U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens in good form at French Open

AP Images
0 Comments

PARIS – Sloane Stephens has dropped only six games in her first two matches at the French Open.

Those victories have impressed former U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, who now believes the reigning U.S. Open champion can claim a second Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.

“Just FYI. Sloane Stephens is winning this tournament,” McEnroe tweeted after Stephens dispatched qualifier Magdalena Frech 6-2, 6-2 in just over an hour on Wednesday.

The 10th-seeded American player, who never got past the fourth round in her six previous appearances at the tournament, is more cautious. She missed the tournament last year and went through a stretch of poor results after winning at Flushing Meadows. She knows getting carried away would be a big mistake.

“That’s so sweet, that was nice of him,” Stephens said about McEnroe’s tweet. “I mean, I can’t predict the future, I don’t know. I would love to. We’ll see next Saturday.”

There is a very long way to go for Stephens, who has yet to meet top contenders in Paris. She will face a more serious test in the third round against Camila Giorgi of Italy, who has lost only eight games in the first two matches.

Giorgi has beaten Stephens twice in their three meetings, including a 6-3, 6-0 rout in Sidney this year on hard court. Stephens does not give too much importance to that result, though, as it came during her post-U.S. Open struggles following a knee injury.

“I was coming out of an injury and tried to get my season started,” she said.

After winning in New York, Stephens did not win a match for the rest of the season. She was beaten in the first round at the Australian Open in January and struggled with her tennis until March when she won the title in Miami.

So for now in Paris, Stephens is just happy to “feel good.”

As for McEnroe’s prediction, just wait and see.

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Jabeur bounces back at French Open, Ruud and Andreeva advance

Getty Images
0 Comments

PARIS — Ons Jabeur got a do-over on Court Philippe Chatrier at the French Open and won this time.

A year after her first-round exit, the No. 7 seed Jabeur beat Lucia Bronzetti 6-4, 6-1 to help erase some bad memories and answer questions about a recent calf injury.

The Tunisian, a crowd favorite in Paris, smiled and expressed relief in not repeating last year’s mistake, when she lost to Magda Linette of Poland.

“I’m very happy to win my first match on Philippe Chatrier – because I’ve never won here,” Jabeur said on court about the clay-court tournament’s main stadium.

Now she can focus on trying to win her first major. She was runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year.

The 28-year-old Jabeur has also battled injuries this season. She had knee surgery after the Australian Open, and was then sidelined with a calf injury. She had stopped playing against top-ranked Iga Swiatek at the clay-court tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, in late April and then pulled out of the Madrid Open.

“It was a very difficult period for me after Stuttgart,” said Jabeur, adding that she’s beginning to find her rhythm.

Jabeur struck 27 winner’s to Bronzetti’s seven, though with 24 unforced errors she’ll have room to improve.

Mirra Andreeva had a memorable Grand Slam debut by dominating Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-2, 6-1. Andreeva’s older sister – 18-year-old Erika – was facing Emma Navarro later in the day.

Later, Swiatek gets her French Open title defense started against Cristina Bucsa, who is ranked 70th.

On the men’s side, No. 4 seed Casper Ruud beat qualifier Elias Ymer 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, to remind the higher-profile tournament favorites that he was runner-up to Rafael Nadal last year at Roland Garros.

New mom Elina Svitolina beats seeded player at French Open in 1st Slam match in 16 months

Getty Images
0 Comments

PARIS — So much has changed for Elina Svitolina, who played – and won – her first Grand Slam match in nearly 1 1/2 years at the French Open, eliminating 2022 semifinalist Martina Trevisan 6-2, 6-2.

For one thing, she’s now a mother: Svitolina and her husband, French tennis player Gael Monfils, welcomed their daughter, Skaï, in October. For another, Svitolina is now ranked 192nd, nowhere near the career high of No. 3 she first reached in 2017, back in the days when she was regularly reaching the second weeks of major tournaments – including a pair of semifinal runs. Away from the courts, her home country of Ukraine was invaded by Russia last year, and the war continues.

“Everything,” she said, “is kind of old and new for me right now.”

In sum, Svitolina is juggling a lot nowadays.

She hadn’t played at a Slam since a third-round exit at the Australian Open in January 2022. She hadn’t played a match anywhere since March 2022, when she was still ranked 20th.

“It was always in my head … to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” the 28-year-old Svitolina said.

The work to return to the tour after giving birth began this January; her initial WTA match came at Charleston, South Carolina, in April. She won her first title since returning to action, at a smaller event on red clay in Strasbourg, France.

At Roland Garros, she used her big forehand to compile a 20-12 edge in winners and never faced a single break point against Trevisan, who was seeded 26th.

Trevisan cried as she spoke after the match about a problem with her right foot that made it difficult to even walk and prompted her to stop playing during her quarterfinal last week at the Morocco Open, where she was the defending champion.

Still, she gave Svitolina credit.

“Even though she’s just coming back from having a daughter, she’s a champion,” Trevisan said. “And she’s coming off a title, so she’s confident.”

Svitolina talked about feeling “awful when you’re pregnant, especially the last months,” but getting into a position now where she thinks she’s stronger than before – in more ways than one.

“I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court and, match by match, I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental (state) can influence your physicality, as well,” she said. “I tried to find the balance, and I feel like I’m seeing (things) a little bit again differently as well after the break. Everything is getting there. The puzzles are getting slowly into place.”