Day 7 recap: Serena rallies to beat Azarenka, top men dominate
PARIS – Catch up on the news and results from Day 7 on Saturday at the French Open in Paris.
Serena Williams survives another three-setter, rallies to beat Victoria Azarenka: The big discussion after Serena's come-from-behind win over Azarenka—a 3–6, 6–4, 6–2 victory after being two games from defeat—will be the controversial replay call that came on her set point in the second set. Serving down set point, Azarenka hit a shot that ticked the baseline. Serena hit her forehand into the net as—at least upon initial review—the line umpire issued a late out call. Serena immediately pointed to the mark and indicated the ball was actually in, and chair umpire Kader Nouni inspected the mark and agreed. He then called for the point to be replayed. Azarenka was beside herself, insisting that the out call did not affect Serena's swing and the point should be hers, putting the score at deuce. She argued, exchanged words with Serena and lost the replayed point and the set, and was issued a code violation.
Here's the feisty exchange between Serena and Azarenka:
"I think, my honest opinion, that call was b******, and everybody knows it," Azarenka said. There is no video replay available to umpires in tennis and Azarenka was adamant that should change.
"I give [the] benefit of a doubt always [in] a 50/50 situation, [if] there is a close call and whatever, but that was so damn clear that you cannot make these mistakes at this level," she said. "I'm not saying this as an excuse or saying because of that point I lost the match, that's not what I'm saying. But in that moment, if you don't have a review like that, it's causing a lot of problems, really."
"Maybe there is something you can do about it [with video review], because it's always this rule that is [the] umpire's call, and I don't get it. How would you call that? She already hit the ball. The ball was touching the net and he says it's not a late call. So for me, there definitely has to be a review on that. We have a Hawk-Eye, so might as well just have that. Because it's not easy for an umpire, but it's definitely not easy on the player when you get screwed like that."
"The Call" will overshadow what was another incredible comeback from Serena, who found herself down 6–3, 4–2 before she won the next four game, breaking Azarenka twice, to take the second set. Then in the third, as Azarenka upped her game and raced out to a 2–0 lead, Serena proceeded to win the next six games to seal the match. In the end, as the match got tighter, it was Serena who played the important points better.
It's yet another tough early draw and disappointing result for Azarenka. She continues to play well above her ranking at No. 27, but hasn't been able to move up as quickly as she would have liked after an injury-addled 2014 season. In her last five tournaments she has lost twice to No. 1 Serena (while holding three match points at the Madrid Open) and twice to No. 2 Maria Sharapova, having once drawn her in the third round at Indian Wells. That's a lot of bad luck for the former No. 1.
Sloane Stephens wins and will play Serena on Monday: Stephens had no problem beating Tsvetana Pironkova, cruising to a 6–4, 6–1 win to make the second week in Paris for the fourth straight year. Stephens has not lost a set in three matches, the toughest of which came in the first round against Venus Williams. Is Serena vulnerable enough in Paris for Stephens to get her second win at a major over the top American? Serena has dropped the first set of her last two matches and continues to struggle, ever so slightly, with her serve. She's been broken nine times in three matches.
Djokovic and Murray reassert the old guard with wins over Kokkinakis, Kyrgios: You win in straight sets! You win in straight sets! Everybody's winning in straight sets! Both big men's matches of the day turned out to be entertaining but ultimately short wins for the tournament favorites. No. 1 Novak Djokovic beat 18-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis 6–4, 6–4, 6–4 in one hour and 49 minutes, and Andy Murray had no problems with Nick Kyrgios, winning 6–4, 6–2, 6–3 in just under two hours.
Kyrgios, who is 2–0 against Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, has now played Murray three times and has yet to win a set. But it will be Kyrgios' array of shot-making that dominates the highlight reels. The 20-year-old continues to establish a very long resume, justifying his position as one of the best tickets in tennis:
Jack Sock becomes the youngest U.S. man to make the Round of 16 in Paris since Pete Sampras: The 22-year-old from Nebraska unleashed his lethal forehand and blasted 18-year-old Borna Coric off the court, winning 6–2, 6–1, 6–4 to move into the fourth round. Sock will get a shot to test that monster forehand against Rafael Nadal next. The Spaniard moved through to the fourth round easily with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 win over Andrey Kuznetsov.
Petra Kvitova wins in straight sets: Au revoir Pet-trois! After struggling through two three-set matches to start her tournament, the No. 4 seed beat No. 30 seed Irina-Camelia Begu 6–3, 6–2 in less than an hour on Saturday. Thus far, Kvitova's run has looked a lot like her run to the title at the Madrid Open: two surprisingly tough three-set matches against low-ranked opposition, only to snap into form and look sharp the rest of the way through. Kvitova will face No. 23 Timea Bacsinszky in the fourth round. The Swiss ended No. 16 seed Madison Keys' run with a dominant 6–4, 6–2 win.
Sloane Stephens was able to grab a win for the Americans, beating Tsvetana Pironkova 6–4, 6–1 to make the Round of 16.
France and Belgium split ties: It was No. 17 David Goffin who many tapped to advance into the second week but he was upended by France's Jeremy Chardy 6–3, 6–4, 6–2. But Van Uytvanck, ranked No. 93, booked her spot in the fourth round of the French open for the first time, beating Kristina Mladenovic 6–4, 6–1. Van Uytvanck came out of the section of the draw formerly anchored by Eugenie Bouchard, who lost to Mladenovic in the first round.
Here's the great celebration from Van Uytvanck and her coach:
Later in the day, No. 20 seed Richard Gasquet defeated No. 15 seed Kevin Anderson 4–6, 7–6 (4), 7–5, 6–4.
Romanian surprise: There is a Romanian in to the second week of the French Open and her name is not Simona Halep. Andreea Mitu, ranked No. 100, beat Francesca Schiavone, 7–5, 6–4 to make the fourth round of a major for the first time. Just two months ago in Charleston, Mitu played just her fourth WTA main draw match of 2015, where she nearly got double-bageled by Keys. A week after that she beat Bouchard at Fed Cup and knocked out No. 12 seed Karolina Pliskova in the second round here in Paris. She'll play Van Uytvanck for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Shhhh...Marin Cilic hasn't lost a set: Don't look now, but the U.S. Open champion has won 19 consecutive sets at the majors. Along with the 10 consecutive sets he won last fall in New York—he skipped the Australian Open with injury—he's nine for nine in Paris after beating Leonardo Mayer 6–3, 6–2, 6–4 and only once has he lost more than four games in a set. He's into the fourth round of the French Open for the first time since 2010.
Quote of the day: Serena is totally in favor of an instant replay system in tennis. "I think that would be really cool, because sometimes you may or may not foot fault and [then you could] instant replay on that foot fault." Hashtag "Never Forget".