Tennis

Simona Halep races past Lesia Tsurenko to move into fourth round

Reuters, AFP-JIJI

A ruthlessly efficient Simona Halep marched into the fourth round of the French Open on Saturday, dropping just three games against Lesia Tsurenko.

Halep, the defending champion from Romania, had been forced to go the distance in the first two rounds. Playing her best match of the tournament, she had no trouble against an error-strewn Tsurenko, winning 6-2, 6-1 in just 55 minutes to extend her win streak against the No. 27 seed from Ukraine to 8-0.

After a relatively cool start to the first week of the French Open, temperatures are expected to soar to as high as 30 Cat the end of the afternoon at Roland Garros in Paris.

Taking advantage of the balls kicking up higher on the clay of the main Court Philippe-Chatrier, Halep took the first set in just 28 minutes as she dominated her opponent from the back of the court.

Tsurenko, who had won her previous match 11-9 in the decider against Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic playing with a broken racket, requested a medical timeout as she trailed 3-0 in the second set.

Watched by Romanian billionaire Ion Tiriac, Halep’s intensity never dropped, as she took a 4-0 lead with aggressive shot-making. Serving for the match at 5-0, Halep got broken, but booked a spot in the fourth round in the next game with a volley, her ninth winner. She made 14 errors, while Tsurenko had just 8 winners and made 32 unforced errors.

“It was a tough match even if the scoreline does not show it,” Halep said.

“Every day in my life I have that image of me winning last year in my mind, it was my greatest moment of my career and it was all the more satisfying for having won here in the juniors as well.”

Also Saturday, Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek player in 83 years to reach the second week at Roland Garros as he survived a scare in the third round against Filip Krajinovic.

The sixth seed led by two sets overnight, with the match suspended at 5-5 in the third due to darkness at 9:52 p.m. local time, and saw Serbia’s Krajinovic launch a comeback.

Tsitsipas lost the set in a tie-break but sealed a 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (8-6) success on Court Philippe Chatrier after overturning a 5-3 deficit and saving a set point in the fourth.

The 20-year-old will take on either former champion Stan Wawrinka or Grigor Dimitrov for a place in his second Grand Slam quarterfinal, after their match was also suspended on Friday evening.

“It’s really tricky when you come back after a day. It’s unusual, you don’t do it that often,” said Tsitsipas.

“It was important I saved those set points. Closing in the fourth set, it’s important to save energy.”

The last Greek player to reach the second week at Roland Garros was Lazaros Stalios in 1936.

Tsitsipas, who stunned Roger Federer en route to the Australian Open semifinals earlier this year, had battled back from 5-2 down in the third set to keep his hopes of a straight-sets win alive.

World No. 60 Krajinovic has good memories of the French capital, though, having reached the Paris Masters final in 2017, and forced a fourth set in a high-quality tiebreak.

He looked likely to take the match into a decider when Tsitsipas made back-to-back double faults to be broken in the seventh game, but Krajinovic played a dreadful game when serving for the set and was broken to love.

Tsitsipas took full advantage, forcing another breaker, in which he sealed victory after saving a set point on his first match point.