French Open 2016: QF hopes for Halep and Radwanska dashed in rain, but Stosur surges on
Sam Stosur defies the rain delays and reaches the quarter-finals of the French Open in Paris
The No4 seed Garbine Muguruza and unseeded Shelby Rogers must have been counting their blessings that they were scheduled early on the middle Sunday of the French Open. For the weather closed in, as it has done so many times in this benighted Grand Slam.
Those two completed their matches, with very little trouble and plenty of speed, to seal their places—against one another, as it happens—in the quarter-finals.
For their colleagues in the bottom half of the draw, conditions could not have been tougher. Lined up to play the last matches of the day, deepening gloom and approaching rain called a halt half way through both matches.
No2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska played a woman ranked a full 100 places below her. Not surprisingly, she had taken a strong lead by the time play was halted, 6-2, 3-0.
No6 seed Simona Halep, a former finalist at the French Open in 2014, faced a tougher proposition, the No24 seeded 2010 finalist here—and a Grand Slam champion at the US Open—Sam Stosur, but even so, she had a decent advantage, 5-3, as play was halted.
Monday, though, was a complete washout, and unfortunately, Tuesday morning did not dawn much better.
With repeated delays to the start time, and persistent drizzle even with the covers off, this became a lottery. Across Roland Garros, players stopped mid-match, unwilling to continue in the heavy and deteriorating conditions.
Radwanska seemed to have the worst of it in reasserting her game of touch, placement and spin, and Pironkova not only levelled with six straight games in the second set, 6-3, but raced ahead in the decider, 4-0. Another break in play, and Radwanska sought medical treatment to her wrist.
She rallied to break for 1-4 and held for 2-4, but this looked like a lost cause, and sure enough, the popular Pole could not find enough form to turn things around. Instead, Pironkova won through to her first Roland Garros quarter-final, 6-3, in her 11th appearance here, the first Bulgarian to do so.
What’s more, with the surprise run of Rogers, it means that two players ranked outside the top 100 have reached the quarters here, something that only eight women have done before.
In the only other women’s match even to take to court on this dismal Tuesday, Stosur performed a similar comeback, taking Halep to a first-set tie-break which she sealed in blistering style without dropping a point, 7-6(0).
The 32-year-old Stosur, one of the most popular women on the tour, was still not done. She took a 3-2 lead in the second set before play was halted again, and even after their return, with Halep clearly distressed by the conditions, Stosur did not let up. She reached the quarters here, 6-3, for the fourth time in her long career.
2016 had not been an auspicious start for Stosur. From her home Slam until Miami, she won just two tour matches and two Fed Cup rubbers. Once on clay, though, things looked up with a final run in Prague and a semi finish in the prestigious Premier Mandatory in Madrid.
She has won four of her five meetings against next opponent Pironkova, too, the only loss coming on the Bulgarian’s favourite surface of grass.
For both women, these were hard-fought wins over formidable competition and across three days. And their losing opponents were far from happy with the conditions—though both were also keen to credit the winners.
Radwanska: “I’m just so surprised and angry, that we have to play in the rain. I mean, it’s not a 1,000 tournament. It’s a Grand Slam. How can you allow players to play in the rain? I cannot play in those conditions… The ball gets so heavy after a couple of shots. It’s slippery, as well. You know, everything is just getting harder. What can you do? It’s getting worse and worse every game.”
Her concern will be to ensure that her wrist is in fine order in time for her most successful Major: She is a former finalist at Wimbledon, and the grass season is just around the corner.
Halep: “I cannot comment about the conditions. I have no words. It was impossible to play, in my opinion. And to play tennis matches during the rain I think it’s a bit too much. But everyone was in the same situation, and who was stronger won today.
“I don’t care that I lost the match today, but I was close to getting injured with my back, so that’s a big problem. But like I said, no one cares. We have just to go and play.”
Spare a thought, though, for the eight women whose matches were cancelled as afternoon moved to evening on this damp and difficult Tuesday.
Top seed Serena Williams still has to play Elina Svitolina, Carla Suarez Navarro still has to play Yulia Putintseva, Madison Keys still has to take on Kiki Bertens, and Venus Williams must play Timea Bacsinszky—all to catch up with their bottom-half rivals in the quarters.
As for the men, all four fourth-round top-half matches began on Tuesday, but none came close to a conclusion. Play was eventually suspended for the day just before 7pm. They will now have to pursue a quarter-final place three days after their bottom-half rivals.