PARIS (AP) — Finally back on court after two days of rain, Venus Williams warmed up for her fourth-round French Open match Wednesday in a zipped-up gray coat, something that seemed more appropriate for winter wear.
Once play began, the No. 9-seeded Williams never really gave herself a chance to join her sister in the quarterfinals, coming up short in a bid to get back to that stage at Roland Garros for the first time in a decade. Williams dropped eight games in a row during one early stretch and lost 6-2, 6-4 to No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland.
“The most disappointing part is just not playing well,” Williams said.
“She played a smart match,” the seven-time major champion added. “That definitely added to my troubles.”
The American actually started well enough, taking a 2-0 lead, before Bacsinszky began to add more variety to her strokes and took complete control. Williams slipped to her knees at the baseline on one point, and was generally out of sorts, managing to produce a total of only six winners, while committing 24 unforced errors.
“The first few games she made some errors,” Williams said, “and in the last 12 games, I made all the errors.”
She was the runner-up to younger sibling Serena at Roland Garros in 2002, but her most recent trip to the quarterfinals in Paris came all the way back in 2006.
Venus turns 36 this month and was the oldest woman in the field.
“She’s definitely an inspiration,” said Bacsinszky, who lost to Serena in last year’s French Open semifinals, “because if you see how long she is lasting as a tennis player, it’s something unbelievable.”
Wasting no time at all, defending champion Serena moved closer to her record-equaling 22nd Grand Slam title with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over 18th-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in only 62 minutes.
Like her sister’s contest, this match originally was scheduled for Monday, but showers forced the cancellation of an entire day of play at Roland Garros for the first time in 16 years. Then, on Tuesday, more rain allowed for a total of only 2 hours of play around the grounds, and all fourth-round matches on the top half of the women’s draw were pushed back again.
While Wednesday was cloudy and chilly, with the temperature barely breaking 60 degrees (16 degrees Celsius), at least the drizzle stayed away, allowing for progress in the brackets.
The No. 1-seeded Serena looked very much like a 21-time Grand Slam champion facing a 21-year-old who has only reached one major quarterfinal, with a 27-10 advantage in winners.
Now Serena faces unseeded Yulia Putinseva of Kazakhstan, who reached her first major quarterfinal by eliminating No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro 7-5, 7-5.
“Of course she’s the best player,” Putinseva said. “She’s a legend.”
Backsinszky will play 58th-ranked Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, whose first Grand Slam quarterfinal came via a 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over No. 15 Madison Keys of the United States.
The quarterfinals in the top half of the men’s draw also were finally established after all the rain that has tightened the schedule to the point that players could have to compete several days in a row to get to the final, instead of benefiting from the usual days off at majors.
Top-seeded Novak Djokovic got just what he wanted as he pursues a first French Open title, wrapping up a rain-interrupted victory with a minimum of trouble to get to the quarterfinals at the 28th consecutive major.
Aiming to win his fourth major trophy in a row and complete a career Grand Slam, Djokovic needed only 71 minutes Wednesday to finish off a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 win against No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain. The match was suspended because of rain on Tuesday, with Djokovic leading 4-1 in the third set.
In the quarterfinals Thursday, Djokovic will play No. 7 Tomas Berdych, while No. 12 David Goffin meets No. 13 Dominic Thiem.
After completing his victory, Djokovic played to the crowd at Court Philippe Chatrier, first cajoling a ball boy to join him in bowing for the spectators, then donning a yellow rain hat handed to him by Fabrice Santoro, a former player who conducted the post-match interview.
“The weather forecast, as far as I heard, is not that great for the coming days,” Djokovic said later. “So that’s the reason why we should have the roof here. I’m hoping we’re going to have it very soon.”
Alas, the earliest projected date for a retractable roof over the main stadium is 2020.
(Photo Source: AP)