue their campaigns, Sloane Stephens, Jan Brady, Shelby Rogers and Lauren Davis will be in action tomorrow. I’m afraid that number will reduce when Lauren Davis is tasked with Britain’s #1 Johanna Konta. Now clearly a contender for this prestigious title, I expect Konta will make quick work of the unseeded American. Jan Brady will square off against Paloma Hercog, while Shelby Rogers takes on the #28 seed Carla Suarez Navarro.

The popcorn match of the day is Petra Martic versus Krisina Mladenovic. The Frenchwoman’s improved form allowed her to challenge Petra Martic in Istanbul. Three tight sets left little separating these two. And, I expect Mladenovic took away some lessons and will have a clear game plan as she looks to knock Martic out of the French Open.

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