PARIS – Catch up on the news and results from Day 9 on Monday at the French Open in Paris.
Serena Williams withstands a strong charge to beat Sloane Stephens: For the third consecutive match, Serena found an extra gear late to come through in three sets. This time she found herself serving to stay in the match at 4–5 in the second set and found a way to win, beating Stephens 1–6, 7–5, 6–3 to advance to the quarterfinals. She'll play Sara Errani.
For the third straight match Serena started the match slow, struggling to even get the ball into the court. In the first set she hit 15 unforced errors in just seven games and her backhand in particular let her down. But at 3–3 in the second set, the No. 1 locked in. Stephens did well to keep her momentum going and challenge Serena on her service games but the two-time French Open champion held her serve at 4-5 and then broke Stephens in the next game and served out the set.
The two traded tough service holds to start the third set. Serena saved two break points in her first service game and then broke Stephens for a 4–2 lead. She didn't look back. Despite hitting 43 unforced errors in the match to 25 winners, Williams survived again.
Stephens will rue her missed opportunities in the final frame but overall it was a fantastic match from her side. She hit 25 winners to 21 unforced errors and kept a sustained amount of pressure on Serena's serve. "I mean, you can only go out there and do your absolute best, and that's what I did today," Stephens said. "That's all you can hope for when you walk on the court every day. I'm really pleased with the way, even though I lost, I mean, I'm happy with the way I got out there and competed.
A couple months ago if I thought I'd be in the fourth round of the French Open, I'd probably have been like, No. Or even a couple of weeks ago. And, you know, there's something to be said for bounce-back-ability, and I'm proud of myself for just getting out there every day and just trying to do the best I can. And that's all I can really hope for for myself, and I'm proud of myself for that."
In the end it was her return of serve on key points that did her in, but as Serena's serve got better and better as the match wore on it may have been out of her hands. This match came down to just a handful of points and as she did against Azarenka, Serena stepped up her level when it mattered and came out on top.
"It's not how you start; I guess it's how you finish. That's kind of how I'm looking at it," Serena said after the match. "Obviously I'm disappointed. Usually I'm winning in straight sets, and I'm business on and off the court. Now I'm just winning, and that's a good thing, too. There's always room for improvement."
Serena also said that her elbow injury is getting better and she can now serve without worry. "It's not 100%, but it's definitely so much better than it was in Rome and the week before and earlier," she said.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will square off in the quarterfinals: It. Is. On. Neither man wanted to talk much about their projected quarterfinal clash, but with Djokovic dismissing Richard Gasquet 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 and Nadal ending Jack Sock's great run with a 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 win, the two tournament favorites will face now face off on Wednesday. Clear your schedules. Set your DVRs. Find a way to get in front of a screen.
Roger Federer comes back and outplays Gael Monfils to make the quarterfinals: Au revoir La Monf. After splitting sets with Federer on Sunday, Monfils never got his game going against Federer on Monday, getting broken in the first game of both sets to lose 6–3, 4–6, 6–4, 6–1. Federer is back into the quarterfinals after losing in the fourth round last year, and he says he's physically fresh despite having to play on back-to-back days. "At this stage it's about progressing in the tournament," Federer said. "I love to play my best plus progressing, but I prefer moving on rather than playing my absolute best. I hope there is always an extra gear somewhere. Important right now is I'm still physically fresh for the back end of the tournament, and, I'm pumped up to the to be in the quarters again." It will be an all-Swiss affair on Tuesday when Federer faces Stan Wawrinka.
As for Monfils, he told reporters after the match that he has been sick for the last few days and struggling with a fever. He just didn't have the energy to put up a fight on Monday. "Actually yesterday I thought that maybe we might not play and it will help me a little bit, and finally we did play," he said. "I was battling to get a set and for me one set all was perfect. I didn't have a great night last night, so it was maybe a mistake. Then today for me was very tough."
Andy Murray drops a set but advances past Jeremy Chardy: The Frenchman had his chances to possibly sneak the third set, but Murray's consistency and confidence shined through as he won 6–4, 3–6, 6–3, 6–2 to make his 17th consecutive Slam quarterfinal. He'll play No. 7 David Ferrer. The Spaniard easily dismissed U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic 6–2, 6–2, 6–4.
Defending champion Maria Sharapova suffers her earliest exit since 2010: Sharapova couldn't get it done on Monday against the talented Czech. Safarova held her nerve at the end, finishing with 34 winners and 22 unforced errors, while Sharapova hit 20 winners and 26 unforced errors. Read more about the loss here.
Garbine Muguruza makes another French Open quarterfinal: The No. 21 seed took care of business against No. 28 seed Flavia Pennetta, winning 6–3, 6–4 to book her spot in the quarterfinals for the second straight year. She'll now face Safarova on Tuesday for a spot in the semifinals.
The 21-year-old Spaniard has found a way to play her best tennis in Paris, even if her lead-up results are spotty. After a great start of the season, which saw her take Serena Williams to three sets at the Australian Open and beat the likes of Simona Halep, Agnieszka Radwanska, Carla Suarez Navarro and Timea Bacsinszky in February, Muguruza has been nearly invisible. Before arriving to Paris she had not won back-to-back matches since the Dubai Championships in February.
But a year after stunning Serena in straight sets en route to her first Slam quarterfinal, Muguruza has lost just one set in her first four matches. She has beaten Petra Martic,Camila Giorgi, No. 11 Angelique Kerber and now Pennetta.
"I think that in big tournaments I like more [motivation], or I don't know how I play my best tennis. I'm just really happy to be in the quarterfinals again here in Roland Garros. I think it's going to be my favorite Grand Slam," Muguruza said. "I felt pressure when I came here, because I didn't have this experience before like coming to a Grand Slam when you did quarterfinals last year. So I was like, you know, I didn't know what to expect."
Timea Bacsinszky's amazing year continues with "upset" over No. 4 Petra Kvitova: When is an upset not an upset? Usually when it involves Bacsinszky in 2015. The Swiss was ranked outside of the Top 100 last year at this time, playing through qualifiers to make the main draw. Now she's up to a career-high ranking at No. 23 and into her first Slam quarterfinal after beating Kvitova for the second time this season, 2–6, 6–0, 6–3. Her wily game—she hit two drop-shot returns for winners—flummoxed the big-hitting Czech. Despite the loss, Kvitova will leave Paris with the No. 2 ranking, her highest ranking since 2012.
Watch Bacsinszky's emotional match point reaction:
SNAPSHOTS FROM DAY 9
This post will be updated.