Friday, June 4, 2021

Russian surprises Sabalenka, further opening draw

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who played for
the Sacramento Capitals of World Team-
Tennis at 15, has reached the quarterfinals
of every Grand Slam tournament. 2017
photo by Paul Bauman  
   The women's draw in the French Open continued to open up today as Aryna Sabalenka continued to struggle in Grand Slam tournaments.
   No. 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia stunned the third-seeded Sabalenka of Belarus 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros in Paris for the second time.
   The 6-foot (1.82-meter) Sabalenka, a potential Grand Slam champion, has never reached the fourth round in the French Open or the quarterfinals of a major. She's still young, however, at 23.
   The highest remaining seed in this year's tournament is No. 4 Sofia Kenin, and No. 7 seed Serena Williams is the only top-10 player left in the bottom half of the draw. Kenin won the Australian Open and reached the French Open final last year. Williams, 39, is making her 12th attempt to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. 
   The 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova, who has reached the quarterfinals at every Grand Slam tournament (three times in the Australian Open), attributed her success this week to enjoying tennis more than in the past.
   "I know it's a cliché," she told reporters. "I was the first one to laugh at this — players would say, 'I'm going to go and enjoy out there.' I'm like, 'Yeah, right. Go enjoy, of course, good luck.'
   "Now I actually do that. Even today on the court, apart from having pain in my knee and my leg, I was enjoying. I'm trying to embrace this. I'm enjoying much more now every point the tough matches than I used to. I guess that's also why I'm still here in the second week.
   "Also, I feel like I'm fitter. Because I'm enjoying playing tennis, I work harder. You work hard, you enjoy the hard work. I think that's the best combination."
   Both Pavlyuchenkova and Sabalenka have Northern California connections. Pavlyuchenkova played for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in 2006 at age 15. Sabalenka reached the final of the 2019 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif.
   Pavlyuchenkova is scheduled to play another Belarusian, No. 15 seed Victoria Azarenka, on Sunday for a quarterfinal berth. Azarenka, who ascended to No. 1 in 2012, dismissed No. 23 seed Madison Keys 6-2, 6-2 in a matchup of players who have reached the U.S. Open final and won the now-defunct Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   Azarenka is 5-1 against Pavlyuchenkova, whose victory came by retirement.
   All four remaining U.S. men — No. 31 seed John Isner, No. 32 seed Reilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Marcos Giron — lost to seeds in the bottom quarter of the draw. 
   In the second round of doubles:
   —Hugo Nys of Monaco and Tim Puetz of Germany ousted No. 3 seeds Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain 6-4, 6-4. Nys and Puetz won ATP 250 tournaments two weeks apart in Estoril and Lyon last month.
   —No. 9 seeds Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos, a product of Fremont in the San Francisco Bay Area who plays for Mexico, defeated Lara Arruabarena of Spain and Caroline Dolehide of the United States 6-4, 6-1. Fichman, 30, and Olmos, 28, are coming off the biggest title of their careers three weeks ago in the Italian Open.
   ATP Challenger Tour — In the doubles quarterfinals of the $52,080 Little Rock (Ark.) Open, No. 2 seeds Dennis Novikov of San Jose and Goncalo Oliveira of Portugal dispatched U.S. wild cards Jackson Allen and Maks Silagy 6-2, 6-3.

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