Elina Svitolina survives Mexican qualifier Zarazua

Paris, September 30

Third seed Elina Svitolina recovered from a mid-match meltdown to defeat fearless Mexican qualifier Renata Zarazua 6-3 0-6 6-2 and advance to the third round, even as Victoria Azarenka’s unhappy French Open campaign came to an end on Wednesday.

The former world No. 1 was beaten 6-2 6-2 by Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the second round.

The 178th-ranked Zarazua, who became the first Mexican woman to win a Grand Slam main draw match in more than 20 years during her first round, came into the contest having never facing a top-20 player in her career.

She understandably made a nervous start under the closed roof of Court Philippe Chatrier as Svitolina quickly jumped into a 4-0 lead.

Zarazua, celebrating her 23rd birthday on Wednesday, soon found her footing, started converting her errors into winners and won three straight games to get back to 4-3.

It was, however, not enough as Svitolina took the opening set with another break of serve.

But if Svitolina hoped for a quick outing, having played in Rome and then winning the title in Strasbourg on Saturday, she was in for a rude shock as Zarazua used the momentum from the first set to hand her a bagel to level the match.

The Ukrainian was almost reduced to tears as her frustration grew with her unforced errors going up to 16 from six in the opening set.

“Well, honestly I’m still questioning myself because I was a bit of a drop. I don’t remember much of the second set. Also maybe I was dreaming today,” she told reporters.

“It’s very tough to say. I was going maybe for too much. In the end when I was playing really good, I was playing aggressive, I was going for my shots. Maybe a few mistakes here and there.

“Then in the end she was quite solid from the baseline, took her chances, didn’t miss so much. It was dreamy second set to be fair.”

The world No. 5, however, managed to calm herself down in the decider and after an initial trade of service breaks she shifted gears, breaking Zarazua twice more to seal the victory on her first matchpoint.

Svitolina has now made the third round at Roland Garros for the sixth straight year and will next meet Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, who defeated Australian Astra Sharma 6-3 6-3.

Azarenka thrashed

Azarenka, who moaned about the cold and damp conditions in her opening round win, capitulated in feeble fashion against her 161st-ranked opponent.

Schmiedlova, who is playing with a protected ranking after knee surgery in 2019, has enjoyed a stunning return to form in Paris, having beaten Venus Williams in round one.

That win over Williams ended a run of 12 consecutive first-round losses in Grand Slams and she backed that up with a commanding display against an error-prone Azarenka.

Tenth seed Azarenka, runner-up at the US Open this month, double-faulted to drop serve in the opening game when play finally started on Court Simonne-Mathieu after yet another rain delay and it did not get much better for the 31-year-old.

The 26-year-old Scmiedlova’s one real moment of alarm came at 1-1 in the second set when she slipped and landed heavily on her left knee and required treatment.

But she showed no ill-effects as she moved into a 5-2 lead with a couple of breaks of serve.

Schmiedlova brought up match point with a forehand winner and sealed victory as Azarenka fired a 37th unforced error.

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