Third seed Aryna Sabalenka was the biggest casualty on Friday at the French Open. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 31st seed, stunned Sabalenka 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 in an hour and 40 minutes. Sabalenka started the match on a strong note, thundering winners on all parts of the court.
Pavlyuchenkova, meanwhile, looked to have started on a slower note. However, it didn’t take long for the rhythm of the match to shift as the Russian put the Belarusian on the back foot. In her urgency to counter Pavlyuchenkova’s shot-making, Sabalenka’s shot-making turned erroneous and she went down a break to Pavlyuchenkova in the opening set from having been up a break in its earlier stages.
The third seed recovered her game in the second set and raced away to level the match at one set apiece thanks to two service breaks. However, the end of the set marked the final change of momentum in the match as Pavlyuchenkova, who’d left the court for a medical time-out, returned on an inspired note to begin the final set.
Sabalenka was left with no answers to Pavlyuchenkova’s game and in the end, surrendered herself quite tamely to exit a Major in the first week. Incidentally, with this win, Pavlyuchenkova also avenged her loss at the Mutua Madrid Open to the world no.
French Open: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova thwarts Belarusian derby
In the round-of-16, her first in Paris since 2016, Pavlyuchenkova will face another Belarusian in the 15th-seeded Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka ousted 23rd seed Madison Keys 6-2, 6-2 in just 70 minutes.
This is the first time since 2013 that the former world no. 1 has reached the fourth round at Roland Garros. That year, Azarenka had reached the semi-final. Tamara Zidansek reached the fourth round of a Major for the first time in her career with a win over Katerina Siniakova.
The Slovenian was bagelled in the opening set but showed good recovery in her tactics and poise to push past the Czech 0-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 in three minutes shy of three hours. For a place in the quarter-finals, Zidansek will play Sorana Cirstea.
The Romanian ended the run of Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 24 minutes. 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova also reached the pre-quarter-finals. The Czech defeated Polona Hercog 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 11 minutes in their round-of-32 clash. The 20th seed will play either 33rd seed Paula Badosa or Ana Bogdan next.