JOHNSON, VENUS HEADLINE STRONG
DAY 4 AT FRENCH OPEN
Ashley Marshall | May 31, 2017
Team USA enjoyed its best day in Paris so far this year, with five Americans advancing on Day 4 of the French Open.
Top American women’s seed Venus Williams and men’s No. 25 seed Steve Johnson booked their places in the third round, as did CiCi Bellis, Shelby Rogers and qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
Johnson, the lone American man in action on Day 4, backed up an emotional five-set victory over Yuichi Sugita on Monday with another gutsy effort over Croatia’s Borna Coric, toppling the rising star, 6-2, 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, in a grueling mid-afternoon battle that lasted almost four hours.
After jumping out to an early first-set lead in 35 minutes, Johnson, whose father Steve Sr. passed away less than three weeks ago, saved two set points to take a commanding two-set lead. A lone break helped Coric take the third, and the Croat saved four match points at 4-5 in the fourth set to force a tiebreak.
But Coric missed two chances to send the match into a decider before Johnson wrapped up the victory on his fifth attempt, winning the deciding breaker, 8-6.
His reward is a round-of-32 matchup with red-hot No. 6 seed Dominic Thiem, who beat Johnson in their only previous contest in the round of 32 in Nice in 2014. This spring, Thiem reached the final in Barcelona and Madrid and the semis in Rome, with wins over Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.
Joining Johnson in the third round is No. 10 seed Williams, who needed just 80 minutes to roll past former Top 35 player Kurumi Nara of Japan, 6-3, 6-1.
Venus was cheered on inside Court Philippe-Chatrier by younger sister Serena, who is expecting her first child this fall and is sitting out the rest of the season. She saw quite a performance, with Venus dictating the majority of points from the baseline. The American, who plays Belgium’s Elise Mertens in the third round on Friday, recorded 30 winners and as many unforced errors, compared with Nara’s six winners and 17 miscues.
Elsewhere on Day 4, CiCi Bellis scored one of the biggest upsets of the day, defeating No. 18 seed and 2016 French Open semifinalist Kiki Bertens, 6-3, 7-6, avenging a round-of-32 loss in Rome two weeks ago. The victory gives the American her eighth clay-court win of the month, after no pro wins on the surface in the rest of her career.
Bertens came into the tournament hot after winning Nuremberg, reaching the semifinal of Rome and advancing to the quarterfinal of Bogota and Madrid. But it was Bellis who played the better tennis, breaking Bertens five times and capturing her fifth match point to set up a third-round clash with No. 11 seed Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Canadian qualifier Francoise Abanda, 6-0, 6-0.
Also advancing was Shelby Rogers, who defeated Turkey’s world No. 155 Cagla Buyukakcay, 7-6, 6-4. Rogers, who broke through in Paris last year with a surprise run to the quarterfinals, will play No. 13 seed Kristina Mladenovic in Round 3.
Day 4 also saw success for qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who won her fifth match at Roland Garros in seven days, taking out No. 15 seed Petra Kvitova, 7-6, 7-6. Kvitova was the pre-tournament feel-good story having recovered from a knife attack in December, but it was the American who kept the hope of a title alive despite a rocky start.
Mattek-Sands, who won a women’s doubles title in Paris two years ago with Lucie Safarova, started slowly, dropping serve in two of her first three service games to fall behind 4-2. A crucial break in the eighth game of the set got her back on even footing and helped her force a tiebreak, which she won after losing the opening three points. The second set went much the same way, with two breaks each prompting a tiebreak. Kvitova raced out to a 4-1 lead, but Mattek-Sands claimed six of the final seven points, emerging victorious on her first match point.
Mattek-Sands will face No. 23 seed Sam Stosur, the 2010 French Open finalist and 2011 US Open champion, in the third round.
The only American to lose in singles competition on Day 4 was Madison Brengle, who fell to No. 30 seed Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets.
Thursday’s second-round action sees No. 12 seed Madison Keys against Petra Martic, No. 21 men’s seed John Isner against Paolo Lorenzi, Varvara Lepchenko against 14th-seeded Russian Elena Vesnina, and Taylor Townsend versus Su-Wei Hsieh.