Garbine Muguruza made clear she is "fighting for trophies" on the WTA Tour after knocking out defending champion Aryna Sabalenka at the Qatar Open. 

Muguruza prevailed in a high-quality contest that required a third set to decide the outcome, the world number 16 and two-time grand slam champion eventually triumphing 6-2 6-7 (7-5) 6-3 after two hours, 18 minutes on court. 

Sabalenka had won their only previous meeting but the third seed saw her hopes of retaining the trophy dashed, not helped by only managing to convert four of the 13 break-point opportunities she created in the match. 

Muguruza – who matched 41 winners with the same number of unforced errors – finished in fine style, claiming the final four games in a row to set up a meeting with Maria Sakkari, who defeated Madison Keys in straight sets. 

"I'm very motivated to play top players," Muguruza said in her post-match press conference, according to the WTA Tour's website. "Like everybody, I worked hard. I'm fighting for trophies, to play well in big tournaments, in good tournaments. 

"Today I was facing a top player, and I knew I have to go out there with a big, fighting spirit, and be strong to be able to win against these tough opponents." 

While the 2020 winner is no longer involved, former champions Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova both made it beyond the second round with straight-sets wins in Wednesday's action. 

Azarenka, who claimed the title in 2012 and then returned to successfully retain it a year later, saw off qualifier Laura Siegemund 6-4 6-2. 

Kvitova, meanwhile, eased past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The fourth seed went all the way in 2018 and is now into the last eight this year – a 6-1 6-3 result paving the way for a clash with Anett Kontaveit.

Top seed Elina Svitolina is also through – and will face Azarenka next – after needing little over an hour to defeat Misaki Doi 6-1 6-2.

Karolina Pliskova, the second seed, found life far tougher against Ons Jabeur however, eventually coming out on top 6-4 4-6 7-5 in a thriller.

Meanwhile, at the Lyon Open, second seed Fiona Ferro progressed to the last eight on home soil after opponent Tereza Martincova was forced to retire when 4-1 down in the second set, having already lost the opener too.

Alize Cornet is another French favourite hoping to make home advantage tell in the tournament; the fifth seed rallied from a set down to beat compatriot Clara Burel 1-6 6-1 6-3. 

Jessica Pegula said she "can't be more confident" after upsetting Elina Svitolina to reach her first grand slam quarter-final and Ash Barty stayed in the hunt for Australian Open glory on Monday.

Pegula, the daughter of NFL and NHL franchise owners of the Buffalo Bills and the Sabres, beat fifth seed Svitolina 6-3 3-6 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena to set up a showdown with her fellow American and friend Jennifer Brady.

Brady made it all the way to the semi-finals of the US Open last year and has now put together her best run at Melbourne Park after seeing off Donna Vekic 6-1 7-5.

World number one Barty has not dropped a set in her home major and started the second week by dispatching Shelby Rogers 6-3 6-4.

The top seed from Queensland's next assignment will be a meeting with Karolina Muchova, who saw the back of Elise Mertens 7-6 (7-5) 7-5.

Muchova, the 25th seed from the Czech Republic, has made it through to her second grand slam quarter-final - having also reached this stage at Wimbledon in 2019 - without losing a set.

 

Pegula to put friendship to one side

Pegula and Brady are close friends, but they will have to put that to one side when they meet in the quarter-finals.

The world number 61 claimed her first victory over an opponent ranked in the top 10 just over a month after Svitolina beat her in straight sets in Abu Dhabi.

Pegula hit 31 winners to Svitolina's 19 and won 21 points from 29 when she made a trip to the net as she broke new ground at a major

She said: "I can't get more confident, it's my best result yet and I'm playing good tennis. Today was a hard-fought win, so, yeah, feeling pretty good."

Pegula added on the prospect of facing Brady: "We're here to have fun and compete. If I can do it against somebody that I like, that I wouldn't mind if they beat me, hopefully not, but if they did, why not?"

Brady benefited from strict lockdown

Many players understandably struggled during and after being in a strict two-week lockdown in a hotel room following their arrival in Australia.

Brady was among the players who were not allowed out of their rooms for a fortnight, but said she used the situation to recharge her batteries before the first major of the year.

The 22nd-seeded Pennsylvanian said: "I think it was a little bit of a benefit for me, just taking a break from tennis. I had been going non-stop since World Team Tennis in June. I didn't take any time off.

"I was playing from June and then played US Open, the U.S. tournaments, and then went straight to Europe, then finished there and was training in Europe, then went home for Christmas and then came and started in Abu Dhabi.

"So obviously I didn't really feel super fresh mentally coming into Abu Dhabi. And then when I was away from tennis for two weeks, I felt like I wanted to play again to compete and I think that helped me."

Much improved Czech

Muchova had not been beyond the second round of the Australian Open before last week but now has a semi-final spot in her sights.

The 24-year-old was 4-0 down in the opening set as Mertens got off to a flyer but warmed to the task with her battling spirit and positive approach.

Muchova converted five of the six break points she earned on Margaret Court Arena, also coming from a mini-break down in a first-set tie-break.

She struck 25 winners to Mertens' 15 and advanced despite making 31 unforced errors, getting her rewards for throwing caution to the wind.

Ash Barty may have her focus on winning the Australian Open right now but suggested a career change could be on the cards in the future.  

The world number one made sure she will still be competing during the second week of the tournament in Melbourne by beating Ekaterina Alexandrova in straight sets.  

But, having played international cricket for Australia before switching to tennis, could the multi-talented Barty be considering trying another sport?  

Elsewhere in Saturday's action, Karolina Pliskova lost her cool – and also a couple of rackets – as she slipped to defeat against the impressive Karolina Muchova in an empty Rod Laver Arena, with fans not able to be present due to a five-day lockdown in the state of Victoria.

Elina Svitolina had no such problems in her third-round match, while Elise Mertens was victorious in just over an hour against Belinda Bencic. Jennifer Brady ended Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan's run in the first grand slam of the year.


AUSSIE RULES, OK? 

After winning 6-2 6-4 without ever needing to be at her peak, Barty was cheekily asked by former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua – now working in the media – whether she may be set to switch paths again, once her tennis career has come to an end.  

Australian rules football was the answer – but Dellacqua maybe got more than she bargained for from her former playing partner during the on-court interview. 

"I thought it was our deal, we're going to AFLW. It's ABCD [the nickname for the pairing from their doubles career]. We come as a package, and I know we will be going to the [Richmond] Tigers that is for sure," Barty said. "You can't go to Carlton. You have to come to the 'Tiges' with me."

Dellacqua replied: "I need to get out there and start practicing some kicking, but you are good. I would love to do that one day." 

For Barty, though, the next challenge facing her is Shelby Rogers, who knocked out 21st seed Anett Kontaveit during the evening session.  


MAKING A RACKET 

A disgruntled Pliskova was not impressed when punished for smashing up a racket during her match with compatriot Muchova. 

Having received a warning when throwing a racket to the floor during the course of the final game in the opening set, the sixth seed then vented her frustration again on another while in the players' tunnel.  

An official witnessed the incident and reported it to chair umpire Alison Hughes, who punished the Czech with a point penalty before she began serving to open the second set.  

"It's off court, I'm allowed to do what I want," Pliskova insisted when querying the decision to the official. She would go on to hold before recording two successive breaks, yet somehow failed to force a decider.  

Muchova rallied from 5-0 down in sensational fashion, winning seven games on the spin to triumph 7-5 7-5 to make it through to the last 16.


CONTRASTING PROGRESS FOR SEEDS

Svitolina has still yet to drop a set in the tournament after overcoming 26th seed Yulia Putintseva by a 6-4 6-0 scoreline.  

The fifth seed was twice down a break in the first set but, after eventually coming out on top to take a 1-0 lead, breezed through the second in a hurry.  

"She has a very different game style from what I played my last two rounds, so it wasn't easy at the beginning to adjust," Svitolina said. "As soon as I was feeling better, I just stepped my game, and it was quite a comfortable win after." 

Next up will be Jessica Pegula, who is through to the fourth round at a slam for the first time in her career after thrashing Kristina Mladenovic 6-2 6-1.  

There was also success for another American in the main draw, Brady defeating Juvan in straight sets. Her reward is a clash with Donna Vekic, the 28th seed having to save a match point before eventually seeing off Kaia Kanepi 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 after two hours and 38 minutes on court. 

Elina Svitolina said playing behind closed doors at the Australian Open felt "a bit disturbing" after having fans in attendance earlier in the week.

The Ukrainian fifth seed booked her spot in the fourth round in Melbourne with a 6-4 6-0 victory over Yulia Putintseva on Saturday.

But no fans were in attendance on Margaret Court Arena as Victoria started a five-day lockdown due to coronavirus.

Svitolina, who will face Jessica Pegula in the last 16, said she felt the difference.

"It was very different conditions. I played a night match at 7:00 with a good crowd. Now it was completely different. It was for sure a bit disturbing, I would say, in some ways sad," she told a news conference.

"But it is what it is. I had to accept. I had to have a good mindset, not thinking too much about that. I just tried to focus on my game."

Svitolina reached the fourth round in Melbourne for the third time in four years after mixing 18 winners with 20 unforced errors.

But the 26-year-old said the lack of fans meant the third-round encounter felt like a practice match.

"It feels like that. I actually had few thoughts about it today. It feels like this. I tried to convince myself that it's a grand slam and that we are playing an important match. I have to focus on my match," Svitolina said.

"But for sure there's some thoughts and there is I say some low moments that can sneak into the mind. It's what we have to deal with. I'm trying my best to do it."

Sofia Kenin's title defence came to a shock end in the second round of the Australian Open, where world number one Ash Barty advanced amid injury concerns.

Kenin was looking to become the first woman to defend her crown at Melbourne Park since Victoria Azarenka in 2013, instead, she was a high-profile casualty in warm conditions on Thursday.

Barty, who lost to Kenin in last year's semi-finals in Melbourne, stayed alive with a straight-sets win over fellow Australian Daria Gavrilova.

Former world number one Karolina Pliskova also progressed beyond the second round as fifth seed Elina Svitolina blitzed American sensation Coco Gauff.

 

KENIN OUSTED IN BOILOVER

The American star arrived at the year's first grand slam with high expectations and looking to become the first woman to go back-to-back at a major since Serena Williams in 2016.

But fourth seed Kenin fell to experienced Estonian Kaia Kanepi 6-3 6-2, having tallied 10 winners and 22 unforced errors in windy conditions in Melbourne - the scene of her breakthrough slam more than 12 months ago.

It was Kenin's first defeat to a player ranked outside the top 50 since going down to then-number 54 Iga Swiatek in the 2020 French Open final.

Asked why she was nervous pre-match, Kenin told reporters: "It's like the outside pressure. I felt really nervous. I haven't felt my game for, I don't know how long, but I haven't really felt my game so well, even in my first round. 

"I played well, but still haven't felt 100 per cent game-wise. It's obviously tough."

 

STRAPPED THIGH? NO WORRIES FOR BARTY​

Barty's left thigh was heavily strapped amid concerns but the 2019 French Open champion still booked her spot in the third round with a 6-1 7-6 (9-7) win over countrywoman Gavrilova.

The first Australian woman to reach the semi-finals in Melbourne since 1984, following last year's run, Barty gave up a 5-2 lead in the second set before saving two set points in the tie-break.

Reflecting on Kenin's surprise exit, Barty talked up the standard of the WTA Tour.

"There are no easy matches," said Barty, who next meets 29th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova for a spot in the round of 16. "There are no easy matches in any tour event, any slam, anything. I think every time you walk on the court, you have to try and be able to bring your best tennis to be able to compete with everyone. 

"That's just the level that there is now on the women's side. That's something really exciting about women's tennis now, is that every single match, it's a fair match. You go out there, you play hard, you try to do the best that you can."

 

PLISKOVA AVENGES LOSS, SVITOLINA TOO GOOD FOR GAUFF

Beaten by Danielle Collins in the third round of the Yarra Valley Classic just eight days ago, sixth seed Pliskova got the better of the 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist this time around.

Pliskova - also a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park two years ago - defeated Collins 7-5 6-2 and next plays 25th seed Karolina Muchova.

"I just played better in some moments, which I didn't last week. Then she was not playing that well as she did last week," Czech star Pliskova said. "I knew if I at least maintain little bit, just play at least similar as I was playing last week, I knew it's going to be difficult for her to repeat what she played last week. I think she really played great."

Owning a 6-1 record in the second round at Melbourne Park - falling only at this stage in 2016 - Svitolina produced a mature performance to conquer 16-year-old star Gauff 6-4 6-3 on centre court as 26th seed Yulia Putintseva awaits. 

Elsewhere, seeds Belinda Bencic, Elise Mertens, Anett Kontaveit, Jennifer Brady and Donna Vekic moved through.

A "calmer" Garbine Muguruza made a fine start at the Australian Open, while defending champion Sofia Kenin was left annoyed despite her victory.

A finalist at the Yarra Valley Classic last week, Muguruza's good form in Melbourne continued with a rampant 6-4 6-0 victory over Margarita Gasparyan in the first round on Tuesday.

Muguruza was runner-up at Melbourne Park last year, with the two-time grand slam winner looking for her first major success since 2017.

The Spanish star, who will face Ludmilla Samsonova in the second round, said she was reaping the benefits of a changed approach.

"I was for sure working very hard, and frustrated that the results weren't there for quite a few months. Sometimes you work hard, you want it so much, that doesn't help you," Muguruza said.

"It's hard to explain, but I felt like for a moment I was working hard, I was putting all the effort out there. The time that I had to go and compete, I wanted it too much. I was getting frustrated too early. At the end I couldn't let the racquet talk.

"I feel like now, after that experience, I managed to stay a little bit calmer and to just go and compete, probably have less expectations. I'm always, like, there and always so pumped. I'm just knowing myself a little bit better now, finding ways to compete and not let that energy and that desire, too much desire, get in the way probably."

It was a relatively good day for the top women's seeds, with Kenin – who conquered Muguruza in last year's final – winning through.

Ash Barty, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Belinda Bencic also advanced, while Victoria Azarenka's poor recent record in Melbourne continued.

KENIN ANNOYED DESPITE WIN

Kenin started her title defence with a 7-5 6-4 victory over Australian Maddison Inglis.

But while the American fourth seed mixed 23 winners with 27 unforced errors, Kenin said she felt her nerves as she defends a major crown for the first time.

"I was obviously quite annoyed the whole match. I felt like the first two points I started off well, then wasn't able to close out the first game. Obviously nerves happen," she said.

"She obviously played really well. She's a tricky opponent, tricky player. Yeah, it was quite hard on myself today, quite annoyed, as you said."

Kenin's next clash is a tough encounter against Kaia Kanepi, who brushed past Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-1.

BARTY, SVITOLINA AND PLISKOVA AMONG WINNERS

Barty made a spectacular start with a 6-0 6-0 thrashing of Danka Kovinic.

The world number one won the first 16 points and ended up losing just 10 for the match in an impressive start.

A two-time quarter-finalist at the Australian Open, Svitolina was tested but overcame Marie Bouzkova 6-3 7-6 (7-5) on Rod Laver Arena.

A huge challenge awaits Svitolina, who will next face Coco Gauff after the 16-year-old American beat Jil Teichmann 6-3 6-2.

Czech sixth seed Pliskova made quick work of Jasmine Paolini, wrapping up a 6-0 6-2 victory in just 47 minutes.

Bencic and Anett Kontaveit were among the other seeded winners.

NO EXCUSES FOR AZARENKA

A two-time Australian Open champion, Azarenka suffered a surprise 7-5 6-4 loss to Jessica Pegula in the first round.

The Belarusian's last win at the event came in 2016, having made first-round exits in 2019 and 2021 and missed the tournament in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

Azarenka was among the players forced to quarantine ahead of the major and while she said it played a part in her exit, she offered no excuses.

"Of course, it has impacted. Somebody who's coming out of hard quarantine and maybe has been able to adjust well, they'll go, 'Oh, maybe it hasn't impacted'. Somebody who lost early will say, 'Yeah, of course, it's impacted'. It would be hard to say," she said.

"Was that the best preparation for me? No. But try to sit here and find an excuse because of quarantine and this is just something that, as I said, it is what it is.

"I am disappointed that I wasn't able to perform that I knew I could. That's a bit hard to accept today because I knew I can play better, a lot better. At the same time I feel that I've tried everything I can to be able to be prepared, but unfortunately that hasn't worked out for me."

Greek 20th seed Maria Sakkari also bowed out after a loss to Kristina Mladenovic, while British 13th seed Johanna Konta retired injured while leading Kaja Juvan 6-4 0-2.

The top two seeds are both out at the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open after Sofia Kenin and Elina Svitolina suffered quarter-final defeats on Monday.  

Kenin had won the two previous meetings against Maria Sakkari and appeared on course to retain her 100 per cent record when cruising through the opening set.  

However, Sakkari hit back to stun the top seed, dropping just two more games as she rallied in emphatic fashion to triumph 2-6 6-2 6-0 after one hour and 23 minutes on court.  

"I think I did way too many errors and I was hitting too big when I didn't have to. But I'm glad that once again I found the way to turn the match around," the ninth seed told reporters.

Next up for Sakkari will be Aryna Sabalenka, who extended her impressive winning run to 13 matches after coming through a three-set tussle with Elena Rybakina.  

The fourth seed has not lost since going out at the 2020 French Open to Ons Jabeur - a result she avenged when the pair met on Sunday in the last eight in Abu Dhabi.  

In the other half of the draw, Veronika Kudermetova once again got the better of Svitolina, ending the second seed’s hopes of success in the tournament. 

Russian Kudermetova – who won their only previous meeting on the WTA Tour – came out on top in the deciding tie-break to triumph 5-7 6-3 7-6 (7-3).  

She will take on another player from Ukraine next, Marta Kostyuk overcoming a nightmare opening set to beat Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 0-6 6-1 6-4 and reach the last four.

Sofia Kenin and Elina Svitolina fought back from the brink of defeat as both reached the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open quarter-finals on Sunday.

Top seed Kenin fended off a match point in the second set before battling to a 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 victory over Yulia Putintseva at Zayed Sports City International Tennis Centre.

Putintseva was serving for a straight-sets win at 6-5 up in the second, but the tenacious Kenin forced a tie-break and rallied from 3-1 down to take the third-round match the distance.

The Australian Open champion secured three breaks in the decider to reach the last eight, hitting 35 winners to 25 from 13th seed Putintseva to set up a showdown with Maria Sakkari.

Svitolina, the second seed, was also on the verge of crashing out, but she hung in there to pull off a 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (10-8) win over Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The world number five was a break down in the final set and saved two match points in a tense tie-break before finally seeing the back of her Russian opponent.

Ninth seed Sakkari beat two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza 7-5 6-4 to give herself the opportunity to get the better of Kenin for the first time in three attempts.

Aryna Sabalenka stretched her impressive winning streak to 12 matches with a 6-2 6-4 success over Ons Jabeur, while Marta Kostyuk, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Elena Rybakina and Veronika Kudermetova also progressed.

Sofia Kenin and Coco Gauff both made it through to the second round of the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open on a day of few shocks. 

Seven of the nine seeds in action on Thursday advanced, with only Marketa Vondrousova and Jennifer Brady falling by the wayside. 

Those upsets came despite Vondrousova and Brady each winning their opening sets - against Hsieh Su-wei and Tamara Zidansek respectively - the latter racing through 6-0 in the first before being reeled back in. 

Kenin and Gauff had no such problems, however. 

But top seed Kenin - the 2020 WTA Player of the Year - had to stay patient as she took down 789th-ranked Yang Zhaoxuan 7-6 (7-4) 6-2. 

The first set lasted more than an hour and saw Kenin face five break points, defending each of them, with another 11 Yang opportunities following in the second, although the world number four proved more clinical en route to victory. 

"It was the first match, obviously a bit of nerves, I had to find my groove," Kenin said afterwards. "Conditions weren't easy, it was quite windy.

"The first set was tough for me. I couldn't find the ball, I guess." 

Gauff was comfortable throughout, meanwhile, swatting aside Ulrikke Eikeri 6-0 6-1 to tee up a meeting with Maria Sakkari. 

Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka each also progressed in two sets, as did Garbine Muguruza, overcoming a potentially tricky hurdle in the form of Kristina Mladenovic. 

Muguruza was a 6-2 6-4 winner and afterwards said: "I was trying to do my game, dominating, not letting her dominate the point. 

"It's the first match of the year, it's a little bit tricky to get the feeling, but I'm happy with the win." 

Maria Sakkari claimed the scalp of top seed Elina Svitolina to reach the quarter-finals of the Ostrava Open on Wednesday.

Sakkari beat world number five Svitolina 6-3 6-3 to progress to the last eight of a WTA Premier event for the third time this season.

Unseeded Greek Sakkari struck 32 winners and returned superbly, winning all but eight of 29 points on Svitolina's second serve.

The 23rd-ranked Sakkari will face either wildcard Jelana Ostapenko or Ons Jabeur for a place in the semi-finals.

Ostapenko knocked out fifth seed Petra Martic, the 2017 French Open champion easing to a 6-3 6-1 victory.

Martic had won their previous two meetings, but the Croatian was beaten in just 57 minutes at the indoor hard-court event. 

Anett Kontaveit was another seed to fall, Sara Sorribes Tormo reaching a maiden Premier-level quarter-final at the expense of the Estonian with a 6-1 6-4 success.

Victoria Azarenka is also two wins away from the final, coming from a set down to see off Barbora Krejcikova 2-6 6-2 6-1, and will now face Karolina Muchova or Elise Mertens, who got past Amanda Anisimova in straight sets.

Nadia Podoroska caused an almighty upset to beat third seed Elina Svitolina and make history by booking a spot in the French Open semi-finals thanks to a 6-2 6-4 triumph.

The Argentine had never played a grand slam match prior to this tournament and was facing a top-20 opponent – the highest-ranked player left in the top half of the draw – for the first time in her career.

But in an immense debut on Court Philippe Chatrier, Podoroska – ranked 131st in the world – outfought Svitolina, who held serve only once against her unfancied opponent.

Podoroska is consequently the first women's qualifier to ever reach the French Open semis and her brave display is rewarded in the shape of a last-four dance with either Iga Swiatek or Martina Trevisan.

After the match, she said: "Well it's a little bit difficult speaking now after the match my English is not so good, thank you so much everybody for your support – I'm very,very happy."

Podoroska's nerves perhaps betrayed her when dropping serve in the first game but from there the Argentine's aggression on the forehand, which helped towards 17 first-set winners, coupled with Svitolina's serving woes, saw her reel off five straight games.

Even a rare blip was followed by a break to love to clinch the opening set and it was not until Svitolina's first service game of the second that the Ukrainian was able to hold.

There were six consecutive breaks from that point as Svitolina failed to consolidate against a gutsy opponent, who crucially held for a 5-4 lead.

Svitolina saved two match points, the second at the end of a mammoth 27-shot rally, but the third time proved a charm for a euphoric Podoroska.


Data slam: Svitolina struggles on serve

Take nothing away from Podoroska, who was fully deserving of her historic win, but Svitolina paid the price for poor serving. She won only 33 per cent of points on first serve and 40 on second, affording her opponent far too many opportunities. Podoroska hit 30 unforced errors, yet her willingness to take on shots also produced 30 winners.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Svitolina - 8/22
Podoroska - 30/30

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Svitolina - 1/1
Podoroska - 1/1

BREAK POINTS WON
Svitolina - 5/10
Podoroska - 8/13

Elina Svitolina's quest for a first grand slam title was significantly boosted on Sunday as she reached the French Open quarter-finals and saw Simona Halep and Kiki Bertens both bow out.

Svitolina was the only top-five seed in action not to lose as she defeated home hope Caroline Garcia 6-1 6-3 to book a last-eight date with Nadia Podoroska, who was a 2-6 6-2 6-3 victor against Barbora Krejcikova.

In Svitolina's half of the draw, top seed Halep was surprisingly beaten 6-1 6-2 by Iga Swiatek and Bertens – ranked fifth at Roland Garros – suffered a 6-4 6-4 loss to Martina Trevisan. 

There are now just three of the top 10 seeds in the women's draw still alive in Paris, and third seed Svitolina is the highest-ranked player left.

 

SVITOLINA NOT FOCUSING ON EXODUS OF SEEDS

Svitolina will be hoping it is third time lucky in the French Open quarter-finals after reaching this stage again, as she previously did in 2015 and 2017.

The pressure may increase on the Ukrainian given how many seeds have already been eliminated, but the 26-year-old is trying not to pay attention to the rest of the draw.

"Of course, I'm the highest seed left, but no one is going to give me the trophy just because I'm the highest left," Svitolina said.

"So, I have to work for it. I try to not look so much ahead."

HALEP SEEKS COMFORT IN CHOCOLATE 

Halep had not dropped a set prior to her fourth-round encounter with Swiatek, but she was stunned by the Pole, who lost only three games in reaching her first grand slam quarter-final.

However, the Romanian – the French Open champion in 2018 – was keen to take solace in a sweet treat afterwards.

"I'm not going to ruin the whole year just for a match," Halep said.

"Of course, it's not easy to take it, but I'm used to some tough moments in this career. So I will have a chocolate and I will be better tomorrow."

 

BERTENS: OUTSIDERS HAVING THEIR MOMENT

There was an even bigger shock on Suzanne-Lenglen as Bertens suffered a straight-sets defeat to world number 159 Trevisan.

Bertens was asked to explain the number of surprising results across both the men's and women's draws, and the Dutchwoman suggested the lack of preparation for the leading players was a factor.

"No one really has played a lot," she claimed.

"I think then you can see that everything can happen in a tournament like this."

Simona Halep is playing free of pressure despite becoming an even stronger favourite to win the French Open in the first week of the tournament.

The 2018 champion arrived at Roland Garros rated as the most likely victor, a status that has been enhanced by three comfortable wins along with the exit of second seed Karolina Pliskova and the withdrawal of Serena Williams due to injury.

The latest of Halep's comfortable victories - her 17th consecutive in a row on the WTA Tour - came as she thrashed Amanda Anisimova 6-0 6-1 in just 54 minutes on Friday, avenging her quarter-final defeat to the American last year.

Next she faces Iga Swiatek in round four, a player she beat comprehensively at the same stage in 2019, but despite increasingly being tipped to go all the way, the Romanian feels no extra strain.

"No, I don't [feel more responsibility] and I don't feel the pressure," she said when asked about the huge expectations on her and Rafael Nadal, the favourite in the men's singles.

"Of course I expect from myself to play good tennis, because I feel good, I feel the game, I feel fit, I feel stronger on my body. 

"But doesn't mean I have to win every match. Important thing for me is just to deliver what I have best in the day that I play, and then we'll see. 

"I'm not thinking about the result. I just want to try to take my chance every time I step on the court, and I'm not thinking about title. It's very far, and many players are playing really well in the draw. So no expectations about that."

Swiatek booked the fourth-round clash with Halep by winning 6-2 6-3 against Eugenie Bouchard.

 

HOME HOPE GARCIA BEATS MERTENS IN THRILLER

Sixteenth seed Elise Mertens looked like she was on course for the fourth round until she was beaten by a superb comeback from Caroline Garcia.

Garcia delighted French fans on Court Philippe-Chatrier, hitting 38 winners to triumph 1-6 6-4 7-5.

"It was a great feeling out there - especially the match was a big fight in the second and third sets," said Garcia.

"So to be able to live this kind of moment... first of all, because we didn't know what was going to happen, so to be able to play French Open it's a great feeling - and to have some crowd to be able to share it with, it's even more special.

"Especially as they were really cheering for me. And I think Elise lived the moment like me."

 

SVITOLINA AND BERTENS CRUISE THROUGH, SAKKARI STUNNED

Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens needed just the two sets to seal their places in round four.

Third seed Svitolina will face Garcia after she overcame Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-4 7-5 on Court Suzanne-Lenglen as she eyes a maiden grand slam title.

Svitolina won despite hitting just eight winners to 30 unforced errors, while Alexandrova had 25 winners and 49 unforced errors across two scrappy sets for both players.

Bertens, the fifth seed, sent Katerina Siniakova packing 6-2 6-2 Court Philippe-Chatrier, but Maria Sakkari failed to make it into the second week.

The 159th-ranked Martina Trevisan caused an upset by ousting Sakkari, saving two match points before winning 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-3.

Serena Williams is ready to go the distance with Tsvetana Pironkova again at a grand slam after clearing the first hurdle in her bid for French Open glory.

Williams, who turned 39 on Saturday, took her time to warm up on a cool Monday in Paris, Kristie Ahn making life particularly difficult for the sixth seed in a well-contested opening set.

The American duo had also met in the opening round of the US Open and - as was the case in New York - the favourite eventually prevailed in straight sets,meaning a clash with another familiar foe next.

Pironkova threatened to cause an upset when they did battle in the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows earlier this month, though faded down the stretch to lose in three.

Still, Williams - chasing a 24th slam to move level with Margaret Court's record - expects another tough test from the Bulgarian, who defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-3 6-3.

"She's playing well, but I am too. I'm ready to play her. She'll be ready to play me," the three-time French Open champion said in her post-match press conference. 

"It will be a long match, she will get a lot of balls back, but so am I. I'll be ready."

Williams revealed she was a little flat against Ahn in a first set that went to a tie break, before a more positive approach allowed her to breeze through the second without dropping a game.

"The biggest difference was just confidence. I just need to play with more confidence, like I'm Serena," she said. "So that was it. I just started playing like that. And I love the clay and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding."

SUCCESS FOR SEEDS ON DAY TWO

Three other top-10 seeds at the tournament avoided early exits. Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens and Petra Kvitova prevailing, though none of the trio had it all their own way.

Bertens was in danger of going home early when the fifth seed fell a set behind but rallied impressively to see off Katarina Zavatska 2-6 6-2 6-0.

Seventh seed Kvitova overcame Oceane Dodin 6-3 7-5, though admitted afterwards her opponent had made her work for the win.

"You know, she didn't make that many mistakes and it was really a tough one," Kvitova - a semi-finalist at Roland Garros in 2012 - told the media. "I just really tried to stay there mentally strong and wait for the chance to break her and serve well."

Meanwhile, Svitolina, the third seed, triumphed 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 against Russian Varvara Gracheva.

KEYS LOST IN FRENCH CAPITAL, KERBER CRASHES OUT

Madison Keys, the 12th seed, was on the wrong end of an upset, the American beaten in straight sets by Zhang Shuai.

Prior to that match on the same court, 15th seed Marketa Vondrousova was crushed by Iga Swiatek of Poland, winning just three games in a surprisingly lopsided contest that spanned just 63 minutes.

Angelique Kerber also suffered a shock exit, the three-time major winner going down 6-3 6-3 to world number 102 Kaja Juvan.

Karolina Muchova was also dumped out, going down to Christina McHale, but 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza avoided a similar fate against Tamara Zidansek, overcoming a one-set deficit to eventually prevail 5-7 6-4 8-6.

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