PARIS – Every day is a new day at Grand Slams. And as well as the young U.S. women and veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands played in their first three rounds, they could not keep up their level against excellent opponents on a cold Monday at Roland Garros.
World No. 1 Serena Williams is now the only American woman standing as Mattek-Sands lost a tough two- setter to the much-improved Maria Kirilenko, Sloane Stephens took a respectable 6-4 6-3 defeat to defending champion Maria Sharapova, and Jamie Hampton lost her way in fading light and fell to former No. 1Jelena Jankovic, 6-4, 6-3.
Unfortunately for Mattek-Sands, who has had a terrific year overall and will crack at least the Top 60 again when the rankings are released next week, she began feeling dizzy late in the first set, calling for trainer down, 5-4. She took a pill, but it didn’t help enough, though afterward she refused to blame the defeat on her condition.
"It was just kind of a little bit of everything, cramps and stuff like that," she said. "Doctor gave me what he had and it helped. I wouldn't say it was a big hindrance. Maria played great. She's tough. I started out strong and then made some mistakes, but feel like I fought hard and did my best to try and come back. I have a lot to build on from this, so I'm happy with my tournament."
Stephens fell easily to Sharapova in Rome two weeks ago, so she can be pleased that she fought her tooth and nail for two sets. The Russian’s experience showed, though, as she was more patient and stayed within herself throughout, while Stephens was a bit wild at times, which proved to be her undoing.
Still, afterward Sharapova said that world No. 17 has a world of potential.
"I think she has a lot of things in her game in which there is a lot of room for improvement," Sharapova said. "There are some players which you play against and you're not quite sure if they will be able to develop something to a different level. But I think there's a lot of room for a few things to improve, and I think she will. She has a big game. She has big strokes, pretty good serve. Maybe not as consistent as she would like at this point, but she has a lot of time to develop it. This is a really important time in her career. If she's in the right hands at the right time, I'm sure she's gonna have a great career."
Stephens was not upset with the loss, saying that she felt like she competed well and stayed tough against a standout competitor. She said she was enjoying herself on court, which wasn't the case during part of the last winter and spring, when she struggled to match her semifinal showing at the 2013 Australian Open. She now plans to go home and then return for the grass-court season in more positive mental space.
"It's obviously been a stressful couple of months, so just to get out and not have to worry about anything and just play, it was fine," she said." I'm over it. I played well. I did what I could. I had a good week. Just going to move on and take this confidence and keep going."
Stephens and Mattek-Sands had reached the fourth round of a major before, but this was a first for the 23-year-old Hampton. She went on to Suzanne Lenglen Stadium after a marathon five-setter between France’s Richard Gasquet and Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka had been completed and the emotionally exhausted crowd had mostly filed out.
Hampton scored an amazing win over 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the third round, but Jankovic is a much more secure player on clay than the Czech is. She is also more experienced and is an excellent counterpuncher when she is on, so she forced Hampton to constantly be the aggressor.
That proved to be the unsettled Hampton’s undoing, as she only managed to hit nine winners and committed 29 unforced errors.
After the match, Hampton said it was simply a bad day at the office. She was disappointed because she had her eyes on the quarterfinals, but she feels like her season is headed in the right direction and she excited for what’s to come.
Hampton next heads to the grass-court tournament in Birmingham, England, which begins next week.
"Last year on the clay I won one match," Hampton said. "So [this] has been a really good clay-court season for me. [I] Made [the] semis of a premier event (in Brussels, Belgium) and [the] second week of a Grand Slam. It's been really encouraging, and since Australia I haven't had any problems with my injuries. So I'm really looking forward to the grass because it suits my game a little bit more."
The 28-year-old Mattek-Sands felt much the same and has already put her loss behind her. She has learned that if she gets become too negative, it can affect her future performances. Plus, she still has doubles to play as she and her partner, Sania Mirza, are seeded and still in the draw.
"It was just really positive, building myself up after the match, because that's what was really important," she said. "That's what I wanted to take away. It's easy to get down on yourself right way. I feel like I have done that before and I feel like that's a waste of energy."