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Tuesday September 21st, 2021 12:26AM

Early departure: Aryna Sabalenka upset at French Open

By The Associated Press
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PARIS (AP) — The early departure of seeded players in the women's tournament continued at the French Open as third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka was upset by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Friday in the third round of the clay-court Grand Slam.

The women’s side at Roland Garros is now without its top three seeds after Sabalenka lost 6-4, 2-6, 6-0.

Sabalenka had been the highest remaining seed after top-ranked Ash Barty retired from her second-round match injured on Thursday. Second-seeded Naomi Osaka withdrew after the first round, saying she is taking a break from competition for mental health reasons.

The fourth-seeded Sofia Kenin is now the highest-seeded player in the fray and faces Jessica Pegula on Saturday.

Pavlyuchenkova had lost to Sabalenka in straight sets in the Madrid semifinals last month. This time, she made the most of her rival's erratic display — Sabalenka hit 39 unforced errors — to reach the fourth round for the first time since she made it to the quarterfinals in Paris a decade ago.

“That was a while ago," the 31st-seeded Pavlyuchenkova said. “I'm enjoying much more now every point (in) the tough matches than I used to before. I guess that also (is) the reason why I’m still here in the second week."

Her next opponent will be Victoria Azarenka, who beat 23rd-seeded Madison Keys 6-2, 6-2 in 70 minutes. The two-time Grand Slam champion reached the fourth round for the first time since her semifinal run in 2013.

Azarenka had played only one match on clay this season entering Roland Garros. She had withdrawn from the Madrid Open after her first-round win there due to a back injury.

Unseeded Tamara Zidansek and 21st-seeded Elena Rybakina also advanced, reaching the second week at a major for the first time.

Early in the afternoon, play was interrupted by rain on all courts besides the main stadium — where the roof was closed. Federico Delbonis said the interruption helped him calm down after stress started to get hold of him toward the end of the second set of his match with Fabio Fognini.

Delbonis took a quick shower and eventually prevailed 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the first time.

Fognini required treatment from a trainer after bloodying his hand by punching his racket strings in frustration multiple times early in the second set.

Following a marathon five-set battle, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina upset 15th-seeded Casper Ruud 7-6 (3), 2-6, 7-6 (6), 0-6, 7-5 in 4 hours, 35 minutes. In the final game that lasted 16 minutes, Davidovich Fokina hit an effective underhand serve to save a break point. Ruud appeared surprised by the serve and had to scramble to get in position for a backhand return that he netted.

Kei Nishikori followed up two consecutive five-setters with a one-set victory, reaching the second week at Roland Garros for the seventh time after qualifier Henri Laaksonen retired with a thigh injury while trailing 7-5.

Nishikori will next play sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev, who beat Laslo Djere of Serbia 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev also advanced with a straight-set win over big server Reilly Opelka of the United States.

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Dampf reported from Rome.

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More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Tennis, AP Sports - Men's Tennis, AP Sports - Women's Tennis
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