The biggest names in the men’s game are still going strong but the women’s competition at the French Open remains unpredictable.
Maria Sharapova, twice a champion here, went out of the tournament on Monday, while Serena Williams, the world No 1, admitted she was “living on the edge” after dropping the first set for the third match in succession before disposing of Sloane Stephens.
Sharapova, who has played in the last three finals at Roland Garros and won two of them, has looked well below her best here and was beaten 7-6, 6-4 by Lucie Safarova, who is through to the quarter-finals for the first time. The Czech will next play Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, who knocked out Williams last year.
“I felt like I had small openings and played a good few points, but I just wasn’t able to keep that level up today,” Sharapova said, refusing to blame the heavy cold which has been troubling her for the last week.
“She was able to do that for a longer period of time. She was the much more aggressive player. She took the time away from me, created her angles and I didn’t. That was the difference today. My opponent was at a much higher level more consistently than I was, and that results in a bad day at the office.”
Williams beat Stephens, her fellow American, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, having also dropped the first set in her previous two matches, against Anna-Lena Friedsam and Victoria Azarenka. Once again the world No 1 looked badly out of sorts at the start, though she insisted afterwards that the elbow injury she has been nursing recently had improved significantly. In the quarter-finals, Williams will face Italy’s Sara Errani, who has lost all eight of their meetings but ran her close in the Fed Cup recently.
Asked about losing the first set for three matches in a row, Williams knew instantly that the only other occasion she had done so at a Grand Slam tournament was 16 years ago at the US Open.
“I feel like I’m living on the edge,” she said. “I’m not really happy about my performance. It’s OK to go two tough sets, but to go three sets back-to-back-to-back is on the verge of unprofessionalism for me.”
Might the long matches here be sapping her energy? “I’m not worried about running out of gas,” Williams said. “I’m 33. I’m not going to play another 10 years, so I’d better not run out of gas now. I’m not going to quit. Why stop now? I’m going to keep going as hard as I can until I’m out. If that means I have to go another nine sets, then so be it.”
Another big name fell in the day’s final match as Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion, was beaten 2-6, 6-0, 6-3 by the world No 24, Timea Bacsinszky. The 25-year-old Swiss, who had never previously gone beyond the second round here, gave up tennis two years ago in frustration after a succession of injuries. She briefly took a job in a hotel but returned to the sport that summer when she realised her world ranking was still high enough to get her into French Open qualifying.