Today’s play on Chatrier begins with two women’s singles quarter-finals. Yesterday, Coco Gauff made her first grand slam semi thanks to victory over Sloane Stephens. She’ll play Italy’s Martina Trevisan, the world No 59, who was a surprise winner against 17th seed Leylah Fernandez as the young Canadian struggled with an injury to her right foot. Here’s how Tumaini saw Tuesday’s action …
Gauff and Stephens, 29, go back a long time. As Gauff was growing up surrounded by hype, Stephens watched as she grew from a precocious eight-year-old to an adult with ample experience on the tour. She would attend some of Gauff’s birthday parties and they know each other’s families well. Here they played with so much on the line. This pitted two of the very best athletes in the game against each other, but Gauff outworked Stephens in the numerous long rallies and remained solid as each tried to find a way through the other’s defences. She served well when she most needed to and she brought Stephens forward with regular drop shots, demonstrating the variety that has become a central part of her game.
Most of all, Gauff struck her forehand as well as she has done in any of her big matches. Throughout her young career, Gauff’s forehand has become a big target for all players, the aim to rush her elaborate swing with depth and pace, but it was Gauff frequently pushing Stephens back with her heavy topspin while constantly looking to dictate and finish points.
Earlier on Tuesday, Alexander Zverev saw off a threatened comeback by the massively in-form youngster, Carlos Alcaraz …
Between the phenomenon of Alcaraz’s teenage breakthrough, the attempts of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to tread deeper into tennis’s history books and even the opportunity presented to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the vacant bottom half, few have had much to say about Zverev.
But a player rises to No 3 in the rankings for a reason. On a cool evening at Roland Garros, he showed why, remaining rock solid against an erratic Alcaraz and snuffing out the surrounding hype as he won 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7) to reach the semi-finals.
Alcaraz had started the match immediately trying to impose his brand of high-octane, all-court tennis. But despite his intensity, his timing was completely off. Unforced errors flowed freely from his forehand and backhand alike. Zverev was far more consistent. He soaked up the Spaniard’s inside-out forehand with his own excellent backhand, which remarkably did not concede a single unforced error for two and a half sets. He served well, he pressed when needed and his historic weaknesses, his second serve and forehand, held up.
It genuinely was an extraordinary four-set match, running to the length of a five-setter. The first four games alone clocked in at well over 30 minutes, which set the tone. Guardian sport’s print team were left sweating and chewing pencils as the clock ticked well beyond midnight, with print site workers and delivery drivers tapping their feet impatiently.
“It was a very tough match,” Nadal said. “Novak is one of the best players in history without a doubt. Always to play against him is an amazing challenge. All the history that we have together, today was another one.
“To win against Novak, there is only one way: to play at your best from the first point to the last. Today it was one of those nights for me. An unexpected level but I am super happy.
“I am just enjoying every day that I have the chance to be here, and without thinking much about what can happen on the future. Of course I’m going to keep fighting to find a solution for [his problematic foot], but for the moment, we haven’t. So just give myself a chance to play another semi-finals here at Roland Garros is a lot of energy for me.”
In response, Djokovic said: “I know I could have played better I’m proud of fighting and staying till the last shot. As I said, you know, I lost to a better player today. Had my chances. Didn’t use them. That’s it. Over four hours’ battle, and I have to accept this defeat.”
For those who had an early night, here’s a taste of what you missed …
As the two greatest rivals in men’s tennis convened at the French Open once more, plenty of factors pointed in favour of Novak Djokovic. While both he and Rafael Nadal had arrived in the clay court season full of uncertainty, only Djokovic had taken notable steps forward since. Nadal, meanwhile, still searched for his best form after his fractured rib. His preparation was complicated with a flareup of his chronic foot injury. His form in Paris was, so far, subpar.
But this is Rafael Nadal. At Roland Garros. He is the man who has won 110 times in his home with just three losses, who has shown over the course of his 17 years there that form and other frivolous trivia have little relevance in the face of total, unprecedented dominance. In a match that began in May and ended in June, Nadal blew Djokovic away in the opening stages, then absorbed multiple strong fightbacks and immense pressure before rising to win 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) after four hours and 11 minutes at 1.15am local time.
Happy Wednesdays everyone! Just 10 short hours and seemingly just a dozen long blinks after John Brewin finally wrapped up on Rafael Nadal’s victory over Novak Djokovic … the overnight Roland Garros goblins have done their thing to have Court Philippe-Chatrier back looking pristine for another day of quarter-final action.
Here’s what’s in store during today’s daytime session:
Order of play
(first match 11am BST, seeds in brackets)
Veronika Kudermetova (29) v Daria Kasatkina (20)
Iga Swiatek (1) v Jessica Pegula (11)
Andrey Rublev (7) v Marin Cilic (20)
Night session, not before 7.45pm BST
Casper Ruud (8) v Holger Rune