Day 5 diary: Underarm spotlight

All the best quotes, stats and more from a memorable Day 5 at Roland-Garros.

Alexander Bublik© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The underarm serve is incrementally creeping into the tennis armoury. 

Clips have been swirling social media in recent months with the likes of Nick Kyrgios utilising the shortened service motion.

Gregarious Kazakh Alexander Bublik unleashed three underarm serves facing fourth seed Dominic Thiem on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Is it a wise ploy? Is it distrespectful? 

Having completed a 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-5 victory, 2018 Roland-Garros finalist Thiem praised Bublik’s canny move.

“I mean, I expected it. To be honest, it's a good choice against players like us who are that far behind the baseline. There is nothing bad about it. I was prepared for that, so that was no problem. for me it was tough because I had difficulties to find the good return position,” reflected the Austrian.

“At least he didn't hit me an ace, but I think he won two out of three. So, some players do it well, him, Kyrgios. And against these guys you have to be prepared to sometimes make a sprint when you return.”

France’s leading light Gael Monfils also dismissed any backlash to opponents using the unorthodox underarm serve.

“I think it's a shot as any other in tennis. I don't know why it would be lack of respect. It's not a very efficient serve. It's a serve which surprises, it's a surprising shot. In general, it has been used more and more because players are very far from the baseline to the back of the court,” explained Monfils, who beat Adrian Mannarino in straight sets later on Thursday.

“Honestly, it's a 50/50 in terms of success. And if the guy misses the serve, he gives the point. So continuing serving low, you might lose more points.”

Upset of the day

Last year Antoine Hoang fell at the first hurdle in qualifying at his home Grand Slam. This week he’s excelled on his Grand Slam debut.

The French wild card found the answers to take out 23rd seed Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-5 to reach the third round.

The Spaniard warmed up for Roland-Garros by reaching the Rome quarter-finals, and had also won all six of his previous matches against wildcards at Grand Slams. He was also seven-from-seven against French players here.

Hoang’s reward is to tackle French No.1 and compatriot Monfils for a shot at a place in the last 16.

Delightful DelPo

Juan Martin del Potro’s popularity knows no bounds.

The Argentine navigated past Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2 to post his first ever five-set victory at Roland-Garros. 

Having kept his title pursuit alive, Del Potro walked to the other side of the net to greet NIshioka with this warm embrace.

Safarova waves goodbye

"This truly is the most favourite court on earth for me. So many special memories," a teary Lucie Safarova said on Court Philippe-Chatrier during her retirement ceremony. “Thank you Paris, I love you."

The popular Czech won the Roland-Garros women’s doubles title twice (2015, 2017) alongside Bethanie Mattek-Sands and also reached the final of the singles (2015).

Stats of the day

6 – the number of games dropped by teenager Iga Swiatek in reaching the third round. The 17-year-old, ranked world No.104, dispatched 16th seed Wang Qiang 6-3, 6-0 on Thursday having dismantled wild card Selena Janicijevic by the same scoreline.

23 – Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic won his 23rd consecutive Grand Slam match with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 triumph over Henri Laaksonen, advancing into the Roland-Garros third round for a 14th successive season.

17 - Amanda Anisimova became the youngest American women into the third round of Roland-Garros since Serena Williams (then 17) in 1999.

16 – Jordan Thompson outsmarted Ivo Karlovic to book a maiden Grand Slam third round spot at his 16th attempt in a major main draw.

10 – With the likes of Thiem (4), Fabio Fognini (9) and Karen Khachanov (10) winning, the Top 10 men’s seeds are into the Roland-Garros third round for a second straight year.

84 – percent win ratio for Serena Williams as the three-time champion ousted Kurumi Nara in straight sets.

Quotes of the day

 “If I had to look at it as an effort level, I think today was the best clay-court match I have played this year, because I didn't stop trying at all. Like, every point was kind of, like, pedal to the metal. Metal to the - whatever, which one. What was I going to say? I had something really intelligent to say, but then I forgot (smiling). Now it's going to bother me. Okay.”
Naomi Osaka loses her train of thought...

“When I had a tough loss at Miami Open, it was a really long match and I was super upset in the locker room, Serena actually came up to me and we shared a little bit of a chat. That was really nice of her, and I'll remember it forever.”
Amanda Anisimova reveals comfort from an inspirational chat with compatriot Serena Williams.

“I'm definitely more aware of what I do and how I am and what things I want to achieve. I want my son to be proud of me. I want to be a good example for him so when he grows up, you know, he can go after his dreams and he can be free and do whatever he wants.”
Former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka reflects on her approach on court as a mother.

“That's a funny thing. I don't really like to know until my coach tells me. So don't tell me. (Laughing.) I'm not ready yet. I want to enjoy what just happened. Just a warning for everybody, don't tell me. (Laughing.)”
Quipped Monica Puig after emphatically defeating 21st seed Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-1. The Puerto Rican was in great form on and off the court...

“Somebody called me a veteran maybe two years ago, and I was like, what? I can't be a veteran. I'm only 23. But now I'm 25, almost 26, and I think I can start accepting that term now."
- Puig accepting that the next generation are already making waves on the WTA tour.