Kvitova out but Garbi and Sloane march on

Contrasting third-round fortunes for former Grand Slam champs Kvitova, Muguruza, Stosur and Stephens .

Roland-Garros 2018, 3e tour, 3rd round, Garbiñe Muguruza©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT
 - Ian Chadband

Garbine Muguruza marched on majestically against an outclassed Sam Stosur and Sloane Stephens suffered a scare before booking her place in the last-16 but Petra Kvitova stumbled to a straight-sets defeat as four Grand Slam champions launched the super Saturday programme at Roland-Garros in dramatically different fashions.

Muguruza, the 2016 Roland-Garros victor, was at her irresistible best as she blew aside the challenge of former US champion Sam Stosur on Court Phillippe-Chatrier in just two minutes over an hour, 6-0 6-2.

It was all very different out on Court 18 where US Open champion Stephens, the no.10 seed, laboured and looked in real danger of getting knocked out as Italy’s hard-hitting Camila Giorgi twice served for the match in the deciding set before the American finally proved too steely and prevailed 4-6 6-1 8-6.

But no.8 seed Kvitova, the double Wimbledon champion who had been fancied to go deep here, saw her Roland-Garros hopes ended in two very tough tiebreak sets with the rising 22-year-old Estonian Anett Kontaveit, who battled to a 7-6(8) 7-6(4) victory over the Czech in the Court 1 ‘Bull Ring’.

With all these Grand Slam luminaries out first on a sunny Saturday morning, the central attraction was inevitably the clash on Chatrier between the No.3 seed Muguruza and Stosur, the tough Australian who has slipped down the rankings to 90 but who, as a finalist here in 2010, also still has a game on clay to be respected.

Sadly for the 34-year-old Aussie, Muguruza was in one of those dazzling moods where she treats nobody’s game with any respect, crashing winner after winner - 15 throughout the game - as she ‘bagelled’ Stosur for the loss of just 10 points in the opening set.

She had won eight straight games before Stosur earned some sympathetic applause for just even getting on the board and the Australian even broke back to 2-2 in the second set, only for the Spaniard to again raise her level and reel off the final four games.
It was all so impressive from ‘Garbi’, who was surprised by the ease of her victory, that there was soon plenty of chatter on social media afterwards that here was a woman who now looks to be in better form than any other contender at the tournament.

Garbiñe Muguruza©Corinne Dubreuil

“I guess they say that because I did a good match. It happens like this. It's the normal thing,” she shrugged when asked if she felt she could now forge on and win the event.

“But I believe I can hold a trophy not only here, I believe I can do it in every tournament I play.

“But I'm pleased with my performance today. I think it was never easy match against Grand Slam champion; she did a final here. I'm pleased because I felt in control in the match. I played well. I knew how to play facing her tactics, because she has a mix and it was important to control from the first ball.”

She didn’t, however, want to look too far ahead, even though she must feel confident about her last-16 encounter with the unseeded Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, who knocked out the Slovakian number 19 seed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2 6-4.

Sloane Stephens© Philippe Montigny / FFT

Stephens never looks far ahead, content to just enjoy her progress match by match and that may not be a bad approach as her fate in the tournament changed minute-by-minute in a fluctuating contest with the predictably unpredictable Giorgi.

The Italian, who hadn’t dropped serve all tournament before this match, was quickly broken, then fired on all cylinders in the rest of the first set, slumped alarmingly in the second only to rouse herself for a big finale, in which she served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5.

Giorgi’s career, though, has often reflected this, mixing real fireworks with plenty of duds, and Stephens just hung in grimly until the Italians pyrotechnics began to fizzle out, finally emerging triumphant in 2 hours 26 minutes.

“I stayed tough,” declared the relieved American. “She plays kind of crazy but in a good way. She hits a lot of winners and plays very unpredictable so it's hard to get a rhythm. But I knew it was going to be a battle, and I just stuck in there and waited for my opportunities and took advantage of them when I could.”

It was indeed hard work, and it promises to be even more challenging in the last-16 against Kontaveit, who for the second Slam running demonstrated in ousting Kvitova just how formidable a big-time player she is becoming, her attacking instincts finally breaking down the Czech’s admirable tigerish defence in two sets that lasted two hours and seven minutes.

In the Australian Open, the Estonian no.25 seed reached the last-16 after beating Jelena Ostapenko; now she is looking to go at least one better here when she faces Stephens.

It may not have been the best of Kvitova on view here but she had no complaints about her defeat. “Well, I think sometimes you do have a good day and sometimes you have a bad day, and for sure wasn't a good day today,” she sighed.

“But I tried everything what I could. I really left there everything. I'm pretty tired but pretty proud how I fought. But it's a lot of credit to her. Anett played great tennis today. She didn't really give me anything.”