PARIS (AP) — The Latest from the French Open:
Forget flowers, try saying it with shorts.
Seems to have worked for Victoria Azarenka. She gave Serena Williams a pair of her shorts after their fiery French Open third-round match — despite a testy exchange of gestures and words between them over chair umpire Kader Nouni’s decision to replay a key point.
“We don’t have any air to clear,” said Azarenka. “I gave her a pair of my shorts because she really liked them.”
Williams confirmed there are no hard feelings between the fierce competitors who are friends when they’re not playing each other.
“We talked about this a long time ago. We said, we’re going to leave everything on the court, we’re going to give 500 percent and when we’re off the court, we’ll be really cool,” Williams said.
But Azarenka is hopping mad with Nouni. The language she used about his call isn’t suitable for a family audience. Suffice to say that he shouldn’t expect a dinner invitation from the two-time Australian Open champion.
It has been said before but it is worth saying again: Serena Williams is one tough cookie.
The No. 1 was on the ropes after Victoria Azarenka took the first set of their titanic third-round match on an enthralled center court at the French Open.
But Williams dug deep, so very, very deep, to take the next set and then impose herself in the third, winning 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
It would have made a superb final.
But all it does is put Williams into the last 16.
Well, no, it does more than that. It reminds her future opponents, as if they didn’t already know, that the 19-time Grand Slam champion simply won’t roll over.
“I don’t want to lose,” she said.
Stop whatever you’re doing and turn on the TV, because Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka are going at each other at the French Open.
As a two-time Australian Open champion, Azarenka always lurked as potential bear-trap for the No. 1 from the moment they were drawn in the same half.
So it was.
After Azarenka took the first set of their third-round match 6-3, the crowd on the Philippe Chatrier center court braced for a fight-back from the 19-time Grand Slam champion who, if and when she goes down, always goes down swinging.
With piercing “Come on!” yells that could curdle cream, Williams dug herself out of the hole, winning the second set 6-4. The players had a testy exchange of words over a disputed line call.
The decisive third set has just started. Sorry, got to go.
Make that four-squared for Sloane Stephens.
Now, the 40th-ranked American wants to go one better.
Beating Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4, 6-1 puts Stephens into the French Open fourth round for the fourth consecutive year.
Next up: either No. 1 Serena Williams or No. 27 Victoria Azarenka. They are on Court Philippe Chatrier right now, where Azarenka has just taken the first set 6-3.
Whoever wins that, it will set up an Australian Open rematch.
The most significant victory of Stephens’ young career came against Williams in the 2013 quarterfinals in Melbourne. That put Stephens in her only Grand Slam semifinal, where she promptly lost to Azarenka, who was on her way to a second major title.
Stephens and Azarenka met again at the Australian Open this January, in the fourth round, and Azarenka won that one, too.
So, the big question: Is Rafael Nadal firing on all cylinders in his quest for a 10th French Open title?
Short answer: It is still too early to tell, because through the first three rounds, he has yet to be seriously tested.
Andrey Kuznetsov certainly wasn’t a reliable gauge of the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s form in a clay-court season when his ranking has slipped to seventh — the Spaniard’s lowest spot in a decade — and which Nadal himself acknowledges has been “up and down.”
Kuznetsov, ranked 120th, folded 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in their third-round match Saturday.
“Being in the fourth round is great news for me,” Nadal said after stretching his Roland Garros winning streak to 38 matches.
He has yet to drop a set in his 11th French Open campaign. That should leave him fresh for the second week. The 28-year-old, who turns 29 on Wednesday, will need the energy.
Next up is a first-ever meeting for Nadal with 22-year-old Jack Sock, the last U.S. man in the draw.
Francesca Schiavone felt mental, rather than physical, exhaustion was mostly to blame for her 7-5, 6-4 loss to 100th-ranked Andreea Mitu of Romania.
A nearly four-hour marathon in her previous match didn’t help.
“Well, I’m not going dancing now,” the 34-year-old Schiavone joked. “No way I’m going to go run 10 kilometers.”
Still, the French Open champion in 2010 and runner-up the following year was disappointed to waste what she considered an opportunity to keep going into the last 16. Mitu, after all, had never won a Grand Slam match until this week.
“I’m not blind and I don’t lie to myself. On the contrary, I totally tell myself the truth,” Schiavone said with a sigh. “And this was a perfect chance to take another step.”
Mitu, 23, went into the third-round match thinking similar thoughts, acknowledging afterward: “I didn’t expect to win.”
But win she did.
No sooner said than done.
The last American man in the French Open, Jack Sock, will make his fourth-round Grand Slam debut after beating 18-year-old Borna Coric of Croatia 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.
After ending the match with a cross-court backhand that Coric netted, Sock soaked up the applause, but the celebration was rather muted. This was the most important singles win at a major for the 22-year-old, who was born in Nebraska, grew up in Kansas City and now is based in Florida.
Sock delivered 31 winners and saved the only break point he faced, winning 30 of 34 first-serve points on Court 2.
One imagines Sock will play at a far bigger arena in the fourth round — likely against Rafael Nadal, the nine-time champion at Roland Garros who has taken the first two sets against Andrey Kuznetsov.
Jack Sock, the last U.S. man flying the flag at the French Open, is earning what would be a first-ever chance to test himself against the French Open’s greatest champion, Rafael Nadal.
Sock, ranked 37th, is up two sets and a break against 18-year-old Borna Coric, billed as a kid to watch but who is feeling the pressure of his first foray into the third round of a major tournament.
If 22-year-old Sock closes out a win, his first ever last-16 match at a major will likely be against Nadal, because the nine-time champion is up one set against his third-round opponent, Andrey Kuznetsov. Sock and Nadal have never played each other before.
Video tweeted here by the French Open of some Nadal wizardry in his ongoing match: https://twitter.com/rolandgarros/status/604648062816894977
Nick Kyrgios leaves Roland Garros with a highlight-reel ‘tweener to cherish.
At 3-all in the first set of his straight-set exit, Kyrgios raced from the net to the baseline to retrieve a lob and, his back to the net, smacked the ball through his legs for a lob of his own that sailed over Andy Murray. The two-time major champion ran to get his racket on the ball, but his shot landed out.
Kyrgios celebrated with arms spread wide, as if to say, “Look at what I just did!”
He loved it so much, he posted video of the point on his Facebook page.
Take a look here: https://www.facebook.com/nkyrgios/posts/987999587884940
Alas, Kyrgios wound up getting broken in that game, and things went downhill from there.
The U.S. women are falling at the French Open, with Madison Keys and Irina Falconi both out.
That leaves Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens — both in action later Saturday — as the only ones left of the 17 American women who entered the clay-court major.
Keys, seeded 16th, lost 6-4, 6-2 to 23rd-seeded Timea Bacsinszky from Switzerland, who is into the fourth round of a major tournament for the first time.
Falconi was undone 6-4, 6-1 by Julia Goerges of Germany, who is into the fourth round in Paris for the first time.
“I was kind of sliding all over, kind of like a hippo on ice, not a cow,” Keys said with a smile, a reference to Maria Sharapova’s long-ago lament that she felt like a cow on ice when she played on clay.
When a reporter mentioned to Keys that her preferred grass surface is up next on the schedule, she replied: “Yes! … I’m excited to get off this red stuff.”
Before flying back home to California on Sunday morning, Keys plans to spend her remaining hours in the French capital engaging in two activities: eating and shopping.
Any particular stores or fashions?
“I’m not even sure yet. I’m just going to go shopping and spend money,” Keys said with a laugh. “Retail therapy.”
Chasing the only Grand Slam he has yet to win, Novak Djokovic is through to the French Open fourth round after a rapid 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win against 19-year-old Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, an opponent ranked 84th.
The top-ranked Serb broke Kokkinakis’ serve three times whilst not conceding a single chance on his serve.
He served out the match to love to seal the win on a sunny center court in 1 hour, 49 minutes.
Next up for Djokovic is either 15th-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa, or Frenchman Richard Gasquet, seeded 20.
Reflecting on his first ever match against the eight-time Grand Slam champion, Kokkinakis reclined in his chair with a rueful smile.
Either Marin Cilic had trouble tying his shoes this morning or the reigning U.S. Open champion is feeling inspired by the flowery blooms of the Parisian spring.
Our eagle-eyed Associated Press photographer Christophe Ena spotted the curious flower-shaped form of Cilic’s shoelaces while shooting the ninth-seed’s 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory Saturday in the third round against Leonardo Mayer, the 23rd seed from Argentina.
Ena’s photos can be seen here http://tinyurl.com/qc8eavp and here http://tinyurl.com/puytxer .
Cilic is into the last 16 at the French for the first time since 2010.
A big win for Andy Murray. The two-time Grand Slam champion is into the French Open’s fourth round for the sixth time after an overpowering 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 demonstration of powerful but also nuanced hitting against Nick Kyrgios, who was hampered by an ailing right forearm.
The third-seeded Briton and the 29th-seeded Australian played some hugely entertaining but also hot-tempered tennis.
In the last game, Kyrgios saved a first match point with a stunning forehand at the net and won the next point with a cavalier volley. But Murray pulled back to deuce.
The Scotsman then seized his next chance, returning an inviting serve with a powerful two-handed backhand from the rear of the court that zipped past Kyrgios for the win.
“Tough match because he was going for huge shots,” said Murray, a losing semifinalist to Rafael Nadal last year. He noted that Kyrgios’ arm problem, for which he was treated and got taping and massage in the second set, “slowed down his serve which is one of his biggest weapons.”
“That helped me,” Murray said.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is having her best French Open since she was a semifinalist in 2012. The fourth-seeded Czech is through to the last 16 with a quick-fire 6-3, 6-2 demolition of 30th-seeded Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu in 58 minutes.
Kvitova stalled in the third round last year and in 2013. She won Wimbledon last year and in 2011.
And there are tears from Andreea Mitu on Court 2. The unseeded Romanian is through to the fourth round at a major tournament for the first time having put out 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone — 7-5, 6-4 in 1 hour, 47 minutes. Mitu had never won a Grand Slam match before having now won three in a row at the French.
Andy Murray is up two sets against Nick Kyrgios who is playing with a problematic right forearm that was heavily taped by a trainer in a medical timeout.
“I can’t serve,” the Australian told the trainer after Murray broke him for a 5-2 lead in the set.
The trainer massaged the forearm and then wrapped it in thick white tape.
“Go for it,” Kyrgios told him.
But the 29th seed quickly abandoned the wrapping after Murray served out the set 6-2 and is now playing the third set without it.
That seems to have worked. The hot-tempered Australian broke the third-seeded Murray in the second game. Kyrgios also got a warning from the chair umpire for thumping a ball into the stands.
Oh la la. Fireworks on Court Suzanne Lenglen, where Andy Murray and Nick Kyrgios are playing incandescent tennis in the French Open third round. But cover the kids’ ears, because their language is blue.
Both have white-hot tempers and both dropped F-bombs in the first set won 6-4 by Murray. The third seed furiously thwacked his racket on the red clay and then threw his towel for good measure after serving a double fault to allow Kyrgios to break back in the fourth game.
“What is that? What is it?” Murray also yelled at himself in the eighth game, facing two break points he went on to save, the second of them with a delicious lob having sucked Kyrgios into the net with an exquisite drop shot.
The 29th-seeded Australian is berating himself, too.
“What is the point? What is the point!” he exclaimed after Murray broke him in the seventh game. “Useless.”
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