Iga Swiatek is the only top-10 player remaining in the women's singles draw at the French Open after Maria Sakkari beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets.

Sakkari moved into the quarter-finals of a grand slam for the first time with an emphatic 6-1 6-3 defeat of last year's runner-up Kenin on Monday.

Greek 17th seed Sakkari will face either defending champion Swiatek or Marta Kostyuk in the last eight at Roland Garros.

The 25-year-old is the first Greek woman to reach a grand slam quarter-final in the Open Era.

World number four Kenin made 32 unforced errors and racked up nine double faults in a one-sided contest on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

Sakkari broke the 2020 Australian Open champion, beaten by Swiatek in the 2020 final, six times and lost just four points on her first serve to march into the last eight.

Coco Gauff, 17, earlier became the youngest grand slam quarter-finalist for 15 years by beating Ons Jabeur 6-3 6-1, while Barbora Krejcikova thrashed Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-0 in Paris.

Coco Gauff acknowledges she is playing her best ever tennis at a grand slam tournament but is not yet thinking about winning the French Open.

The 17-year-old reached her first major quarter-final by brilliantly beating Ons Jabeur 6-3 6-1 in the fourth round on Monday.

Gauff said afterwards she was "definitely still learning" how to play on clay, but her progress on the biggest stage is evident – to herself and others.

"Yeah, it definitely does feel different," she said. "I just feel like it's been, I guess, professional.

"I feel like all my matches have been pretty straightforward wins, like no crazy three sets and stuff. As we know, I have had a lot of those in the past.

"I just feel like this has been the most consistent tennis I have played at this level. Hopefully I can keep that going."

Gauff had previously reached the fourth round at the Australian Open and Wimbledon but lost on both occasions.

"I think I was just more hungry for it," she said this time.

"I feel like in the past I felt like I was satisfied with the run I made in the tournament, so maybe I feel like I came into the matches not as hungry. I know it's probably not a good thing to say but it's the truth.

"But I think, with a lot of young players, we tend to get satisfied with certain results before we realise that we can really shoot for more.

"You know, my message has always been 'dream big and aim higher'.

"I think that today was honestly coming from that message of aiming higher, because I could have easily said I'm satisfied with the fourth round and everything.

"Today I think I just came in more hungry and wanting more compared to my last times I have been in the fourth round."

The American sensation is now just three wins away from a remarkable first grand slam triumph, but she is not getting ahead of herself.

Gauff refused to be distracted even from an ongoing UNO tournament with her parents in their hotel room, in which she says she leads the way with 16 wins.

"To be honest, I haven't really thought about [the championship]," she said. "I'm really just focused on the match ahead of me.

"I don't want to think too far. You have to focus on what's in front of you. That's really the only answer I have.

"Right now, I'm focused on going to sleep tonight and winning the next UNO match and then tomorrow we focus back on practice and then get ready for the quarter-finals."

Gauff became the youngest major quarter-finalist since 2006 with her win.

"I don't really care if you guys talk about my age or not," she said. "I'm 17. That's the truth. If you guys want to talk about it, it's fine.

"I mean, on the court, I promise you my opponents probably don't care about how old I am. They want to beat me just as bad regardless of my age, and I want to beat them just as bad regardless of their age.

"I don't mind if you guys talk about my age. It's a fact to me and it's going to change every year.

"I'm only going to be 17 once, so you might as well talk about it while I'm 17."

It is already only a matter of time before Coco Gauff becomes a major champion, according to beaten French Open opponent Ons Jabeur.

Gauff raced into the last eight at Roland Garros with a ruthless 6-3 6-1 victory over Jabeur on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Monday.

In doing so, the 17-year-old become the youngest female quarter-finalist at a grand slam in 15 years.

Gauff had previously reached the fourth round at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon and won in Paris as a junior.

After a pair of WTA Tour career titles, the next step is to triumph on the biggest stage.

Defending champion Iga Swiatek was still to play on Monday, but Jabeur considers Gauff a good match for the 20-year-old.

"She's playing really good, I've got to say," Jabeur said. "But you never know. Iga is playing really well. It's going to be an interesting matchup if they're going to meet in the semi-final.

"Honestly, if she's not going to win it now, she's probably going to win another time."

Speaking on court, Gauff said: "I'm super happy that I was able to reach my first quarter-final. I played really well today, so I'm happy about that.

"Parma [the Emilia-Romagna Open, won last month] gave me a lot of confidence, especially on the clay.

"It's my first title on clay, so coming here it gave me a lot of confidence and taught me a lot [about] how to close matches and deal with the pressure on important points."

Barbora Krejcikova is up next, having beaten Sloane Stephens, and post-match questions unsurprisingly focused on the quarter-final.

Krejcikova said Gauff "is going to be the next star" and added: "She's young. She's incredible. She's doing really well. She has the weapons. She has the game. I think she's mentally really tough."

The Czech, a 6-2 6-0 winner, said: "I don't know how I would approach this if I was 17 and I was actually doing this well.

"I think it would be just too much pressure, I think it would be just too much pressure for me and maybe I won't be able to handle this. Everybody is different. Everybody is doing a different thing. She's doing really good."

Serena Williams said she would head to London "pretty soon" to start preparation for Wimbledon after being dumped out of the French Open by Elena Rybakina.

Rybakina, who represents Kazakhstan, had not previously been past the second round at Roland Garros but she was in superb form against 23-time grand slam winner Williams, storming to a 6-3 7-5 win in one hour and 19 minutes to reach the quarter-finals.

Russian-born Rybakina was excellent value for her stunning win on Sunday, converting five of her seven break points and winning almost 60 per cent of points returning Williams' second serve.

Far from being disappointed at her early exit, Williams said she was just pleased to have put together a run of three consecutive wins on clay before Sunday's defeat.

"I got some good matches in here," Williams told a media conference. "I did not have the best clay-court season, but it was good to finally get some wins on clay. I'm in a much better place than when I got here.

"It was definitely close. There is literally a point here, a point there, that could change the whole course of the match. I'm not winning those points. That literally could just change everything."

Asked if it might be her final French Open match, the 39-year-old American said: "I'm definitely not thinking about it at all. I'm definitely thinking just about other things but not about that."

One of those "other things" will be Wimbledon, where she has been a singles champion seven times. Asked when she would travel to London for the tournament that begins on June 28, Williams said: "[I will] possibly go home and regroup and then get ready for London. But I don't know. I have to get there early for quarantine, so, yeah, it has to be pretty soon."

Rybakina, who will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-finals, had never faced Williams before.

She said: "When I was small, of course I was watching her matches on TV. It's difficult to expect anything because you watch on TV and it's completely different when you come on court and you feel the power and everything. I knew that the serve was going to be difficult for me to return. She's powerful, but I was ready."

PAVLYUCHENKOVA ENDS LONG WAIT FOR LAST-EIGHT SPOT

Pavlyuchenkova reached the quarter-finals of the French Open for the first time in 10 years with a 5-7 6-3 6-2 victory over 15th seed Victoria Azarenka.

It is the seventh grand slam quarter-final for Pavlyuchenkova, who is seeded 31st at Roland Garros, and her first outside Australia in five years.

The Russian had lost to Azarenka in five of their last six matches and looked set for more disappointment when the Belarusian powered back from 3-1 down to take the first set.

However, Pavlyuchenkova fought back in style, hitting 24 winners and making just 11 unforced errors over the next two sets to book her last-eight spot in two hours and nine minutes.

"It's tough to remember what I felt like 10 years ago," she said. "I'd say completely different. I'm very happy also now. I think I feel a little different. I feel more mature. It's a good moment, I'm enjoying it, but I've got work to do.

"I hope I show more maturity as well, smarter tennis, more consistent. I feel quite fit as well, considering the fact that I'm not the youngest on tour now.

"I know what I have to do and I know what I want to do; I'm trying to work for that."

Reflecting on her defeat, Azarenka said: "There's always some positives. The most positive thing I will say from this week, not the whole season, is that I've been able to play pain free. That was my goal here. Everything else is something that can be analysed later."

BADOSA AND ZIDANESK REACH QUARTER-FINALS FOR FIRST TIME

Paula Badosa will compete in her first grand slam quarter-final after overcoming 20th seed Marketa Vondrousova 6-4 3-6 6-2.

Badosa, who reached the semi-finals in Charleston and Madrid before picking up her maiden title in Belgrade a fortnight ago, saved six of the nine break points she faced and converted five of the 10 she forced on her opponent's serve.

"I always thought that tennis is 80 per cent mental," the Spanish 33rd seed said. "I think when you're in these rounds, of course the racket is important, how you play, it's very important.

"I think it's a little bit more important how you manage all the nerves in the important moments. I think when you're here, the mental thing, it's a little bit the key."

She will face world number 85 Tamara Zidanesk, who became the first player representing Slovenia to reach the last eight of a grand slam thanks to a 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 win over Sorana Cirstea.

The best previous major performance by a player representing Slovenia had been the three fourth-round runs by Katarina Srebotnik at Roland Garros in 2002 and 2008, and the US Open in 2008.

"I'm getting a lot of messages that everyone is watching," Zidansek said. "It means a lot to me that I'm able to get across to the message to young people and everyone in Slovenia that we can do it.

"We're a small country; we don't have that many players, but we have good players."

Serena Williams crashed out of the French Open in the fourth round as 21st seed Elena Rybakina sealed a stunning 6-3 7-5 victory on Sunday.

Rybakina, representing Kazakhstan, had not previously been past the second round at Roland Garros but she is enjoying a strong run this fortnight and showed no nerves against her illustrious opponent, hitting a series of impressive winners that the 39-year-old Williams could not match.

After breaking back and then moving 5-4 ahead in the second set, it seemed 23-time grand slam champion Williams might take the match to a decider, but Rybakina reeled off the next three games to seal the biggest win of her career and set up a quarter-final clash against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. 

Rybakina started in a confident mood, winning her first two service games without dropping a point.

Williams came under intense pressure on her second service game, with Rybakina breaking and opening up a 3-1 lead when the American sent a backhand long.

Williams broke back in the seventh game of the match, but she squandered the opportunity to pull level when Rybakina broke again in the next game.

A nervy Rybakina needed four set points to win the opener 6-3, sealing it in 36 minutes when Williams flashed a cross-court backhand long.

Williams found herself in more trouble at the start of the second set, Rybakina comfortably breaking to move 1-0 up, but the three-time Roland Garros champion restored parity in the next game with four consecutive winners.

Rybakina missed a golden opportunity to set up a break point in the fifth match of the second set, sending a backhand long with Williams out of position, the American surviving to serve out the game and move 3-2 up.

The 21-year-old won the next game with an ace, setting the stage for her to break Williams and move 4-3 ahead.

Williams roared back, though, winning the next two games to leave Rybakina serving to stay in the set.

Not only did she do that, but she won the next two games as well to put the seal on a memorable victory that took one hour and 19 minutes.

 

DATA SLAM: RYBAKINA PUNISHES SLOPPY WILLIAMS

Williams looked well off the pace against an opponent who certainly made the most of her first appearance in the fourth round of a grand slam tournament. Williams won just 59 per cent of the points from her first serve, compared to Rybakina's 69 per cent, while the Russian-born player won 86 per cent of points at the net compared to Williams' 50 per cent.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Williams – 15/19
Rybakina – 21/13

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Williams – 2/1
Rybakina – 4/4

BREAK POINTS WON

Williams – 3/5
Rybakina – 5/7

Coco Gauff was given only a light workout as she led the American talents advancing at the French Open on Saturday.

Seventeen-year-old Gauff played compatriot Jennifer Brady but secured swift passage to round four as her opponent was forced to retire due to injury.

The teenager had produced a ruthless, relentless 19-minute opening set, winning 6-1 before Brady called a medical timeout.

She quickly made the call to withdraw, allowing Gauff to move on and continue her best run at a tournament she won as a junior in 2018. Ons Jabeur is next.

Gauff will be among four Americans in the last 16 after 2020 finalist Sofia Kenin came from behind to beat another compatriot in Jessica Pegula in three sets. Sloane Stephens overcame 18th seed Karolina Muchova in two.

AMERICAN ACES

There had been eight players from the United States in the third round at Roland Garros, with only Madison Keys – beaten by Victoria Azarenka on Friday – losing to a foreign opponent.

Stephens said: "I think obviously American women tennis is in a really great place. I think we all are having good results and everyone is playing well.

"Obviously, it's different. I think we're all friends. We're all very friendly. We all support each other. We all love seeing each other do well, which I think is really nice.

"It's great to have so many players in the top 100, just because we're just a super strong nation right now.

"I think that's also a very cool, super strong Fed Cup team. Everything that you would think of, we have, so I think that's really cool."

SVITOLINA SUFFERS

Stephens will face Barbora Krejcikova next after she claimed Saturday's biggest scalp, defeating fifth seed Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-2.

Krejcikova identified an epic battle at 4-3 in the opener as the "key game", staving off four break points to hold.

On Svitolina's serve, the Czech converted six of 13 opportunities and, despite breaking in the very first game, felt she improved as the match wore on.

"It was really tough because also I didn't know Elina that well," Krejcikova said. "I never played her, I never practiced [with] her.

"So I didn't really know, I wasn't really sure what kind of ball I should expect. I felt weird.

"But as the match went on and I was playing and playing, I just started to feel better, and actually at the end I was just feeling really well and I was just going for my shots."

SWIATEK SWAGGERS

Kenin has Maria Sakkari in the fourth round following her win over Elise Mertens, but the American could be excused for already having one eye on a potential quarter-final.

She is on course to meet defending champion Iga Swiatek, who beat Kenin in last year's final and is in supreme form again in 2021.

Anna Kontaveit broke Swiatek in the opening game of their clash but could not protect her advantage and was edged in a tie-break.

That set the stage for a devastating display of Swiatek's talent in which she claimed a bagel with only a single unforced error.

Despite the dominant nature of the second set, the Pole said: "It's good to have matches like that because it keeps you down to earth and you have to just be careful on every point and on every game."

Serena Williams played down her prospects of winning a record-equalling 24th grand slam title at the French Open, insisting the standard on the WTA Tour is now so high that every match is a battle.

The three-time champion at Roland Garros made it through to the last 16 thanks to a 6-4 6-4 win over Danielle Collins.

However, the American - who has been stuck one slam behind Margaret Court's career tally ever since winning the 2017 Australian Open - had to work hard on Friday, including battling back from 4-1 down in the second set as she reeled off five games in a row to move on.

Williams is the only top-10 player left in her half of the draw following Aryna Sabalenka's exit earlier in the day, yet knows there is a long way to go in her quest to reign once more in the Paris.

"There's still a lot of matches, a lot of great players, as we can see," Williams told the media.

"There's so much depth in this game now, it doesn't matter if you're playing in the first round or not, you really have to fight for every match and nothing comes easy."

After struggling for form coming into the tournament, Williams feels tough contests like the one she had against Collins can only be beneficial.

"Today in particular, this whole week thus far, I just needed a win," the seventh seed said. "I needed to win tough matches. I needed to win sets. I needed to win being down.

"I needed to find me, know who I am. Nobody else is Serena out here. It's me. It's pretty cool."

Elena Rybakina – an impressive 6-1 6-4 winner against Elena Vesnina in little over an hour - is the next hurdle for Williams to clear.

SABALENKA SUNK, AZARENKA EASES THROUGH

With Ashleigh Barty forced to retire through injury and Naomi Osaka withdrawing from the event due to mental health concerns, Sabalenka was the highest seed left – well, she was until coming up against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Sabalenka rallied after losing the first set to draw level but then fell apart in the decider, serving four double faults and producing 17 unforced errors.

Pavlyuchenkova capitalised to complete a 6-4 2-6 6-0 triumph that avenges a loss to her opponent at the semi-final stage in Madrid during this year's clay-court swing.

Next up for the 31st seed will be Victoria Azarenka, the former world number one who eased past Madison Keys 6-2 6-2.

"I felt I played very disciplined today. I played smart. I tried to be aggressive," Azarenka said after winning in 70 minutes.

"My opponent, Madison, she really likes to dictate the points, so I tried to take that away from her, really step in, and make a lot of different balls so I’m pretty proud I was able to sustain my level."

MIXED FORTUNES FOR ROMANIAN DUO

Sorana Cirstea explained how a change in approach has helped her roll back the years after overcoming Daria Kasatkina in straight sets.

The Romanian's solitary quarter-final appearance at a slam came in the French capital 12 years ago but she has been in excellent form on clay this year, including claiming a title in Istanbul and a final appearance in Strasbourg.

"I'm taking it day by day, like I'm not going too far ahead with my mind," Cirstea told the media. "I'm actually enjoying all this process. Definitely I'm enjoying [it] much more than I did 12 years ago, and I think this comes with maturity."

While Cirstea has not made it this far in a grand slam for a long while, next opponent Tamara Zidansek is into the last 16 at a major for the first time.

Despite losing the first set in a hurry against Katerina Siniakova, the Slovenian rallied impressively to seal a 0-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 victory and continue an impressive run that was started by an upset over Bianca Andreescu.

Paula Badosa also needed three sets to overcome Romania's Ana Bogdan, including saving a match point, and extend her winning streak to eight matches as she came out on top 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4. Indeed, for the season she now boasts a 16-2 record on clay.

Serena Williams produced an emphatic fightback in the second set to eliminate Danielle Collins 6-4 6-4 and secure a spot in the last 16 of the French Open.

While the first set provided few difficulties for the 23-time grand slam winner, she found herself trailing 4-1 in the second as Collins threatened to force a decider.

But Williams channelled her frustrations impressively, and far better than her opponent, with the 39-year-old setting up a fourth-round clash with Elena Rybakina.

Williams might have had an early advantage as some brutal returns gave her three break points in just the second game of the match, but Collins came back to hold.

The first break eventually came in the seventh game of the contest, Williams squeezing a shot over after a drop shot, then guiding a return to the back of the court with Collins in no position to respond.

Although a second break in the first set eluded Williams, she sealed the set on her serve soon after.

The second set saw Collins' serve broken in the first game, but her response was emphatic, producing back-to-back breaks of her own.

That had Collins in control of the set at 3-1 up, with Williams' frustration evident at the end of almost every point and not helped by her five double faults, one of which gifted away a second break.

Williams began to use that anger for good as she played even more aggressively.

Initially Collins rode the punches well, playing Williams impressively as she forced the seventh seed out wide and then read her cross-court return to seal the fifth game to love and a 4-1 lead.

But Collins quickly fell apart, Williams winning five games on the trot as she came back from a precarious position to seal her progression, showing commendable mental fortitude along the way.


DATA SLAM: GO BIG OR GO HOME

It is fair to say Williams' serving was a little wild at times – she was looking to be aggressive to put Collins on the back foot as early as possible. However, it left her with as many double faults as aces, five apiece. Nevertheless, the three-time French Open champion got the job done, with a huge serve ultimately sealing the victory.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Williams – 22/20

Collins – 18/21

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Williams – 5/5

Collins – 1/3

BREAK POINTS WON

Williams – 4/8

Collins – 2/4

Aryna Sabalenka has been eliminated at the French Open, meaning all three of the top seeds in the women's singles are now out.

After Ash Barty was beaten and Naomi Osaka withdrew this week, third seed Sabalenka joined them in exiting the tournament on Friday.

Number 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova triumphed 6-4 2-6 6-0 in a battle lasting 100 minutes.

Sabalenka came into the French Open with form behind her having beaten Barty to win the Madrid Open a month after losing to the Australian in another final appearance in Stuttgart.

But depsite having 10 WTA titles to her name, Sabalenka's wait to make a big grand slam impact as a singles player goes on - she he is still yet to reach the quarter-finals at any of the four majors.

Sabalenka won only 10 of her 30 second-serve points as Pavlyuchenkova broke her on five occasions in the match, storming to victory in the decider.

Pavlyuchenkova will face Victoria Azarenka - who defeated Madison Keys - in round four.

Sixteen seeds have now been beaten or withdrawn in the opening days of action at Roland Garros up until the middle of Friday's play.

Ashleigh Barty described her retirement from Thursday's second-round clash against Magda Linette at the French Open as "heartbreaking". 

Top seed Barty required medical attention during her first-round win over Bernarda Pera two days earlier, with a hip injury the cause for concern.

The 25-year-old – back at Roland Garros for the first time since winning her maiden grand slam title in Paris in 2019 – vowed to "play through the pain barrier", yet the injury prevented her from continuing when 1-6 2-2 down against her Polish opponent, who will face Ons Jabeur in the next round. 

The Australian's retirement throws the draw wide open, with both of the top seeds now out after Naomi Osaka decided to withdraw amid her disagreement with tournament organisers.

Barty's clay-court season ended with a title in Stuttgart, a runner-up finish in Madrid and an appearance in the quarter-finals in Rome, and she could scarcely hide her disappointment at the way things ended for her in the French capital. 

"It's heartbreaking," she told a media conference. "I mean, we have had such a brilliant clay-court season, and to get a little bit unlucky with timing and have something acute happen over the weekend and just kind of run out of time against the clock is disappointing. 

"It won't take away the brilliant three months that we have had, as much as it hurts right now.

"We did everything, absolutely everything we could to give myself a chance. It was a small miracle that we were able to get on court for that first round.

"I just tried to give myself a chance and see how it felt. Obviously practicing, we've had our restrictions and essentially tried to stay as fresh as possible and not aggravate it in any way, but in a match that's unavoidable at times.

"It got worse today and it was becoming at the stage where it was unsafe. As hard as it is, it had to be done. Right from the first game, I was battling the pain, and it just became too severe."

SVITOLINA CRUISES THROUGH, PLISKOVA DUMPED OUT

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina booked a third-round meeting with Barbora Krejcikova after seeing off Ann Li 6-0 6-4. 

Svitolina landed 74 per cent of her first serves and struck 10 winners to cruise past the American in the opening set. 

Li bounced back in the second, roaring into a 4-1 lead, but Svitolina clawed her way back to ensure she reached at least the third round in seven of her nine appearances at Roland Garros. 

Svitolina, who overturned a 2-5 deficit in the second set to beat Oceane Babel in the first round, said: "In the end, what I'm really happy with is the way that I was down in both matches in the second set and found a way. 

"I found a good level and didn't give up on the second set. That was a really good point for me, and I was really playing composed in both matches. It was two different players, but I was really happy that I could win in two sets in both matches."

Up next is Krejcikova, who overcame Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2 6-3.

There is no place in the third round for ninth seed Karolina Pliskova, who was soundly beaten 7-5 6-1 by Sloane Stephens, while number 13 seed Jennifer Brady battled past Fiona Ferro 6-1 1-6 6-4. 

KENIN WINS BATTLE OF THE AMERICANS

Fourth seed Sofia Kenin defeated fellow American Hailey Baptiste, a qualifier who won four matches in Paris on her French Open debut, 7-5 6-3. 

Kenin will now face another compatriot in 28th seed Jessica Pegula, who beat Tereza Martincova 6-3 6-3.

Elsewhere, defending champion Iga Swiatek thumped Rebecca Peterson 6-1 6-1, Coco Gauff got the better of Wang Qiang 6-3 7-6 (7-1), and Elise Mertens edged out Zarina Diyas 6-4 2-6 6-4.

Ashleigh Barty's French Open campaign came to an end in sad circumstances on Thursday as the world number one was forced to retire hurt when 1-6 2-2 down against Magda Linette.

Barty required medical attention during her first-round win over Bernarda Pera two days earlier, with a hip injury a cause for concern.

The 25-year-old – back at Roland Garros for the first time since winning her maiden grand slam title in Paris in 2019 – vowed to "play through the pain barrier", yet the injury proved too much to deal with on Thursday.

Barty's retirement throws the draw wide open, with both of the top seeds now out after Naomi Osaka decided to withdraw amid her disagreement with tournament organisers.

Barty's discomfort seemed evident from the off, though Linette did have to fend off an immediate break point to hold in the first game.

The Australian had to claw back three break points on her first serve, however, and a double fault in game four handed Linette the first break, with Barty clearly struggling when attempting to twist to her right.

A lame backhand into the net gifted Linette another break, and the Pole served out the set at the first time of asking with just 36 minutes on the clock.

After a lengthy delay in which she received treatment both on court and back in the changing rooms, Barty returned with seemingly renewed vigour to hold the first game of set two with relative ease.

Linette, though, kept her composure, with a couple of aces helping her level things up, and despite winning the next game thanks to her speed of serve, Barty was grimacing again.

Some excellent returns from Barty kept Linette at bay, but the world number 45 struck a powerful serve down the middle to make it 2-2, and that proved the final straw for her opponent, who shook hands at the net and, with a wave to the crowd, trudged down the tunnel.

DATA SLAM: BARTY'S BRAVE FACE NOT ENOUGH

Linette has claimed one of the biggest wins of her career, though the 29-year-old would have wished for it to come in more glorious circumstances. Barty tried her best to continue, but the injury was having too much of an impact on the key parts of her game – she made four double faults to Linette's zero, and tallied up 18 unforced errors, double the amount of her opponent.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Barty – 9/18
Linette – 12/9

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Barty – 2/4
Linette – 4/0

BREAK POINTS WON
Barty – 0/1
Linette – 2/7

Naomi Osaka's shock withdrawal from the French Open has raised questions over news conferences and their impact on mental health for athletes.

Osaka pulled out of Roland Garros on Monday, a day after tournament organisers fined the four-time grand slam champion and threatened her with more severe sanctions for refusing to attend mandatory media conferences.

The 23-year-old world number two and Japanese star had opened up about her mental health problems, revealing in a statement she has had "long bouts of depression" since claiming the 2018 US Open.

While her WTA and ATP Tour colleagues voiced their support, Osaka's stance has sparked controversy, though more importantly it has highlighted the growing issue of mental health problems in sport.

"I think it's a very important stance because it really highlights how sport has really looked at challenging issues through either the paradigm of sport or business," World Players Association executive director Brendan Schwab told Stats Perform. "Here, there is a very simple rule put in place that athletes have to attend post-match media conferences in order to promote visibility around the sport and then to promote the commercial interests of the sport. But that rule is put in place without any due diligence being done as to the risks with that on athletes or athlete health and safety.

"If we look at health and safety, we have to look at not only physical health but mental health and wellbeing. There is a very clear rule but it's going to impact athletes differently. The tournament organisers and sports bodies need to understand they have this proactive duty and to be aware of those impacts, and where their rule is going to have a harmful impact, they need to just adjust their procedures and requirements accordingly."

German great Boris Becker voiced his concerns for Osaka's future following her decision to quit the French Open in Paris.

A six-time slam winner, Becker told Eurosport: "I always believed the media was part of the job. Without the media, there is no prize money, no contracts, you don't get half the cake. I hated the media and I didn't like talking to journalists, but you had to do it.

"Now she is pulling out of the tournament altogether because she can't cope with it and that raises much bigger questions for me. If she can't cope with the media in Paris, she can't cope with the media in Wimbledon or the US Open. So I almost feel like her career is in danger due to mental health issues."

It is a view shared by many past and present tennis players – news conferences are part and parcel of the job. But are they?

"I think everyone would agree that is an important part of the job, but certainly not an essential part. The essential part of the job is performing as a player. But we cannot ask people to perform in circumstances where it's unsafe. It may be safe for some and unsafe for others," said Schwab.

"As in this case, there is an understanding that a particular player has a pre-condition or certain vulnerability, not to respond to that is inexcusable. It's certainly no defence to say it's safe for other people. That is why we need a real deep understanding of mental health.

"It's really important to see it as an occupational issue. A sporting place is not an ordinary workplace. It is a workplace which has heightened pressure. Therefore, the likelihood of there being adverse mental health impacts are greater. It's not going to affect everyone equally and sports bodies need to be smart enough to understand that fact."

Schwab added: "For Naomi's incredibly courageous stance here, there will be other players for which withdrawal is not an option and they will continue to face the workplace and pressures associated with that and therefore exacerbating the harm they're already experiencing."

The World Players Association is the leading voice of organised players in the governance of world sport. It brings together 85,000 players across professional sport through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries.

As mental health becomes more prevalent in a professional sports environment amid the growing physical and emotional demands, Schwab said: "What our Players Associations do is they run player development and wellbeing programmes. The more sophisticated of those programmes would actually have employees and experts who are engaged by the player associations but often based in the teams or club environment, so the players know they can access them, they are proximate to the players so they can access tailored advice and support.

"Mental health is one of those things but there are many other issues that players will have to deal with. The athletic career itself is short-term and precarious, so there is constant effort being made to ensure players are developing holistically, they're pursuing education and other opportunities."

As Schwab voiced his disapproval of the "blanket rule" to post-match commitments, the Australian shed light on how the World Players Association prepares athletes for the media.

"Certainly part of our development programmes, we will provide what we call induction programmes so that the players go through what they will expect in terms of their athletic career, so they can excel as athletes and in the job," he said. "Clearly, dealing with the media is a very important part of those programmes, but you have to be really careful to ensure this isn't a 'one-size-fits-all' approach. Player associations have a common interest with sports bodies to maximise the interest in the sport and commercial viability so the players can share in their wealth, but the impact is dispiriting.

"If we look at the way players are being trained physically, physical loads are being tailored based on the individual athletic capacity of certain players. Physical health is not the only health and safety concern we have to be worried about. Players have different vulnerabilities in terms of mental health and therefore it makes absolute sense for sports bodies to tailor their commitments, so they don't unnecessarily expose more vulnerable players than others. A blanket rule, like in this case, where athletes feel vulnerable and are at risk of an adverse health consequence should not be imposed.

"I really do believe the tournament organisers, Roland Garros in particular, exacerbated that harm when they started to promote the fact that other players were comfortable to do the press conferences in order to put pressure on Naomi, and clearly that has proven to be incredibly counterproductive… if the starting point is not a recognition of their proactive duty to provide a safe workplace and that safe workplace means understanding the physical, mental and the wellbeing risks holistically and then tailoring for the particular needs of players individually, then these kind of problems will likely reoccur."

Serena Williams said her serve was the key to battling past Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-3 5-7 6-1 in the second round of the French Open on Wednesday.

The win improved Williams' second-round record in grand slams to 74-2, her only defeats at this stage having come against sister Venus Williams when Serena made her major debut at the 1998 Australian Open, and against Garbine Muguruza seven years ago at Roland Garros in Paris.

Serena Williams won 75 per cent of the points played behind her first serve and saved five of the seven break points she faced in the French capital midweek.

"I felt it was pretty good today," Williams said of her serve. "But I've been practicing my serve a lot. I've been playing unbelievable on my serve in practice. The other night was, 'wow'. I'm glad it came better today.

"My coach told me it's good that I'm doing it well in practice because eventually it will be good in the match.

"I had some really good chances in the second set to win that. If I would have won just one point here or there, like four or five times, it would have been a different second set.

"I know going into the third I just had zero in on those one important points. If I could just take those, it would be an easier time for me."

The 39-year-old will continue her quest for a fourth Roland Garros title and record-equalling 24th slam crown against compatriot Danielle Collins, who beat Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina 6-0 6-2.

"She's been playing well," Williams added. "She's also a really awesome person off the court. I love seeing her in the locker room.

"Ideally, it would be great if we didn't have to play each other because I always want her to do super well."

BENCIC DUMPED OUT BY KASATKINA

Belinda Bencic – the 10th seed – was dumped out by Daria Kasatkina 6-2 6-2, meaning there are no top-20 players left in the bottom quarter of the draw.

Bencic joined world number two Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu and Kiki Bertens in departing the tournament after a dismal performance against Kasatkina, who will play in the third round of a major for the first time since Wimbledon in 2018.

Kasatkina's serve was in rude health, with the Russian and 2018 French Open quarter-finalist never facing a break point and racking up eight aces.

"A lot has changed between 2018 and now," said Kasatkina. "There was one amazing year for me, which was important in a good and in the bad way.

"I learned a lot, and I think I became a little bit different, maybe more experienced, a bit more serious. Let's say I understand more why I'm winning or why I'm losing.

"At that time everything was just going with the wave, and I was not thinking that much. Now I'm analysing more of what's going on in the situation I'm in. Getting maybe a bit more mature."

The only player left in that quarter who has previously reached a grand slam semi-final is 20th seed Marketa Vondrousova, who breezed past Harmony Tan 6-1 6-3. 

SABALENKA SEES OFF COMPATRIOT SASNOVICH

Third seed Aryna Sabalenka booked her spot in the third round with a 7-5 6-3 win over fellow Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, despite tallying 34 unforced errors.

Sabalenka, who has the second-most tour-level wins this season with 27, said: "I'm really proud of myself that I was fighting no matter what, kind of trying to find my rhythm. I'm really happy with this win. It was a tough battle.

"I would say I definitely feel better this year, kind of believe that I can do well here on the clay court. I feel better and really happy to be here, to compete here."

Sabalenka will now face 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the next round after the Russian defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2 6-3. 

There were also wins for two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka, who overcame Clara Tauson 7-5 6-4, and Madison Keys, who beat Leylah Annie Fernandez 6-1 7-5.

Serena Williams took the long route through to round three at the French Open as the veteran battled past Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu.

The American waved the chequered flag at the Monaco Grand Prix 10 days prior to this clash, but there will be no white flag in Paris yet from Williams who dug deep for a 6-3 5-7 6-1 win.

Three times a Roland Garros champion, Williams continued her search for more title-winning form on Court Philippe Chatrier, and a tricky clash with compatriot Danielle Collins will be next for the 39-year-old.

This win improved Williams' second-round record in grand slams to 74-2, her only defeats at this stage having come against sister Venus Williams when Serena made her debut in the majors at the 1998 Australian Open, and against Garbine Muguruza seven years ago at this tournament.

Williams controlled the opening set against Buzarnescu, but the Romanian world number 174 was a wily opponent and began to ask plenty of questions of the 23-time grand slam winner.

Having been as high as number 20 in the rankings, Buzarnescu was not intimidated. In 2018, she beat top-10 players Jelena Ostapenko and Elina Svitolina – twice, in Svitolina's case – and the 33-year-old broke to lead 4-2, with Williams recovering from 0-40 before netting a forehand followed by a backhand as the pressure told.

Williams broke back, yelling "Come on!" to rally herself, and she had two break chances again at 5-5, but could take neither.

Buzarnescu was the first to have a set point and an eye-catching cross-court backhand forced the decider.

Tension briefly filled the air but it soon drifted away, Williams taking command with an immediate break followed by another to lead 4-0, the decider going her way emphatically.

"She has a lot of skills," Williams said of Buzarnescu. "She plays really well on this surface in particular. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I'm excited to get through there. It was good competition."

DATA SLAM: LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN?

Williams lives to fight another day and perhaps a good workout will give her the confidence to come through battles that lie ahead. That record-equalling 24th slam remains a possibility this fortnight. Collins is next, a player Williams narrowly beat when they met at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne earlier this year, their one previous meeting. Serena has won two of her previous grand slams as the seventh seed before – at the 1999 US Open and the 2005 Australian Open.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Williams – 26/27
Buzarnescu – 25/28

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Williams – 5/2
Buzarnescu – 0/7

BREAK POINTS WON
Williams – 5/14
Buzarnescu – 2/7

Men's top seed Novak Djokovic says he empathizes with Naomi Osaka having been on the wrong side of the media in the past following her withdrawal from the 2021 French Open.

Four-time grand slam winner Osaka pulled out of Roland Garros on Monday, a day after tournament organisers said her continued refusal to attend compulsory news conferences could result in her being expelled from the Open.

Osaka had come out publicly prior to the French Open and announced she would not attend the news conferences after matches at Roland Garros, citing mental health reasons.

After winning in the first round, Osaka opted out and explained her decision in a social media statement where she said has had bouts of depression since winning the US Open in 2018 and never intended for her stance to become a distraction.

Djokovic, who came under fire last year for his role in the Adria Tour and his US Open default, was asked about Osaka's situation at his post-match news conferences after his straight sets win over Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday.

"Naomi is very young… I can understand her very well. I can empathise because I was on the wrong edge of the sword in my career many times with media," Djokovic said.

"I know how it feels. I support her. I think she was very brave to do that.

"I'm really sorry that she's going through painful times and suffering mentally. I wish her all the best.

"She's a very important player, brand and person for our sport. We need to have her back.

"This was a very bold decision from her side but she knows how she feels best. If she needs to take time and reflect and recharge, that's what she needed to do. I respect it fully. I hope she'll come back stronger."

Djokovic, who was 18 major titles to his name, added that he understood the stance of the French Open and other Grand Slams who have insisted on news conferences being mandatory after every match.

"The grand slams are protecting themselves and their own business," he said. "Of course, they're going to follow the rules and make sure you are complying otherwise you'll be paying fines and getting sanctioning.

"It's not surprising to me that that was their reaction. We're used to this environment and the principles of us doing interviews after every match and getting to answer questions that are majorly quite similar.

"But it's part of our sport and what we do. The media is important without a doubt. It's allowing us to have the platform to communicate with our fans but in a more traditional way.

"It used to be the only way how we could reach out to our fans. In the last five to 10 years it's not the case anymore. We have our own platforms and social media accounts."

Djokovic won 6-2 6-4 6-2 over Sandgren, compiling 33 winners to extend his outstanding French Open first round record to 17-0.

"I thought I played really well, moved very well," he said. "From the later stages of the Rome tournament until now, I'm finding my groove on the court, striking the ball well."

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