Saturday 17 March 2018

Tennis: Ruthless Azarenka moves up the gears

Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka

Paul Newman

To find five different men who have won recent Grand Slam singles titles you have to go back to the start of 2005, when Marat Safin won the Australian Open.

Since then the honours have been shared by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro, who gatecrashed the big three's private party three years ago at the US Open.

To find five different women you need only go back to the start of last year. The last five titles have been won by Kim Clijsters, Li Na, Petra Kvitova, Sam Stosur and Victoria Azarenka. Serena Williams had been favourite to extend that sequence to six until her first-round defeat by Virginie Razzano on Tuesday night.

Williams' exit has thrown the French Open wide open, but the hosts' wait for a winner looks likely to continue.

Marion Bartoli, the world No 8 and a beaten semi-finalist last year, went down 6-2 3-6 6-3 to Croatia's Petra Martic, the world No 50.

Stephanie Foretz Gacon, the world No 86, is the next highest ranked Frenchwoman left in the tournament.

Azarenka, the world No 1, showed an improvement on her first-round performance, beating the German qualifier Dinah Pfizenmaier 6-1 6-1 and afterwards expressed her sympathy for Williams.

"I think in the women's game you have to be really ready right from the first match," she said. "That's how I have felt for the last few years, that every match is going to be difficult right from the beginning."

Agnieszka Radwanska, the world No 3, beat Venus Williams 6-2, 6-3, while Stosur, the runner-up two years ago, beat Irina Falconi 6-1, 6-4.

Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion, continued her climb back towards the top, beating Shahar Peer 6-2, 6-2. In her previous two visits to Roland Garros, Ivanovic won only one match.

The leading two men in the top half of the draw also progressed. Djokovic was pushed hard by Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic before winning 6-0, 6-4, 6-4, while Federer failed to convert two match points in a third set tie-break before beating Romania's Adrian Ungur 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3.

Sixth seed David Ferrer proved far too good for Lukas Lacko.

The Spaniard, a real force on clay, saw off his Slovakian opponent 6-3 6-4 6-1 to set up a second-round meeting with either Benoit Paire or Albert Ramos.

Ferrer, a possible quarter-final opponent for Andy Murray, has once again been very impressive on the red stuff this season, winning titles in Buenos Aires and Acapulco and reaching the final in Barcelona.

Eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic also made it through, although he had a much tougher time against America's Sam Querrey, the Serb eventually prevailing 2-6 6-4 7-6 (7/3) 6-3.

However, 15th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov is out after losing an all-Ukrainian clash with Sergiy Stakhovsky by 6-7 (4/7) 6-4 7-6 (7/4) 3-6 6-3(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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