Day 6 diary: Vika the linguist storms into week two

As third-round action kicked off on Friday, here's a look at some of the things you may have missed from around the grounds

Victoria Azarenka, Roland Garros 2021, third round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

We’re edging towards the halfway point of a thrilling Roland-Garros 2021 and the stakes keep getting higher.

On Friday a selection of stars and surprise packages were writing their names into the fourth round in Paris. 

Here are some storylines you might have missed from around the grounds… 

Azarenka's juggling act

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is back into the Roland-Garros second week for the first time since her semi-final run here in 2013.

The former world No.1 is rising through the gears on court as she brushed aside Madison Keys 6-2, 6-2.

During her on-court interview, the Belarusian was put on the spot by Fabrice Santoro, who pointed out that Azarenka’s entire team, sat courtside in her box, hails from France. Santoro asked if Azarenka could say a few words in French and whether she has picked up much of the language from her coaching staff.

“Un petit peut! Je progresse,” said Azarenka into the microphone, before switching back to English.

“In front of the crowd it’s too difficult. I try to understand, I try to ask, to speak a little bit of French with my team, but I’m trying to learn two languages at the same time and I’m not sure it’s really working for me.”

Azarenka, who faces No.31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the last 16, is apparently trying to learn Spanish as well.

ADF lights the candles a day early

On Saturday, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina turns 22-year-old and will enjoy some cake knowing he’s still in the mix.

The roadrunner Spaniard zipped around Court 14 for four hours and 35 minutes to halt No.15 seed Casper Ruud on Friday.

Davidovich Fokina, roared on by a raucous crowd, saved four break points during a dramatic crescendo in the last game, serving out his fifth match point 7-6(3), 2-6, 7-6(8), 0-6, 7-5 before falling to his knees.

Exhaustion, ecstasy and relief; the world No.46 next meets Federico Delbonis in the last 16.

Defending champion as determined as ever

The wheelchair events have launched into action.

Top seeds Shingo Kunieda and Diede de Groot enjoyed opening wins in straight sets. As did the reigning champions Alfie Hewett and Yui Kamiji.

The quad wheelchair events begin on Saturday and the defending champion Dylan Alcott looks in prime condition. Take a look at his practice video below.

Badosa lands sweet 16 back from the brink

After nearly three hours of hot-shot-laden tennis, Paula Badosa snatched away a fourth-round place for the second successive season.

The Spaniard, who extended her winning streak to eight matches in a row, saved match point while down 5-6 to Ana Bogdan in the second set, prior to grabbing the tiebreak. That prompted a Stan Wawrinka-style point to the head in celebration.

From there, Belgrade champion Badosa recovered from a break down before she ripped an inside-in forehand winner on match point to prevail 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 and earn a clash with 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova.

That’s a tour-leading 16-2 win-loss record on clay this 2021 campaign for Badosa.

Zidansek happy off the slopes

You may not know that Slovenian Tamara Zidansek grew up 20 minutes from a ski resort and was a pretty nifty “driving boardercross” snowboarder. Give it a google... 

“I was really young but still... it's not like when you see at the Olympics or where four people go down at the same time. It was just me," she said.

A first-round thriller with Bianca Andreescu has provided the springboard for the world No.85 to earn a maiden Grand Slam last-16 spot.

“It's definitely a confidence boost to know that you can play against a top-10 player and win at a major tournament in the first round, and especially when it goes the distance,” stated the 23-year-old, who will face Sorana Cirstea next. “It means a lot, I’ve been working for this my whole life. I hope I can keep on going.”

Tamara Zidansek, Roland-Garros 2021, third round© ClÈment Mahoudeau/FFT

Century for Nishikori? 

Japan’s Kei Nishikori inched closer to a commendable milestone with his 99th win in Grand Slam play; 26 of those have come at Roland-Garros.

The 2014 US Open finalist has to face Alexander Zverev in the last 16 for the third tournament in a row.

Nishikori fell to the German in straight sets in Madrid four weeks ago, before a lung-bursting three-setter in Rome that also went in the favour of Zverev.

© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Pavlyuchenkova coming of age

Promising players are rising through the rankings from everywhere, meaning 29-year-old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is now perceived as a veteran on the tour. 

She was asked this question during her press conference on Friday, following her third-round upset of No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

"At what point did you start to feel like an adult on the tour?" said a reporter.

“Probably I still haven't arrived there,” joked the Russian in response.

“But I definitely feel much better probably only this year I'd say, honestly. Like, it took me a while. I feel like I have slightly different approach on life and tennis overall starting from not long ago. I think that shows also in my game a little bit, in my behaviour on court and off court. Again, I'm just also enjoying it much more than before.”

Serena’s No.1 fan

Understandably, countless players admire the longevity of Serena and Venus Williams.

The admiration and support is enhanced for Americans. Danielle Collins lost to Serena 6-4, 6-4 in the third round on Friday, then immediately revealed to the legend who just defeated her that she will be cheering for her to go all the way in Paris.  

“Yeah, that's exactly what I told her. I said I'd love to see her win the whole thing and I'd be supporting her,” stated Collins.

“She's the greatest player of all time. It was pretty surreal today to go out there and be playing against somebody I remember watching at age nine and 10, to be here, to be sharing that court with her, this experience. I hope that I can be a stepping stone to her winning another slam. It would be really exciting and cool. I'm going to be following every point."

Shot of the day

Federico Delbonis delivered this stunner during his straight-sets victory over Fabio Fognini on Friday.