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Early Upsets Open Up the Draw at the French Open

May 28, 2014 8:27 PM
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Early Upsets Open Up the Draw at the French Open

That was 18-year-old American Taylor Townsend speaking after a wild day at the French Open. Yes, Serena lost in the second round, 6-2, 6-2—the most lopsided Grand Slam defeat of her career—to Garbine Muguruza, a 20-year-old from Spain. Her sister, Venus, lost too. Earlier in the tournament, Li Na, the No. 2 seed, stumbled in the first round.

And so halfway through the first week in Paris, the top contenders to win the French Open women’s tournament are—everyone.

This is an exaggeration, but only a little. The draw is wide open. Townsend, who moved into the third round on Wednesday at her first-ever Grand Slam, is one of the many who have a chance.

“Sky’s the limit,” she said after she beat Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in front of a boisterous home crowd. Townsend didn’t learn until after her match that Williams had lost.

“I thought she won,” Townsend said. “I saw 2 and 2. I was like, ‘Oh, that was fast.’”

Townsend led 4-1 in the second set against Cornet and lost five straight games. In the final set, she led 5-1—and then lost three straight games before serving out the match.

Townsend has become the tournament darling with her daring play and charm—even Andy Murray, watching on television, raved about her game, and her smile, on Twitter.

But there are still veterans left in the draw, Maria Sharapova foremost among them. Sharapova reached the third round on Wednesday with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Tsvetana Pironkova. She has won 91% of her clay court matches since 2011 and seven clay court titles. Better still, she won’t have to play Williams if she reaches the quarterfinals.

But she might have to play Samantha Stosur, a name few would have brought up before this tournament began. Stosur, a finalist here in 2010, hasn’t made it past the third round at a major since she made the semifinals here in 2012. She pummeled Yvonne Meusburger, 6-1, 6-3. Stosur and Sharapova could meet in the fourth round. This half of the draw also includes Agnieszka Radwanska, no titan on clay, but seeded No. 3 and as tactically astute as anyone in the world.

In the other half of the draw, former French Open champions Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova have gotten off to good starts. The favorite in this half, though, is probably Simona Halep, even though the No. 4 seed has never survived the second round in Paris in four previous trips here.

Halep can run for hours. She makes few mistakes. In 2008, she won the junior title here. Now, she’s playing the best tennis of her life. She’ll play Heather Watson on Thursday and could meet American Sloane Stephens in the fourth round if both players advance.


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