PARIS - Andy Murray and defending champion Rafael Nadal both reached the third round of the French Open on Thursday, but their manner of going through could not have been more different.
In women’s action, former world number one Caroline Wozniacki stayed on course for a Roland Garros showdown with Maria Sharapova in a quarter of the draw blown wide open by Serena Williams’ shock exit. Wozniacki, seeded nine this year and a quarter-finalist in 2010, breezed past Jarmila Gajdosova 6-1, 6-4 for a sixth win in six meetings against the Australian.
Elsewhere, fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga completed a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over German qualifier Cedrik-Marcel Stebe in a match interrupted by rain late Wednesday, while sixth seed David Ferrer of Spain coasted past Benoit Paire of France 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. Grimacing in pain and clutching his back and legs, Murray needed medical treatment three times in quick succession as grim-faced coach Ivan Lendl looked on. But at a set and 4-2 down, Murray suddenly found a new lease of life and a run of seven games in a row in his favour gave him command.
The strained look on his face at the end when Nieminen hit long on match point, however, bore testimony to the concern that he must have for his chances of making it six straight semi-final appearances at Grand Slam tournaments. “It was fine yesterday, went to bed and woke this morning and couldn’t put weight on my left leg,” Murray said of his injury woes.
“At practice it was okay, not great, but okay. But we talked about not playing the match. Right at the beginning of the match it wasn’t too bad, then at the changeover at 3-0 it was really sore and was struggling badly. Then after an hour and a half it started to feel a bit better so I just gritted my teeth. I was a few points from stopping in the middle of the second set. I just didn’t really want to stop the match and he made some mistakes and it was his fault for letting me back in the match.”
There was no such drama for Nadal. The Spaniard, who will turn 25 during the tournament, is seeking to win a record seventh French Open title, taking him out of tie for the most wins he currently shares with Bjorn Borg. His opponent, who had yet to get past the second round at Roland Garros struggled throughout to deal with the heavy top-spin barrage that Nadal fired his way. Murray’s next opponent in the third round will be Colombian Santiago Giraldo who defeated Australian 25th seed Bernard Tomic 6-4, 6-1, 6-3. Another South American claycourter to make it through was 13th seed Juan Monaco of Argentina who stopped Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic 7-6 (7/4), 6-0, 7-6 (7/5). Rising Canadian player Milos Raonic defeated qualifier Jesse Levine 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 meaning that five days into the tournament John Isner is the only surviving American player.
Gajdosova, now at 72 in the world after playing as a seed in Paris 12 months ago, paid a heavy price for her 40 unforced errors on a chilly Philippe Chatrier court. Denmark’s Wozniacki will face either Kaia Kanepi of Estonia or Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu for a place in the last 16 where she had originally been scheduled to meet Serena Williams. But the great American’s stunning loss to France’s Virginie Razzano on Tuesday has removed the most formidable obstacle preventing a quarter-final between Wozniacki and Sharapova. Fourth seeded Czech Petra Kvitova coasted into the third round with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Poland’s Urszula Radwanska. Wimbledon champion Kvitova, who only dropped three games in her opening win over Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty, needed 70 minutes to set up a clash with Russia’s Nina Bratchikova.
The 22-year-old has twice reached the fourth round in Paris, including last year when she was defeated by China’s Li Na and she never looked in trouble on Thursday. She fired 30 winners past the 21-year-old Pole, the younger sister of third seeded Agnieszka Radwanska who had put out Venus Williams on Wednesday. “She played well, she has good hands and a good touch,” said 22-year-old Kvitova of her 79th-ranked opponent. “But she wasn’t very aggressive so I was able to play my game.”
The first seed to lose on Thursday was Russian 16th seed Maria Kirilenko who, under the concerned gaze of ice hockey superstar boyfriend Alex Ovechkin, slumped to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 loss to the Czech Republic’s Klara Zakopalova. Zakopalova has made the third round for the first time in nine attempts and will face Russian 22nd seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who put out Melinda Czink of Hungary 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, for a place in the last 16.
Former champion Francesca Schiavone reached the third round with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova. Schiavone, the Garros winner in 2010 and runner-up last year, took some time to get her serve in full working order on Court One. She gave Pironkova, ranked 41 in the world, few openings in the second and third sets, however, and needed only one matchpoint, which she took with a forehand winner, to claim victory.