Osaka: "I should be an all-court player"
Ostapenko v Azarenka headlines a bumper Day 3 at Roland-Garros.
When the draw came out on Thursday, no more compelling clash cropped up than that between Latvia’s 2017 Roland-Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka, the Belarusian former world No.1 who is beginning to rediscover her considerable best following some trying times since the birth of her baby Leo in 2016.
The 21-year-old Ostapenko has never since resembled the Paris comet of 2017 as she’s dropped to 39 in the rankings but she still has the ammunition, and the fearless approach, to trouble anyone here, including the two-time Australian Open champ ‘Vika'.
A taste of la dolce vita comes to Roland-Garros with the two Italian shotmakers duelling for the ninth time in what should be a most entertaining encounter.
It’s four-four between the pair but the world No.12 Fognini has held the upper hand over his 35-year-old rival in recent outings and will doubtless see this match as a possible springboard to his best run at Roland-Garros, where he reached the last 16 in 2018.
Since then, he has beaten Rafael Nadal this year en route to winning the Monte Carlo title, the biggest triumph of his career, but the playing field may have been levelled for this encounter against his old Davis Cup team mate since ‘Fogna' has been struggling with a leg injury.
It’s been 10 months since anyone other woman than Naomi Osaka has managed to get her hands on a Grand Slam trophy and the Japanese world No.1 reckons that she’s overcome a hand injury and is coming to terms with clay to the extent that the prospect of a third straight Slam should not to be discounted.
“I'm really excited to see what happens here,” says the 21-year-old who really ought to see off the challenge of Slovakian Schmiedlova, once a top-30 player who has dipped to 90th in the rankings while not winning a Grand Slam match since the end of 2015.
Could this be the last time we see two of the great monuments of the men’s tour colliding in a Grand Slam? They meet for the 12th time, 15 years since Lopez, the timelessly elegant Spanish southpaw, first faced the serving bombs of the 6ft 11in Croatian beanpole Karlovic at Wimbledon.
Karlovic won that one in four sets, prevailing 14-12 in the first of the 16 tie-breaks they’ve played, and doubtless we can expect some familiarly close-fought fare between the two veterans with Karlovic now still booming them down as the only 40-year-old on the tour and 37-year-old Lopez these days juggling his playing commitments with his other duties as the Madrid tournament director.