Day 5 diary: Stephens proud to continue Gibson legacy

Another action-packed day draws to a close in Paris, here are some highlights from on and off court.

Sloane Stephens, Roland-Garros 2021 second round© Julien Crosnier/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

We understand you can’t keep tabs across all the action at Roland-Garros 2021. There are simply too many matches, legends and moments to monitor.

Here’s a selection of what you might have missed around the grounds in Paris.

Sloane hails trailblazer champion

65 years ago Althea Gibson became the first black player to win a Grand Slam singles title at Roland-Garros.

Asked about her trailblazing compatriot during her on-court interview, Sloane Stephens beamed with pride.

“I think it’s amazing. Obviously, having played after so many great champions, especially Althea, who paved the way for Americans and women and black females like myself,” said 2018 finalist Stephens following a 7-5, 6-1 victory over No.9 seed Karolina Pliskova.

“It’s amazing, it’s unreal and obviously after Serena and Venus, to play after them to continue to grow the legacy I think is amazing. It’s such a beautiful thing. 65 years later here we are and I’m very proud to be here.”

No retro Rafa anytime soon

Happy 35th birthday to reigning champion Rafael Nadal, who took some time out to answer questions from staff at Roland-Garros.

Laurent, from stewardship and security, went for the fashion theme.

“I saw you win in 2005 in your white Bermuda shorts and green top which was great. Why don’t you play in it again in a tournament next year?”

It was quite the look. Nadal first lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires in 2005 wearing this style, but wasn’t too convinced.

“Well, I don’t think so. I’m too old for that,” chuckled the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

“When I see myself on TV for me it looks very strange. It’s true at the time it was comfortable, but today, I don’t see a possibility of playing in that outfit.”

Check out the full video below.

Kostyuk believes anything is possible

Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk is adamant a host of names outside the usual contenders can lift the title in a fortnight.

The world No.81, who booked a third-round encounter with Russia’s Varvara Gracheva, has equalled her best Grand Slam showing thus far.

“I think we are at times where anyone in the women's tennis, anyone can win a slam, kind of. Not like anyone, anyone, but a lot of girls. Let's call it that way,” mused the 18-year-old.

“I believe anything is possible. And people around me, they are cheering me up, they are believing in me, which I think is very important. It's just that there is a lot of pieces that have to come together to win a slam. I'm just gonna try to believe in myself more and more with every day, and then we'll see what happens.”

Marta Kostyuk, Roland Garros 2021 second roud© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Federer baffled by timing warning

Eventually it was all plain sailing for Roger Federer, finding the answers to defeat former US Open champion Marin Cilic in four sets.

However there was some compelling viewing in the second set when the Swiss received a time violation on return.

It’s fair to say Federer was far from amused and after a prolonged chat with the umpire, he turned to his opponent, asking him to weigh in on the matter.

Here’s how it played out…

Federer: “Am I playing too slow?”

Cilic: “It’s the rule… I don’t know if you’re playing too slow. On a few occasions I was waiting for you.”

Federer: “I understand but I’m going from one corner to the next trying to get my towel, coming back. I’m not even doing it on purpose.

Cilic: “That is fine, but you’re playing like this all the time.”

The 39-year-old upped the pace before and during points to advance to meet Dominik Koepfer in the last 32.

American stars at the double

Two box-office duels for Team USA leap off the draw sheet in the third round.

Jessica Pegula, seeded at a major for the first time, is going to take on 2020 finalist Sofia Kenin in the third round of the women's singles. The 27-year-old will hope to channel Martina Hingis, her dream pick on the doubles court.

“I’ll take Asia Muhammad, she’s pretty good. But if I’m looking at past players I’m going with Martina Hingis,” Pegula told Tennis Channel.

“She was definitely one of my idols growing up and she dominated in double when she came back. I’m sure if she came out here now she’d still be pretty good, her hands were unbelievable."

An absolute ‘popcorn’ battle will see teenage sensation Coco Gauff vie with Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady.

No.13 seed Brady provided the heartwarming content of the day – passing one lucky young fan a match ball.

Tidy office before work for Novak

Plenty of players prepare for battle with a routine or superstitions, for world No.1 Novak Djokovic the key is some spring cleaning.

The 18-time major winner made sure he swept his seat clean before a tidy 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 scoreline dismissed hot-shot king Pablo Cuevas to close out his 350th Grand Slam match. 

It’s some record, the top seed is at 305-45 in major play.

Shot of the day

Stat of the day