WTA

Pegula secures comeback win over Potapova at Indian Wells, Sabalenka advances via walkover

By Sports Desk March 12, 2023

Third seed Jessica Pegula rallied back from a set down for the second straight match to advance into the final 16 with a 3-6 6-4 7-5 victory over 26th seed Anastasia Potapova.

Potapova won the first set in 39 minutes, claiming the only break of the frame in the sixth game, but Pegula responded by breaking immediately in the second.

Despite squaring the match up, the American trailed 3-1 in the third set, only to fight back again and triumph in two hours and 17 minutes.

Pegula will face 15th seed Petra Kvitova after she won a seesawing three-set contest over 24th seed Jelena Ostapenko, 0-6 6-0 6-4.

Ostapenko won the first six games, before Kvitova won the next 10, only for the Latvian to hit back and claim the next four, squaring up the deciding set at 4-4. But two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova held her nerve and won the final two games for victory.

World number two Aryna Sabalenka progressed to the final 16 via walkover after her third-round opponent Lesia Tsurenko withdrew.

The 2023 Australian Open champion will take on 2021 French Open winner Barbora Krejcikova after she toppled Wang Xin 6-2 6-7 (1-7) 6-2.

Seventh seed Maria Sakkari secured victory in a two-and-a-half-hour third-round clash with Anhelina Kalinina, winning 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Two-time major runner-up Karolina Pliskova won 6-1 7-5 over Veronika Kudermetova, progressing into the last eight to face Sakkari.

Sixth seed Coco Gauff, who turns 19 on Monday, eased past 54th-ranked fellow teenager Linda Noskova 6-4 6-3 in one hour and 19 minutes.

Sweden's Rebecca Peterson continued her resurgent form with a 3-6 6-3 6-1 win over Jil Teichman, setting up a clash with Gauff.

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    Second seed Aryna Sabalenka emphatically progressed to the second round of the French Open with victory over Erika Andreeva on Tuesday.

    Australian Open champion Sabalenka won 6-1 6-2 in just 68 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier in the first career meeting between the two players.

    There were 27 winners from Sabalenka and just nine from Andreeva, who only showed the briefest resistance with a sole break early in the second set.

    But strong favourite Sabalenka, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros last year, made an instant response by breaking back, ultimately winning five of the final six games to ruthlessly close out the victory.

    She will play a qualifier – either Irene Burillo Escorihuela or Moyuka Uchijima – in the next round of the competition.

    Data Debrief: Sabalenka extends first-round streak

    Sabalenka has now won each of her last 15 first-round matches at grand slam tournaments, not suffering defeat at the first hurdle since a clash against Carla Suarez Navarro at the Australian Open in January 2020. 

    She has also won six R1 matches in a row at the French Open, not suffering an opening-round loss in Paris since the 2018 edition.

    Sabalenka will continue her bid to become the first female player to win both the Australian Open and Roland Garros in a calendar year since Serena Williams in 2015. Her record on clay this season is now improved to a healthy 12-3.

    Andreeva, meanwhile, was always likely to find the going tough and won just eight of her 23 points on first serve as she was broken five times across the contest. The 19-year-old is yet to reach a grand slam second round.

  • Rybakina races into second round at French Open Rybakina races into second round at French Open

    Elena Rybakina began her French Open campaign with a dominant 6-2 6-3 win over Greet Minnen on Tuesday, teeing up a second-round clash with Arantxa Rus or Angelique Kerber.

    Having been forced to withdraw from the Italian Open due to illness earlier this month, Rybakina made a rusty start as she dropped serve in the opening game.

    However, she quickly recovered her composure to produce a powerful performance, firing off 36 winners and forcing 10 break points – four of which were converted.

    Moving well throughout and excelling at the net, Rybakina converted her second match point after 74 minutes on court, ensuring smooth progress to the second round. 

    Data Debrief: Rybakina ready to challenge Swiatek

    Rybakina has been tipped to rival world number one Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros this year, and she now boasts a 9-1 record on clay for 2024.

    Her win ratio on the surface this season stands at 90 per cent, with only Swiatek (93.8 per cent, 15-1) faring better on the WTA Tour.

  • Djokovic decline began some time ago, claims Simon Djokovic decline began some time ago, claims Simon

    Novak Djokovic remains capable of enjoying a successful 2024 but has been declining for some time, believes former world number six Gilles Simon.

    Djokovic won three grand slam singles titles last year to take his overall tally to 24, equalling Margaret Court's overall record among male and female players.

    However, he has been far from his best in 2024, going out to eventual winner Jannik Sinner in the Australian Open semi-finals and failing to capture a single ATP Tour title.

    Djokovic was beaten by Tomas Machac in the last four at the Geneva Open last week and said on Monday he was "not expecting" to retain his French Open crown.

    He begins his Roland-Garros campaign against Pierre-Hugues Herbert on Tuesday.

    Speaking to Stats Perform at the Roland-Garros eSeries by Renault tournament, Simon feels Djokovic's downturn is only natural, given he turned 37 earlier this month.

    Simon said: "You are in a very short media window and it is amazing how things change. Last year when he lost [the Wimbledon final to Carlos Alcaraz], I said that for me, he had one year left.

    "It's more a question of age, there's a break around 37 or 38, when it gets tough. He was playing well last year, he won three grand slams, but I've seen him drop for a while now.

    "For me, there were already signs on the court that he's dropping, but he was and still is completely capable of having a great 2024 season. 

    "I have more doubts about the 2025 season, and I already had some last year, above all linked to the physical aspect."

    Despite a difficult few months, Simon has no doubt that Djokovic – who is 14-5 for 2024 – can still put himself in contention for silverware. 

    "Now he's in a slump, so everyone wants to bury him, but he's still capable of playing very well," he continued. 

    "Last year it was [seen as] shameful to say that he was starting to drop, with people saying, 'You're talking rubbish, he's won three grand slams'.

    "If I say now that he's playing well, they'll tell me he's finished, that he lost again in Geneva. Take it easy! We're not going to bury him. Nobody's going to bury Novak and he is still capable of great things.

    "On the other hand, he's like everyone else. He's reaching an age where players like [Rafael] Nadal before him or like [Roger] Federer before him have dropped."

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