Novak Djokovic breezed into the fourth round of the French Open with an emphatic straight-sets defeat of Ricardas Berankis.

The top seed was a cut above the Lithuanian on Court Philippe-Chatrier, cruising to a 6-1 6-4 6-1 victory on Saturday.

Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti stands in the way of Djokovic and a place in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros after a masterful display from the world number one.

Djokovic served superbly, winning 88 per cent of points on his first serve and not facing a single break point, while also producing another exhibition of returning as he wrapped up a clinical victory in only an hour and 32 minutes.

The 18-time grand slam champion put Berankis under pressure immediately, breaking in the second game and taking a 4-0 lead with an exquisite backhand winner down the line.

Berankis was able to get on the board with a smash to reduce the deficit to 5-1, but Djokovic served out a one-sided opening set in only 26 minutes.

Djokovic did not have things all his own way in the second, but claimed the only break to go 3-2 up and was two sets up when his opponent returned a powerful first serve beyond the baseline.

Berankis was being given the run-around as the legendary Serb treated the crowd to sublime winners and demonstrated his incredible athleticism, letting out a huge roar after going 3-0 up with a blistering forehand.

There was no let-up from 2016 champion in Paris, who sealed a crushing victory with his third break in the third set.

 

Data Slam: Djokovic makes more major history

Djokovic has only won the French Open title once, but he has made history at Roland Garros. This victory moved him into the fourth round for a 12th consecutive year, which is an Open-era record.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 30/18
Berankis – 20/36

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 5/3
Berankis – 1/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 6/9
Berankis – 0/0

The weather could not dampen the spirits of Daniil Medvedev as he reached the fourth round of the French Open for the first time on Friday.

The Russian was in good form as he beat Reilly Opelka 6-4 6-2 6-4 amid rainy conditions in the French capital.

The second seed, who will meet clay-court specialist Cristian Garin next, hit 28 winners to 16 unforced errors in a dominant display on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

It was a display to instil some confidence into Medvedev as he chases the world number-one spot, which he will claim if he reaches the final and Novak Djokovic does not.

"Clay at Roland Garros feels great this year," he said. "As I said after the first round [against Alexander Bublik], now I know that to beat me, the guys have to play well. I am definitely happy with my game and my return today, because I actually hit more aces than him. That's a great achievement.

"I think a little bit [the] rainy conditions, wet, heavy court – which I totally hate on clay – helped me today. In these conditions, even guessing one side, I could still get back to another side if I saw the serve coming the other way."

ZVEREV DIGS DEEP TO PROGRESS

Alexander Zverev joined Medvedev in the last 16, the sixth seed saving three set points in the second set against Laslo Djere before taking nine of the next 11 games to ease to a 6-2 7-5 6-2 win.

"I was down 3-5, 40-0 on his serve and you don't always come back from that score," said Zverev, who will now meet three-time quarter-finalist Kei Nishikori. "He played a fantastic match, he is playing great on this surface so I knew I had to play much, much better than the first two rounds and I did that today."

Twelfth seed Pablo Carreno Busta was also a straight-sets winner, seeing off Steve Johnson to set up a meeting with Stefanos Tsitsipas, who survived a stern examination by John Isner.

Having lost the first set to the big-serving American, Tsitsipas recovered to win 5-7 6-3 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 at close to midnight local time to extend his winning streak on clay to seven matches.

FOGNINI STUNNED, FOKI EDGES FIVE-SET EPIC

Federico Delbonis stunned 27th seed Fabio Fognini 6-4 6-1 6-3. He will take on Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who came through a brutal five-set contest with Casper Ruud that lasted more than four and a half hours.

"I think this match represents Roland Garros," said the man known as 'Foki' to his fans. "This match was very tough. He played unbelievable.

"In the fifth set, we were in [a] battle every game. Every game we wanted to win [and] to break the serve of the other guy. It was, with all [the] emotions inside [and] with all the crowd singing your name, unbelievable!"

Serena Williams played down her prospects of winning a record-equalling 24th grand slam title at the French Open, insisting the standard on the WTA Tour is now so high that every match is a battle.

The three-time champion at Roland Garros made it through to the last 16 thanks to a 6-4 6-4 win over Danielle Collins.

However, the American - who has been stuck one slam behind Margaret Court's career tally ever since winning the 2017 Australian Open - had to work hard on Friday, including battling back from 4-1 down in the second set as she reeled off five games in a row to move on.

Williams is the only top-10 player left in her half of the draw following Aryna Sabalenka's exit earlier in the day, yet knows there is a long way to go in her quest to reign once more in the Paris.

"There's still a lot of matches, a lot of great players, as we can see," Williams told the media.

"There's so much depth in this game now, it doesn't matter if you're playing in the first round or not, you really have to fight for every match and nothing comes easy."

After struggling for form coming into the tournament, Williams feels tough contests like the one she had against Collins can only be beneficial.

"Today in particular, this whole week thus far, I just needed a win," the seventh seed said. "I needed to win tough matches. I needed to win sets. I needed to win being down.

"I needed to find me, know who I am. Nobody else is Serena out here. It's me. It's pretty cool."

Elena Rybakina – an impressive 6-1 6-4 winner against Elena Vesnina in little over an hour - is the next hurdle for Williams to clear.

SABALENKA SUNK, AZARENKA EASES THROUGH

With Ashleigh Barty forced to retire through injury and Naomi Osaka withdrawing from the event due to mental health concerns, Sabalenka was the highest seed left – well, she was until coming up against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Sabalenka rallied after losing the first set to draw level but then fell apart in the decider, serving four double faults and producing 17 unforced errors.

Pavlyuchenkova capitalised to complete a 6-4 2-6 6-0 triumph that avenges a loss to her opponent at the semi-final stage in Madrid during this year's clay-court swing.

Next up for the 31st seed will be Victoria Azarenka, the former world number one who eased past Madison Keys 6-2 6-2.

"I felt I played very disciplined today. I played smart. I tried to be aggressive," Azarenka said after winning in 70 minutes.

"My opponent, Madison, she really likes to dictate the points, so I tried to take that away from her, really step in, and make a lot of different balls so I’m pretty proud I was able to sustain my level."

MIXED FORTUNES FOR ROMANIAN DUO

Sorana Cirstea explained how a change in approach has helped her roll back the years after overcoming Daria Kasatkina in straight sets.

The Romanian's solitary quarter-final appearance at a slam came in the French capital 12 years ago but she has been in excellent form on clay this year, including claiming a title in Istanbul and a final appearance in Strasbourg.

"I'm taking it day by day, like I'm not going too far ahead with my mind," Cirstea told the media. "I'm actually enjoying all this process. Definitely I'm enjoying [it] much more than I did 12 years ago, and I think this comes with maturity."

While Cirstea has not made it this far in a grand slam for a long while, next opponent Tamara Zidansek is into the last 16 at a major for the first time.

Despite losing the first set in a hurry against Katerina Siniakova, the Slovenian rallied impressively to seal a 0-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 victory and continue an impressive run that was started by an upset over Bianca Andreescu.

Paula Badosa also needed three sets to overcome Romania's Ana Bogdan, including saving a match point, and extend her winning streak to eight matches as she came out on top 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4. Indeed, for the season she now boasts a 16-2 record on clay.

Serena Williams produced an emphatic fightback in the second set to eliminate Danielle Collins 6-4 6-4 and secure a spot in the last 16 of the French Open.

While the first set provided few difficulties for the 23-time grand slam winner, she found herself trailing 4-1 in the second as Collins threatened to force a decider.

But Williams channelled her frustrations impressively, and far better than her opponent, with the 39-year-old setting up a fourth-round clash with Elena Rybakina.

Williams might have had an early advantage as some brutal returns gave her three break points in just the second game of the match, but Collins came back to hold.

The first break eventually came in the seventh game of the contest, Williams squeezing a shot over after a drop shot, then guiding a return to the back of the court with Collins in no position to respond.

Although a second break in the first set eluded Williams, she sealed the set on her serve soon after.

The second set saw Collins' serve broken in the first game, but her response was emphatic, producing back-to-back breaks of her own.

That had Collins in control of the set at 3-1 up, with Williams' frustration evident at the end of almost every point and not helped by her five double faults, one of which gifted away a second break.

Williams began to use that anger for good as she played even more aggressively.

Initially Collins rode the punches well, playing Williams impressively as she forced the seventh seed out wide and then read her cross-court return to seal the fifth game to love and a 4-1 lead.

But Collins quickly fell apart, Williams winning five games on the trot as she came back from a precarious position to seal her progression, showing commendable mental fortitude along the way.


DATA SLAM: GO BIG OR GO HOME

It is fair to say Williams' serving was a little wild at times – she was looking to be aggressive to put Collins on the back foot as early as possible. However, it left her with as many double faults as aces, five apiece. Nevertheless, the three-time French Open champion got the job done, with a huge serve ultimately sealing the victory.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Williams – 22/20

Collins – 18/21

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Williams – 5/5

Collins – 1/3

BREAK POINTS WON

Williams – 4/8

Collins – 2/4

Aryna Sabalenka has been eliminated at the French Open, meaning all three of the top seeds in the women's singles are now out.

After Ash Barty was beaten and Naomi Osaka withdrew this week, third seed Sabalenka joined them in exiting the tournament on Friday.

Number 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova triumphed 6-4 2-6 6-0 in a battle lasting 100 minutes.

Sabalenka came into the French Open with form behind her having beaten Barty to win the Madrid Open a month after losing to the Australian in another final appearance in Stuttgart.

But depsite having 10 WTA titles to her name, Sabalenka's wait to make a big grand slam impact as a singles player goes on - she he is still yet to reach the quarter-finals at any of the four majors.

Sabalenka won only 10 of her 30 second-serve points as Pavlyuchenkova broke her on five occasions in the match, storming to victory in the decider.

Pavlyuchenkova will face Victoria Azarenka - who defeated Madison Keys - in round four.

Sixteen seeds have now been beaten or withdrawn in the opening days of action at Roland Garros up until the middle of Friday's play.

Roger Federer took "a lot of confidence" from his four-set win over Marin Cilic as he produced his best display of the year at the French Open.

The 39-year-old beat the 2014 US Open champion 6-2 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Thursday, building on his first-round defeat of Denis Istomin with an impressive performance.

Federer looked in command in the first set but lost rhythm in the second amid sharpened play from Cilic and a strange confrontation with the umpire after a time violation warning while receiving serve.

The match was on a knife-edge heading into the third-set tie-break, but Federer was clinical when it mattered, serving out the set with an ace before assuming control again in the fourth.

"[It was a] very good match for me, I thought," said Federer, who will face Dominik Koepfer in round three. "A bit of up-and-downs in the second and third sets.

"The good thing, I feel like I come out of a match like this and I know why it was up and down, and then that I was able to attain a solid level once he did break back in the third set and things were looking dangerous for me.

"That I was able to step up a gear, stay with him, and then pull away from him, I think that gives me a lot of confidence."

DJOKOVIC AND NADAL IN CRUISE CONTROL

World number one Novak Djokovic is another who is finding his feet on the Paris dirt, the 2016 champion beating clay specialist Pablo Cuevas 6-3 6-2 6-4.

Djokovic, who will face Ricardas Berankis next after his win over James Duckworth, struck 31 winners as he moved to 22-3 for the year with his 350th grand slam match win.

"I'm playing well, feeling great. I'm ready to go deep in this tournament," he said. "Hopefully, that's going to be the case."

Defending champion Rafael Nadal was in imperious form in the late match, dispatching Richard Gasquet 6-0 7-5 6-2.

Nadal, who turned 35 on Thursday, won the opening seven games in under half an hour in a largely one-sided contest as he improved to 17-0 against the Frenchman, the most one-sided head-to-head of his career.

The Spaniard, who has not even dropped a set to Gasquet since 2008, said of winning once again in three: "I honestly don't complain at all! The main thing for me is to feel myself play well.

"In theory, it's better to save some energy, but at the same time, sometimes when you are pushed at the beginning of a tournament, you went through some tough moments, that helps a lot for the next rounds.

"It happened for me in Rome like this. I had some tough challenges at the beginning of the tournament, and then you get to the quarters, semis and final and you know you're going to suffer and you're more ready for the situation."

MONFLIS OUT, KWON EYEING SLICE OF HISTORY

Cameron Norrie continued the British interest in the French capital, recovering from a set down to defeat Lloyd Harris and reach round three for the first time, and will face Nadal next.

In a mixed day for the seeded players, Diego Schwartzman and Matteo Berrettini advanced in straight sets while Jannik Sinner beat compatriot Gianluca Mager 6-1 7-5 3-6 6-3.

However, Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev was beaten in four sets by veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, while 21st seed Alex De Minaur lost in four sets to Marco Cecchinato.

There was also disappointment for home favourite Gael Monfils. The 14th seed was beaten 6-0 2-6 6-4 6-3 by Mikael Ymer, the world number 105.

However, Thursday saw a moment to remember for Kwon Soon-woo, who reached round three of a major for the first time with a straight-sets victory over Andreas Seppi. He is bidding to become the first South Korean player to get to round four at Roland Garros.

There were impressive wins as well for teenagers Lorenzo Musetti and Carlos Alcaraz Garfica, who beat Nikoloz Basilashvili in straight sets to secure a meeting with Jan-Lennard Struff.

Rafael Nadal stormed into the third round of the French Open with a straight-sets defeat of Richard Gasquet under the floodlights in Paris.

Gasquet, the final French player in either the men's or women's draws, offered some resistance after a terrible start but succumbed 6-0 7-5 6-2 in two hours and 14 minutes.

Nadal has now beaten Gasquet in all 17 of their meetings on Tour, with the Frenchman falling to a Spaniard for the second tournament running, having lost 6-1 6-1 to Jaume Munar in Parma last month.

The 20-time major singles champion turned 35 on Thursday and seemed eager to go and enjoy what remained of his birthday as he reeled off the first seven games in a row inside half an hour.

Gasquet at last got on the board after a couple of strangely errant forehands from the defending champion, who broke Gasquet again at the third time of asking as he moved 4-1 ahead in the second set.

Gasquet might have dropped to 53 in the rankings, but he offered glimpses of the form that saw him climb as high as seven in the world back in 2008, the one-handed backhand and drop-shot game causing Nadal some problems.

There was a shock when he broke back at 4-5 behind in the second set as Nadal looped another forehand long, but Nadal piled on the pressure at 6-5 and took a 2-0 lead when Gasquet slapped a forehand into the bottom of the net.

A sublime volley and a rasping passing shot saw Gasquet fend off two more break points at 1-2 in the third, but his resistance was finally broken in a mammoth sixth game.

Gasquet's serve deserted him at the wrong moment as he handed Nadal two match points, the second of which was taken via another forehand into the net.

Data Slam: Nadal keeps Gasquet at arm's length

Nadal dropped just seven of 45 points behind his first serve, which averaged speeds of 180km/h, leaving Gasquet with few opportunities to knock the Spaniard off his game.

Such authority meant Gasquet had little chance of snapping his losing streak against Nadal, whose 17 wins from 17 meetings is a career record.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 36/23
Gasquet – 20/37

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 3/3
Gasquet – 2/5

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 7/16
Gasquet – 1/4

Ashleigh Barty described her retirement from Thursday's second-round clash against Magda Linette at the French Open as "heartbreaking". 

Top seed Barty required medical attention during her first-round win over Bernarda Pera two days earlier, with a hip injury the cause for concern.

The 25-year-old – back at Roland Garros for the first time since winning her maiden grand slam title in Paris in 2019 – vowed to "play through the pain barrier", yet the injury prevented her from continuing when 1-6 2-2 down against her Polish opponent, who will face Ons Jabeur in the next round. 

The Australian's retirement throws the draw wide open, with both of the top seeds now out after Naomi Osaka decided to withdraw amid her disagreement with tournament organisers.

Barty's clay-court season ended with a title in Stuttgart, a runner-up finish in Madrid and an appearance in the quarter-finals in Rome, and she could scarcely hide her disappointment at the way things ended for her in the French capital. 

"It's heartbreaking," she told a media conference. "I mean, we have had such a brilliant clay-court season, and to get a little bit unlucky with timing and have something acute happen over the weekend and just kind of run out of time against the clock is disappointing. 

"It won't take away the brilliant three months that we have had, as much as it hurts right now.

"We did everything, absolutely everything we could to give myself a chance. It was a small miracle that we were able to get on court for that first round.

"I just tried to give myself a chance and see how it felt. Obviously practicing, we've had our restrictions and essentially tried to stay as fresh as possible and not aggravate it in any way, but in a match that's unavoidable at times.

"It got worse today and it was becoming at the stage where it was unsafe. As hard as it is, it had to be done. Right from the first game, I was battling the pain, and it just became too severe."

SVITOLINA CRUISES THROUGH, PLISKOVA DUMPED OUT

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina booked a third-round meeting with Barbora Krejcikova after seeing off Ann Li 6-0 6-4. 

Svitolina landed 74 per cent of her first serves and struck 10 winners to cruise past the American in the opening set. 

Li bounced back in the second, roaring into a 4-1 lead, but Svitolina clawed her way back to ensure she reached at least the third round in seven of her nine appearances at Roland Garros. 

Svitolina, who overturned a 2-5 deficit in the second set to beat Oceane Babel in the first round, said: "In the end, what I'm really happy with is the way that I was down in both matches in the second set and found a way. 

"I found a good level and didn't give up on the second set. That was a really good point for me, and I was really playing composed in both matches. It was two different players, but I was really happy that I could win in two sets in both matches."

Up next is Krejcikova, who overcame Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2 6-3.

There is no place in the third round for ninth seed Karolina Pliskova, who was soundly beaten 7-5 6-1 by Sloane Stephens, while number 13 seed Jennifer Brady battled past Fiona Ferro 6-1 1-6 6-4. 

KENIN WINS BATTLE OF THE AMERICANS

Fourth seed Sofia Kenin defeated fellow American Hailey Baptiste, a qualifier who won four matches in Paris on her French Open debut, 7-5 6-3. 

Kenin will now face another compatriot in 28th seed Jessica Pegula, who beat Tereza Martincova 6-3 6-3.

Elsewhere, defending champion Iga Swiatek thumped Rebecca Peterson 6-1 6-1, Coco Gauff got the better of Wang Qiang 6-3 7-6 (7-1), and Elise Mertens edged out Zarina Diyas 6-4 2-6 6-4.

Roger Federer produced his best display of the year to defeat Marin Cilic in four sets in the second round of the French Open.

The 20-time grand slam singles champion overcame frustrations with the umpire and the powerful resilience of his opponent to win 6-2 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 on Thursday.

The Swiss great holds an 11-1 lead in their head-to-head record, that one defeat coming back in the US Open semi-finals in 2014 when Cilic went on to lift the trophy, and it seemed as though Federer had their latest contest on his racquet early on.

He raced into a 5-1 lead in the first set before closing it out in just 31 minutes, the crowd left stunned when the eighth seed stretched up to produce a remarkable drop-shot return winner.

Matters became trickier in the second set as Cilic went 3-0 ahead and only some precise serve-and-forehand work from Federer prevented the double break.

A curious moment occurred with Cilic leading 3-1 when Federer was issued a time violation when receiving serve at deuce. A bemused Federer spoke at length with the umpire before calling to Cilic, "Am I playing too slow?".

Although far from descending into a shouting match, the incident seemed to throw off Federer, who gifted the set to Cilic with two forehand errors and looked unsettled until he refocused with a ripped backhand winner in the opening game of the third.

Cilic forced the tie-break after Federer had spurned an easy chance for a double break, but a double fault from the world number 47 handed the initiative to his rival, who by this time looked imperious on serve and in control from the baseline.

An ace on his first set point wrapped up the breaker and another Cilic double fault saw him fall a break behind in the fourth. This time, Federer did not allow a sniff of a comeback.

Data Slam: Federer back in the groove with clinical display

More accustomed to facing Cilic in the later stages of majors – he has beaten the Croatian in Wimbledon and Australian Open finals – Federer nonetheless needed to find something close to his best tennis after allowing early control to slip away in only his fourth match since returning after knee surgery.

The 39-year-old fired down 16 aces to one double fault and 47 winners to just 27 unforced errors. As Cilic said before the contest: "No matter the age, Roger has the formula."

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Cilic – 43/44
Federer – 47/27

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Cilic – 12/6
Federer – 16/1

BREAK POINTS WON
Cilic – 3/8
Federer – 5/16

Ashleigh Barty's French Open campaign came to an end in sad circumstances on Thursday as the world number one was forced to retire hurt when 1-6 2-2 down against Magda Linette.

Barty required medical attention during her first-round win over Bernarda Pera two days earlier, with a hip injury a cause for concern.

The 25-year-old – back at Roland Garros for the first time since winning her maiden grand slam title in Paris in 2019 – vowed to "play through the pain barrier", yet the injury proved too much to deal with on Thursday.

Barty's retirement throws the draw wide open, with both of the top seeds now out after Naomi Osaka decided to withdraw amid her disagreement with tournament organisers.

Barty's discomfort seemed evident from the off, though Linette did have to fend off an immediate break point to hold in the first game.

The Australian had to claw back three break points on her first serve, however, and a double fault in game four handed Linette the first break, with Barty clearly struggling when attempting to twist to her right.

A lame backhand into the net gifted Linette another break, and the Pole served out the set at the first time of asking with just 36 minutes on the clock.

After a lengthy delay in which she received treatment both on court and back in the changing rooms, Barty returned with seemingly renewed vigour to hold the first game of set two with relative ease.

Linette, though, kept her composure, with a couple of aces helping her level things up, and despite winning the next game thanks to her speed of serve, Barty was grimacing again.

Some excellent returns from Barty kept Linette at bay, but the world number 45 struck a powerful serve down the middle to make it 2-2, and that proved the final straw for her opponent, who shook hands at the net and, with a wave to the crowd, trudged down the tunnel.

DATA SLAM: BARTY'S BRAVE FACE NOT ENOUGH

Linette has claimed one of the biggest wins of her career, though the 29-year-old would have wished for it to come in more glorious circumstances. Barty tried her best to continue, but the injury was having too much of an impact on the key parts of her game – she made four double faults to Linette's zero, and tallied up 18 unforced errors, double the amount of her opponent.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Barty – 9/18
Linette – 12/9

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Barty – 2/4
Linette – 4/0

BREAK POINTS WON
Barty – 0/1
Linette – 2/7

Naomi Osaka's shock withdrawal from the French Open has raised questions over news conferences and their impact on mental health for athletes.

Osaka pulled out of Roland Garros on Monday, a day after tournament organisers fined the four-time grand slam champion and threatened her with more severe sanctions for refusing to attend mandatory media conferences.

The 23-year-old world number two and Japanese star had opened up about her mental health problems, revealing in a statement she has had "long bouts of depression" since claiming the 2018 US Open.

While her WTA and ATP Tour colleagues voiced their support, Osaka's stance has sparked controversy, though more importantly it has highlighted the growing issue of mental health problems in sport.

"I think it's a very important stance because it really highlights how sport has really looked at challenging issues through either the paradigm of sport or business," World Players Association executive director Brendan Schwab told Stats Perform. "Here, there is a very simple rule put in place that athletes have to attend post-match media conferences in order to promote visibility around the sport and then to promote the commercial interests of the sport. But that rule is put in place without any due diligence being done as to the risks with that on athletes or athlete health and safety.

"If we look at health and safety, we have to look at not only physical health but mental health and wellbeing. There is a very clear rule but it's going to impact athletes differently. The tournament organisers and sports bodies need to understand they have this proactive duty and to be aware of those impacts, and where their rule is going to have a harmful impact, they need to just adjust their procedures and requirements accordingly."

German great Boris Becker voiced his concerns for Osaka's future following her decision to quit the French Open in Paris.

A six-time slam winner, Becker told Eurosport: "I always believed the media was part of the job. Without the media, there is no prize money, no contracts, you don't get half the cake. I hated the media and I didn't like talking to journalists, but you had to do it.

"Now she is pulling out of the tournament altogether because she can't cope with it and that raises much bigger questions for me. If she can't cope with the media in Paris, she can't cope with the media in Wimbledon or the US Open. So I almost feel like her career is in danger due to mental health issues."

It is a view shared by many past and present tennis players – news conferences are part and parcel of the job. But are they?

"I think everyone would agree that is an important part of the job, but certainly not an essential part. The essential part of the job is performing as a player. But we cannot ask people to perform in circumstances where it's unsafe. It may be safe for some and unsafe for others," said Schwab.

"As in this case, there is an understanding that a particular player has a pre-condition or certain vulnerability, not to respond to that is inexcusable. It's certainly no defence to say it's safe for other people. That is why we need a real deep understanding of mental health.

"It's really important to see it as an occupational issue. A sporting place is not an ordinary workplace. It is a workplace which has heightened pressure. Therefore, the likelihood of there being adverse mental health impacts are greater. It's not going to affect everyone equally and sports bodies need to be smart enough to understand that fact."

Schwab added: "For Naomi's incredibly courageous stance here, there will be other players for which withdrawal is not an option and they will continue to face the workplace and pressures associated with that and therefore exacerbating the harm they're already experiencing."

The World Players Association is the leading voice of organised players in the governance of world sport. It brings together 85,000 players across professional sport through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries.

As mental health becomes more prevalent in a professional sports environment amid the growing physical and emotional demands, Schwab said: "What our Players Associations do is they run player development and wellbeing programmes. The more sophisticated of those programmes would actually have employees and experts who are engaged by the player associations but often based in the teams or club environment, so the players know they can access them, they are proximate to the players so they can access tailored advice and support.

"Mental health is one of those things but there are many other issues that players will have to deal with. The athletic career itself is short-term and precarious, so there is constant effort being made to ensure players are developing holistically, they're pursuing education and other opportunities."

As Schwab voiced his disapproval of the "blanket rule" to post-match commitments, the Australian shed light on how the World Players Association prepares athletes for the media.

"Certainly part of our development programmes, we will provide what we call induction programmes so that the players go through what they will expect in terms of their athletic career, so they can excel as athletes and in the job," he said. "Clearly, dealing with the media is a very important part of those programmes, but you have to be really careful to ensure this isn't a 'one-size-fits-all' approach. Player associations have a common interest with sports bodies to maximise the interest in the sport and commercial viability so the players can share in their wealth, but the impact is dispiriting.

"If we look at the way players are being trained physically, physical loads are being tailored based on the individual athletic capacity of certain players. Physical health is not the only health and safety concern we have to be worried about. Players have different vulnerabilities in terms of mental health and therefore it makes absolute sense for sports bodies to tailor their commitments, so they don't unnecessarily expose more vulnerable players than others. A blanket rule, like in this case, where athletes feel vulnerable and are at risk of an adverse health consequence should not be imposed.

"I really do believe the tournament organisers, Roland Garros in particular, exacerbated that harm when they started to promote the fact that other players were comfortable to do the press conferences in order to put pressure on Naomi, and clearly that has proven to be incredibly counterproductive… if the starting point is not a recognition of their proactive duty to provide a safe workplace and that safe workplace means understanding the physical, mental and the wellbeing risks holistically and then tailoring for the particular needs of players individually, then these kind of problems will likely reoccur."

Stefanos Tsitsipas has been delighted with the backing he has received at the French Open as he continues his quest to better last year's semi-final run.

The 22-year-old has previously spoke of his fondness for Roland Garros, and he earned a tour-leading 35th win of the season against Pedro Martinez on Wednesday.

It finished 6-3 6-4 6-3 in the second round in favour of the fifth seed, who is yet to lose a set at this year's second grand slam.

Tsitsipas is leading the FedEX ATP Race to Turin, and John Isner stands in his way of a fourth-round place.

"I really like playing in Paris," said Tsitsipas, who won titles in Monte Carlo and Lyon before heading to Roland Garros.

"I feel like the fans have embraced me and made me one of them. So, I'm really glad my tennis is there, my performance is there, and I'm able to deliver not just good tennis but also create a good atmosphere on this court."

Tsitsipas, who at one point dropped his racket while serving, did have to work for his win, though. Martinez broke him in the first and second sets, and the Greek was then denied the opportunity to serve out the win in the third.

Martinez's stand did not last much longer – Tsitsipas' backhand winner in the following game sealing the win.

"I've had good weeks this year, I've had some good results, but, of course, I feel like there's always better," the world number five added.

"I don't see my performance so far as super-excellent and outstanding, but I've been consistent and that's very important."

MEDVEDEV BITES BACK

Daniil Medvedev might finally have settled into life at Roland Garros. The second seed had a dismal record in the French Open heading into this year's grand slam, but despite a shaky start on Wednesday, he defeated Tommy Paul 3-6 6-1 6-4 6-3 to claim a place in round three.

Though Paul made the most of a shaky opening set from Medvedev, the Russian rallied in set two and kept the momentum going, winning 80 per cent of his first-serve points in a victory which took two hours and 18 minutes to round off, and also included eight breaks of serve from the world number two.

Next up is Reilly Opelka, who saw off Jaume Munar. The American has a losing 2-1 head-to-head record against Medvedev, though this is the first time they will meet on clay.

There was a shock elsewhere, as 11th seed Roberto Bautista Agut was dumped out by Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen.

ZVEREV GETS SNAPPY AFTER RAGGED DISPLAY

World number six Alexander Zverev was made to work for his place in round three, as he overcame Roman Safiullin 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 7-6 (7-1).

Zverev trailed in both the second and third sets, as the 24-year-old needed two tie-breaks to beat the qualifier.

"Obviously, I don't do it on purpose," Zverev said. "I don't go into the match and say, 'Okay, my tactic is I'm going to be a break down, I'm going to fight back and come back'.

"That's not how it works. I'm a break down most of the time because I play unfocused games or the opponent plays well."

Zverev will play Laslo Djere in round three, and despite his frustration after the match, the German has moved onto 20 wins for the season, which already includes titles in Acapulco and Madrid.

Djere beat fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, and if Zverev should keep winning, he may well face a quarter-final against Casper Ruud, the promising Norwegian player who beat Kamil Majchrzak 6-3 6-2 6-4 to make it to the third round at Roland Garros for a third straight season.

Standing in the way of Ruud and the last eight is Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who went the distance to defeat Botic Van De Zandschulp.

Serena Williams said her serve was the key to battling past Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-3 5-7 6-1 in the second round of the French Open on Wednesday.

The win improved Williams' second-round record in grand slams to 74-2, her only defeats at this stage having come against sister Venus Williams when Serena made her major debut at the 1998 Australian Open, and against Garbine Muguruza seven years ago at Roland Garros in Paris.

Serena Williams won 75 per cent of the points played behind her first serve and saved five of the seven break points she faced in the French capital midweek.

"I felt it was pretty good today," Williams said of her serve. "But I've been practicing my serve a lot. I've been playing unbelievable on my serve in practice. The other night was, 'wow'. I'm glad it came better today.

"My coach told me it's good that I'm doing it well in practice because eventually it will be good in the match.

"I had some really good chances in the second set to win that. If I would have won just one point here or there, like four or five times, it would have been a different second set.

"I know going into the third I just had zero in on those one important points. If I could just take those, it would be an easier time for me."

The 39-year-old will continue her quest for a fourth Roland Garros title and record-equalling 24th slam crown against compatriot Danielle Collins, who beat Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina 6-0 6-2.

"She's been playing well," Williams added. "She's also a really awesome person off the court. I love seeing her in the locker room.

"Ideally, it would be great if we didn't have to play each other because I always want her to do super well."

BENCIC DUMPED OUT BY KASATKINA

Belinda Bencic – the 10th seed – was dumped out by Daria Kasatkina 6-2 6-2, meaning there are no top-20 players left in the bottom quarter of the draw.

Bencic joined world number two Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu and Kiki Bertens in departing the tournament after a dismal performance against Kasatkina, who will play in the third round of a major for the first time since Wimbledon in 2018.

Kasatkina's serve was in rude health, with the Russian and 2018 French Open quarter-finalist never facing a break point and racking up eight aces.

"A lot has changed between 2018 and now," said Kasatkina. "There was one amazing year for me, which was important in a good and in the bad way.

"I learned a lot, and I think I became a little bit different, maybe more experienced, a bit more serious. Let's say I understand more why I'm winning or why I'm losing.

"At that time everything was just going with the wave, and I was not thinking that much. Now I'm analysing more of what's going on in the situation I'm in. Getting maybe a bit more mature."

The only player left in that quarter who has previously reached a grand slam semi-final is 20th seed Marketa Vondrousova, who breezed past Harmony Tan 6-1 6-3. 

SABALENKA SEES OFF COMPATRIOT SASNOVICH

Third seed Aryna Sabalenka booked her spot in the third round with a 7-5 6-3 win over fellow Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, despite tallying 34 unforced errors.

Sabalenka, who has the second-most tour-level wins this season with 27, said: "I'm really proud of myself that I was fighting no matter what, kind of trying to find my rhythm. I'm really happy with this win. It was a tough battle.

"I would say I definitely feel better this year, kind of believe that I can do well here on the clay court. I feel better and really happy to be here, to compete here."

Sabalenka will now face 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the next round after the Russian defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2 6-3. 

There were also wins for two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka, who overcame Clara Tauson 7-5 6-4, and Madison Keys, who beat Leylah Annie Fernandez 6-1 7-5.

Serena Williams took the long route through to round three at the French Open as the veteran battled past Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu.

The American waved the chequered flag at the Monaco Grand Prix 10 days prior to this clash, but there will be no white flag in Paris yet from Williams who dug deep for a 6-3 5-7 6-1 win.

Three times a Roland Garros champion, Williams continued her search for more title-winning form on Court Philippe Chatrier, and a tricky clash with compatriot Danielle Collins will be next for the 39-year-old.

This win improved Williams' second-round record in grand slams to 74-2, her only defeats at this stage having come against sister Venus Williams when Serena made her debut in the majors at the 1998 Australian Open, and against Garbine Muguruza seven years ago at this tournament.

Williams controlled the opening set against Buzarnescu, but the Romanian world number 174 was a wily opponent and began to ask plenty of questions of the 23-time grand slam winner.

Having been as high as number 20 in the rankings, Buzarnescu was not intimidated. In 2018, she beat top-10 players Jelena Ostapenko and Elina Svitolina – twice, in Svitolina's case – and the 33-year-old broke to lead 4-2, with Williams recovering from 0-40 before netting a forehand followed by a backhand as the pressure told.

Williams broke back, yelling "Come on!" to rally herself, and she had two break chances again at 5-5, but could take neither.

Buzarnescu was the first to have a set point and an eye-catching cross-court backhand forced the decider.

Tension briefly filled the air but it soon drifted away, Williams taking command with an immediate break followed by another to lead 4-0, the decider going her way emphatically.

"She has a lot of skills," Williams said of Buzarnescu. "She plays really well on this surface in particular. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I'm excited to get through there. It was good competition."

DATA SLAM: LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN?

Williams lives to fight another day and perhaps a good workout will give her the confidence to come through battles that lie ahead. That record-equalling 24th slam remains a possibility this fortnight. Collins is next, a player Williams narrowly beat when they met at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne earlier this year, their one previous meeting. Serena has won two of her previous grand slams as the seventh seed before – at the 1999 US Open and the 2005 Australian Open.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Williams – 26/27
Buzarnescu – 25/28

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Williams – 5/2
Buzarnescu – 0/7

BREAK POINTS WON
Williams – 5/14
Buzarnescu – 2/7

The leaders of tennis' four grand slam events have commended Naomi Osaka for opening up about her mental health problems and have vowed to put players' wellbeing first.

Osaka pulled out of the French Open on Monday, a day after organisers fined the four-time grand slam winner and threatened her with more severe sanctions for refusing to attend mandatory media conferences.

The world number two said in a statement posted on social media that she has had "long bouts of depression" since winning the US Open in 2018 and never intended for her stance to become a distraction.

Osaka also indicated that she was willing to work closely with tour officials "to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans."

Amid criticism for the way in which they have handled the matter, those in charge of the French Open, Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open have now softened their stance.

A joint statement on Tuesday from French tennis federation president Gilles Moretton, All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt, U.S. Tennis Association president Mike McNulty and Tennis Australia president Jayne Hrdlicka read: "On behalf of the Grand Slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court.

"She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate. Mental health is a very challenging issue, which deserves our utmost attention.

"It is both complex and personal, as what affects one individual does not necessarily affect another. 

"We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathise with the unique pressures tennis players may face. 

"While players' wellbeing has always been a priority to the Grand Slams, our intention, together with the WTA, the ATP and the ITF, is to advance mental health and wellbeing through further actions.

"Together as a community we will continue to improve the player experience at our tournaments, including as it relates to media.

"Change should come through the lens of maintaining a fair playing field, regardless of ranking or status. Sport requires rules and regulations to ensure that no player has an unfair advantage over another.

"We intend to work alongside the players, the tours, the media and the broader tennis community to create meaningful improvements. As Grand Slams, we aim to create the stage for the players to achieve the highest accolades in our sport."

Osaka's shock withdrawal generated an outpouring of support across the tennis world and beyond, with the likes of Serena Williams, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova backing the 23-year-old's stance.

Gael Monfils also chipped in on Tuesday, the top-ranked French men's player pointing out that it is difficult to judge Osaka's situation from the outside.

"We need Naomi. We need her definitely to be 100 per cent," he said following his win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

"We need her back on the court, back on the press conference, and back happy. You know, that's what we need.

"What she's dealing with is tough for me to even judge, because I think she has massive pressure from many things.

"I think she's quite young. She's handling it quite well. Sometimes we want maybe too much from her, and then how she says maybe she can't manage it that well, so sometimes for sure she's going to make some mistakes.

"But I give her always the chance because she's a champion, she's quite young, she has a huge influence. I think she needs to take some time for herself to work on herself, feel better."

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