Sabalenka out; Serena powers past Collins to reach last-16

PARIS – Third seed Aryna Sabalenka crashed out of the French Open with a 4-6 6-2 0-6 third-round defeat to Russian 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Friday, leaving the women’s draw without its top three seeds at the claycourt Grand Slam. 

After the exits of Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka, the Belarusian was the highest seed remaining this week in Paris but she failed to keep a leash on her unforced errors to lose to the experienced 29-year-old Russian. Sabalenka got off to a rollicking start for a 3-0 lead but her unforced errors abruptly mounted and Pavlyuchenkova won six of the next seven games to bag the set. 

The 23-year-old hammered a flurry of winners to take four games in a row to win the second set and level the match before Pavlyuchenkova went off the court for medical attention, returning with her left thigh heavily strapped. The injury seemed to have made no difference to Pavlyuchenkova’s game as she handed a bagel to her opponent in the decider to set up a meeting against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. 

Serena Williams powered confidently into the fourth round of the French Open with a 6-4 6-4 defeat of fellow American Danielle Collins on Friday as the draw opened up enticingly. The 39-year-old seventh seed produced a calm and composed display against a dangerous opponent and is now the highest-ranked player left in the bottom half. 

Williams, seeking a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, but first since 2017, will play Kazakhstan’s 21st seed Elena Rybakina for a place in the quarter-finals. A hard-hitting contest featured 40 winners and the opening games included a barrage from both players with Collins clearly deciding her best policy was to fight fire with fire on Court Philippe Chatrier.  

Azarenka broke for 3-2 on her third opportunity as Keys hit a backhand long and a passing shot winner earned her another break before she bagged the opening set on serve. Former world number one Victoria Azarenka reached the fourth round of the French Open for the first time since 2013 with a 6-2 6-2 victory against American Madison Keys on Friday.  

Meanwhile in the men’s singles, on his least favorite surface, second seed Daniil Medvedev was impressive once again as he struck 28 winners in a 6-4 6-2 6-4 victory over American Reilly Opelka. 

The 25-year-old Russian reached the last-16 at Roland Garros for the first time in five appearances. German sixth seed Alexander Zverev beat Laslo Djere 6-2 7-5 6-2 after a remarkable comeback in the second set to set up a last-16 clash with Kei Nishikori. Zverev found himself 5-2 down in the second set when he roared back into form to win five games in a row. 

Argentine Federico Delbonis advanced to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career after a 6-4 6-1 6-3 win over Italian 27th seed Fabio Fognini, who made 53 unforced errors. Play resumed at Roland Garros on outer courts following a short rain delay. Japan’s Kei Nishikori has progressed to the last-16 after his opponent Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland retired hurt, trailing 7-5. 

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