Day 4 Diary: Blinkova repeats Garcia surprise

Déjà vu as unseeded 28-year-old upsets home hope on Chatrier

Anna Blinkova, Roland-Garros 2023, second round©Cédric Lecocq/FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

Anna Blinkova has been there before, trying to close out an upset of Caroline Garcia before an expectant French crowd on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The former Wimbledon girls’ singles champion stunned the fifth seed in the same round four years ago and on Wednesday required nine match points to repeat the outcome, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

A runner-up to Elina Svitolina in Strasbourg on Saturday, the 24-year-old secured the first top-five win of her career.

The win equals her best run at a major – that third-round run in Paris from 2019 – and sets a rematch with Svitolina.

“When I won my first round and then my coach told me that I'm going to play against Caroline Garcia on Philippe-Chatrier, I couldn't think about anything else all of these days,” Blinkova said.

“I couldn't focus on nothing else. I couldn't do anything. I was just thinking and dreaming how I will play and how I will win, so it's a very special day for me. I will probably never forget it…

“I think in October last year I won an award: The Most Surprising Champion of 2022. In the beginning of last year I was 160 in the world, and I had to play the 60,000 and 25,000, and every match was very tough at these tournaments.”

Garcia's deepest run in Paris remains a quarter-final from six years ago.

While disappointed at being unable to capitalise on a set and a break lead she was quick to pay tribute to her younger opponent.

“She managed the crowd very well and kept very calm after having so many match points,” Garcia said.

“Obviously very disappointing with the result and to be out of the tournament in the second round and I wanted to do more, but it's tennis.”

Caroline Garcia, 2e tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Kokkinakis survives three-time Slam winner

If it feels like a long time in the making from the outside looking in, those eight years feel even longer for Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Not since 2015 had the Australian reached the third round in Paris – or at any other major for that matter.

On Wednesday, the injury-plagued 27-year-old needed five match points and four hours and 38 minutes to end former champion Stan Wawrinka’s spirited run, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3.

“The first set and a half he was playing I think the best tennis he could play,” Kokkinakis said. “I was nowhere. I was just trying to hang in there. I lost a match in a Grand Slam this year against (Andy) Murray from two sets to love. I didn't want to do it against another legend having 40-0. I was like, ‘Oh no’. You could imagine the things coming into my mind, he never went away.

“I've had a pretty crazy story. I came onto the scene pretty young. I was looking like I was going to have a big future, then I sort of went missing the last five years after that. Yeah back in the third round on clay. Who would have thought for an Australian, but my game suits it here, I love it.”

Svitolina returns to third round

Svitolina's comeback continued to gather steam on Wednesday when the former world No.3 pulled off a 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 triumph over Australian Storm Hunter to reach the third round.

The Ukrainian had a later night than expected on the eve of her clash after staying up to watch her partner Gael Monfils conjure a remarkable five-set escape against Sebastian Baez.

It was only fair then the Frenchman should repay the favour.

“Yes, I watched him, but not live,” Svitolina said. “I was screaming in my room so if someone heard me it's me cheering for Gael.

“It was an unbelievable match and I don't know actually what he's doing here now. I think he should be resting but I'm really thankful for him coming to support me, especially in this tough match.”

Elina Svitolina, 2e tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Following the birth of the couple’s daughter Skai last October, Svitolina has found the transition back smoother when both parents understand the challenges of life on tour.

“Well I think we don't know any other way because I've been playing (like) Gael since we are three, four years old, so for us it's our nature to play tennis,” she said. “There is lots of tough moments for Gael, for me, but as a family we really understand each other, we support each other so much and try to go through this tough moments to have moments like I have today and like yesterday as well.”

Kasatkina no fluke

Last year’s semi-finalist Daria Kasatkina conceded it might have been fun to watch but it was far more stressful on court trying to out-fox 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova.

In a match in which she struck 20 forehand winners, none was more spectacular than her tweener passing shot at 2-all, 30-all in the second set.

“I'm not gonna lie I was practising this shot a lot,” Kasatkina said. “Even when I was a kid, I was 10 years old I was at home practising this shot against the wall.

“I was just hitting the wall, lobbing myself, going and playing a tweener all the time.

“It would take like two hours every day so it's not luck. I was practising the shot and finally it pays off. I was just trying to imitate Mary Pierce. She once played an unbelievable shot here I remember.”

Norrie ends Pouille’s run

British 14th seed Cameron Norrie knew to expect a frosty reception from the French faithful on Court Suzanne-Lenglen on Wednesday afternoon.

The locals were desperate to prolong one of the feel-good stories of the first round as qualifier and former world No.10 Lucas Pouille continued his comeback.

Norrie had already denied home hope Benoit Paire in five sets in the opening round and made it two from two with his straight-sets win.

“It's great to see Lucas back enjoying his tennis and qualifying and winning a round … Great atmosphere, sorry to take another Frenchman out,” Norrie said.

“I definitely enjoyed the match a little bit more than against Benoit the other day.”

Cameron Norrie / 1er tour Roland-Garros 2023 ©Cédric Lecoq / FFT

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