Sport 2021 French Open: The story so far

01:35  07 june  2021
01:35  07 june  2021 Source:   theroar.com.au

French Open 2021: Everything to know before it gets underway on Sunday

  French Open 2021: Everything to know before it gets underway on Sunday Having been pushed back by a week, the French Open finally gets underway on Sunday, as Rafael Nadal goes in search of history. Sportsmail outlines the all-important details.The prestigious tournament in Paris returns to a more familiar spot in the calendar this year, after it was played across September and October in 2020, again due to the impacts of the pandemic.

We are halfway through the 2021 French Open and there is plenty to talk about as Rafael Nadal moves closer towards achieving tennis immortality at Roland Garros.

Entering the year’s second major, where the Spaniard has proven tough to beat since his first appearance in 2005, all the talk centred around whether he could not only land a record-extending 14th French Open title, but also a record-breaking 21st grand slam men’s singles title.

So far it has been smooth sailing for the recently-turned 35-year-old, who has won each of his opening three matches in straight sets, though he survived a minor scare when he faced a set point in the third set of his first round match against Australian Alexei Popyrin.

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He subsequently defeated French veteran Richard Gasquet and Cameron Norrie in straight sets to advance to the last 16 for the 16th time in 17 appearances, where he will face Italian young gun Jannik Sinner, whom he defeated in the quarter-finals just eight months ago.

Beyond that, a possible quarter-final against Diego Schwartzman, whom the Spaniard defeated in the semi-final last year, awaits before a final four showdown against either Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer, both of whom have also qualified for the second week of the tournament.

Djokovic has won his first three matches in straight sets and has yet to face a seeded player. The earliest he could face one is in the quarter-finals where he could play either Federer or ninth-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini.

Serena Williams offers support to Naomi Osaka following French Open withdrawal

  Serena Williams offers support to Naomi Osaka following French Open withdrawal Williams joined the tennis community in showing support for the world No. 2 after she exited the French Open, citing her mental health.Not long after Osaka announced that she would exit the French Open, Williams, coming off a first-round win at Roland Garros, said that she feels for Osaka and that she knows what it is like to face the media pressure, according to New York Times reporter Ben Rothenberg.

The 34-year-old Serb needed just one hour and 32 minutes to see off Ricardas Berankis in straight sets, becoming the first man in French Open history to reach the fourth round for 12 consecutive years – something not even Rafael Nadal could achieve.

Nadal’s best such record was 11 fourth-round (or better) appearances between 2005 and 2015 inclusive. That streak ended in 2016 when he was forced to withdraw after just two matches due to a wrist injury, which ultimately forced him out of Wimbledon that year.

As for the Swiss maestro, after defeating qualifier Denis Istomin in his first round match, the 39-year-old needed four sets to win each of his next two matches, including against former US Open champion and German Dominik Koepfer.

But in a worrying sign, Federer admitted he may have to withdraw from the tournament after appearing to suffer knee soreness in his match against Koepfer.

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(Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

The Basel native is only two months away from turning 40 and has made Wimbledon a priority, where he has won a men’s record eight titles, the most recent in 2017.

In the bottom half of the draw, we will have a new French Open finalist after Dominic Thiem, the only man in his half to have previously reached the final at Roland Garros, crashed out in the opening round.

That leaves Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev and Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who are on a potential quarter-final collision course, as the two highest remaining seeds in their half of the draw.

Medvedev, who had never previously won a match at the French Open, is earning fresh ranking points at will and should he reach the final, he may have a chance to become just the fifth different men’s world number one since February 2004.

He will only become world number one if he reaches the final, and Novak Djokovic doesn’t. If both men qualify for the championship match, which would be their second at grand slam level this year, then the top ranking will be decided then.

What now for Ash Barty after French Open exit?

  What now for Ash Barty after French Open exit? Ash Barty's tournament-ending injury has scuppered her chances of regaining her French Open title, but what does it mean for her Wimbledon challenge? Or her chances of retaining her world number one crown?After a stellar return to the WTA tour — where she won titles in Melbourne, Miami and Stuttgart and reached the final in Madrid — Barty looked primed to once again challenge for a grand slam title.

Tsitsipas, on the other hand, faces a tricky hurdle in his quest to reach the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the first time. He was scheduled to face Spanish 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta overnight.

The Greek sensation saw off the threat of American marathon man John Isner in his third round match on Saturday morning (AEST), coming from a set down to win in four sets. He had won his preceding two matches in straight sets, including over French veteran Jeremy Chardy in Round 1.

Video: Pavlyuchenkova seals stunning upset (Wide World of Sports)

The women’s draw has seen several top seeds depart the tournament, among them the top three seeds – Australian Ashleigh Barty, reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka and third seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Barty struggled with a hip injury she picked up during training last week, and after struggling through her opening round match against Bernarda Pera, the Queenslander was forced to retire at 1-6, 2-2 in her second round match against Magda Linette.

With only three weeks before Wimbledon gets underway, the 25-year-old is now suddenly racing the clock to be fit for the year’s third major, which will mark a decade since she won the girls’ title, before she turned professional the following year.

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(Photo by Shi Tang/Getty Images)

Barty’s best result at the All England Club was reaching the fourth round in 2019, where she was run down by American Alison Riske in three sets after she’d won the opening set.

Another player hoping to make it to London is second seed Osaka, who withdrew after only one match at Roland Garros to focus on her mental health, having announced pre-tournament that she would not be doing any media.

After tournament organisers threatened her with further heavy fines and ejection if she did not agree to her media obligations, the Japanese star decided to pull out, having since returned to Boca Raton in Florida, where she resides.

Several of her rivals, including the Williams sisters and Coco Gauff, have been supportive of her decision to take a break from the game.

Speaking of Gauff, the teenage sensation who defeated Osaka at the Australian Open last year, has managed to reach the last 16 at Roland Garros but did so after compatriot Jennifer Brady was forced to retire after dropping the first set 6-1.

The 17-year-old next faces Ons Jabeur, who came from a set down to defeat Linette in three sets, feeding her a second set bagel in the process.

Third seed Sabalenka, fifth seed Elina Svitolina and former world number one Karolina Pliskova were again exposed as pretenders at the majors, with none of them managing to advance to the second week of the tournament.

Sabalenka was beaten in three sets by Russian veteran Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, thus missing out on a fourth round showdown against compatriot Victoria Azarenka, who thrashed American 23rd Madison Keys in straight sets, losing just two games in each set.

French army kills Mali jihadist linked to journalist murders

  French army kills Mali jihadist linked to journalist murders French soldiers have killed a Malian jihadist suspected of being responsible for the kidnapping and deaths of two French journalists in 2013, Defence Minister Florence Parly said Friday. Parly said French forces in the Sahel region killed "four terrorists" during an operation in northern Mali on June 5, including Bayes Ag Bakabo, the prime suspect in the deaths of RFI radio reporters Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon. "His neutralisation means the end of a long wait," Parly said, adding that Bakabo was in the village of Aguelhok and was preparing an attack against UN peacekeeping forces when he was killed.

The 23-year-old Sabalenka has yet to reach a major quarter-final and her latest failure leaves more questions to be asked than answered of her potential.

Svitolina went out in straight sets to Barbora Krejcikova, who next goes on to face Sloane Stephens, who in consecutive matches knocked out two players from the Czech Republic, first ninth-seed Pliskova, and then Australian Open semi-finalist Karolina Muchova.

One player who is thriving under the pressure of being a major champion is eighth-seeded Iga Swiatek, who has now won ten straight matches in straight sets at the French Open, including all seven in last year’s title run.

The 21-year-old Pole, who recently won the Italian Open by double-bageling Pliskova in the championship match, next faces Marta Kostyuk, who upset 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza in the opening round.

Beyond that, a possible rematch against Sofia Kenin is possible, though the American faces a potentially tricky clash against Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari on Monday night or Tuesday evening (AEST).

The ageless Serena Williams is also still alive in the draw, as she closes in on her latest attempt to equal Margaret Court’s long-standing record of 24 major singles titles.

(Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)

Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina blocks her path to a possible quarter-final against career rival Victoria Azarenka, in what would be their first clash since last year’s US Open semi-final, won on that occasion by the Belarusian.

Also in with a shot at reaching the quarter-finals is young Spaniard Paula Badosa, who cashed in on Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal to reach the last 16 for the second consecutive year.

The 23-year-old came from a set down and saved a match point to defeat Romanian Ana Bogdan on Friday. Bogdan is the player who received a walkover into Round 3 when Osaka pulled out of the tournament.

At the time of writing, the likes of Williams, Azarenka, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev were in action on Day 8 of the French Open.

The so-called big three in men’s tennis – whom Novak Djokovic dubbed “the next gen” after recently losing to Nadal in the Rome Masters final last month – all play on Monday night or Tuesday morning (AEST), as does Sofia Kenin and reigning women’s champion Iga Swiatek.

As the tournament edges closer to its climax, all interest will centre around whether Rafael Nadal can indeed achieve tennis immortality with a record 21st grand slam men’s singles title, which may as well settle the debate on just who is the men’s greatest of all time.

Epic Djokovic comeback to win Roland Garros .
Novak Djokovic lost the first two sets before running over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fifth to win at Roland Garros.Part of him worried he was too diminished and depleted to overcome that deficit against his younger, fresher foe, Stefanos Tsitsipas. And another part of Djokovic insisted he would.

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