Blinkova back to best, repeats shock upset

FRANCE’S best hope of a Roland Garros title was eliminated overnight, with fifth seed Caroline Garcia suffering a shock defeat at the hands of Russian Anna Blinkova. In a case of history repeating itself, Blinkova came back from a set down to win in three and advance through to the third round of the French Open.

For the second time in five years, Blinkova fought back from a deficit to oust Garcia in Paris, having defeated her at the 2019 event. That 1-6 6-4 6-4 result helped the then 20-year-old reach the Round of 32 at a Grand Slam for the first time, and four years on, is now in the third round for a second time.

It has been a long time between drinks for Blinkova who has had a solid career without making massive waves. Currently ranked 56th in the world, the Russian is set to enter the Top 50 for the first time in her career post-tournament. The 4-6 6-3 7-5 victory over Garcia overnight also marked her second Top 10 victory of her career.

With just one title win to her name, Blinkova has made great strides over the last 12 months, having won Cluj-Napoca before reaching the Strasbourg final recently. Having to battle against the home crowd advantage for her opponent, Blinkova kept her nerves and pressured Garcia into making mistakes, while hitting some quality winners.

After dropping the first set 6-4, Blinkova went to another level in the second set, winning 59 per cent of her first serve points off a 68 per cent clip. Garcia on the other hand, dropped to just 33 per cent efficiency and won a poor two points for the entire set off her first serve. The Russian broke three times in the set to level the scores.

Though Blinkova had the chance to serve for the match at 5-3 with two match points, the Russian was able to bounce back and maintain her composure as the Frenchwoman hit hard late in the set. Luckily a critical break in the eleventh game put her back in the box seat. Seven match points later and the world number 56 could finally relax, having won 7-5 in the decider.

“I had to keep the variety, first of all, in my serve,” Blinkova said post-match. “I tried to change the trajectory of the ball, which wasn’t easy at all, because I was receiving very fast balls of big speeds. I tried to change my placement on the return, especially on the second serve.

“She’s a very big server, and her second serve is a high kick, so sometimes I tried to step in and take the ball early. Sometimes it was too tough, and I was stepping back to give myself some time to not miss the return, but to put the return in.”

Blinkova will now face Ukrainian Elina Svitolina in the third round after Svitolina overcame a shock first set loss against Australian Storm Hunter to win, 2-6 6-3 6-1.


The other Top 10 seeds in action all escaped unscathed with Aryna Sabalenka, Jessica Pegula and Daria Kasatkina all booking their places in the third round with straight set victories. The big upset of the day was 21-year-old collegiate graduate Peyton Stearns, with the American taking down 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Young Danish talent Clara Tauson‘s comeback from injury rolled on with a three-set victory over 2021 US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez, while past Grand Slam winner American Sloane Stephens also made it through to the Round of 32.

In the men’s draw, top seed Carlos Alcaraz dropped the second set but cruised past Japan’s Taro Daniel, with world number three Novak Djokovic only dropping three games after winning the first set in a tiebreaker against Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.

Other seeds, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Cameron Norrie, Karen Khachanov and Lorenzo Musetti also won in straight sets, while Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis took down Swiss Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in a five-set, four-hour and 38-minute epic.

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