Victoria Azarenka rallies to beat Alize Cornet at French Open
Former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka overcame a slow start and 10 double-faults Saturday to rally past Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 and reach the fourth round of the French Open.
Seeded third, Azarenka advanced despite being broken six times. She managed a smile later when asked about her serve.
"I think I left it home today,'' she said. "If I can win with serving like this, that's pretty remarkable.''
American Sloane Stephens, seeded No. 17, reached the fourth round for the second consecutive year, beating Marina Erakovic 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3.
No. 13 Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese man in 75 years to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros, beating No. 24 Benoit Paire of France 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-1.
The center court stands were half-empty on a cloudy, mild day for Azarenka's match. Crowds will likely be bigger for her next week, and so will the stakes.
"Center court is something that motivates me every time I walk on court,'' she told the crowd after her victory, "and I can't wait to be back here.''
She blew an easy overhead to lose the first game of her final set, then swept the last six games thanks to relentless baseline play that wore Cornet down.
"She's a machine, a juggernaut,'' Cornet said.
Azarenka said she altered her approach in the second set and became more aggressive.
"I really took my chances moving forward,'' she said. "That's what was bringing me the points and the victory in the end.''
Azarenka has won the Australian Open each of the past two years. Roland Garros is the only major tournament where she has yet to reach the semifinal.
Cornet, seeded 31st, stumbled and fell at the start of the second set and was slow to rise. She was unhurt but lost her composure as the match slipped away, screaming at herself between points and once spiking two balls in anger.
"I dropped one or two games, but that's enough for your head to go under the water,'' Cornet said.
Over on court 1, Stephens won the last three games against Erakovic, who was penalized a point in the third set for getting coached.
A year ago, Stephens became the first U.S. teenager to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros since Serena Williams in 2001. She followed that up by reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open this January, beating Williams to get there.
"This is my favorite tournament,'' said Stephens, now 20, "so I would really, really, really love to win this tournament. But that's a long shot.''
Like Erakovic, Paire was docked a point for being coached - and at a critical time. He had a set point at 5-4 in the second set when he was given the penalty, which made the score deuce.
Paire won the set anyway but fell behind to stay when he dropped serve in the last game of the third set.
Nishikori broke serve eight times and benefited from nine double-faults by Paire. He became the first Japanese man to reach the round of 16 at Roland Garros since Fumiteru Nakano in 1938.