Top seed Simona Halep and US Open winner Dominic Thiem swept into the last 16 at Roland Garros on Friday while Rafael Nadal anticipated a stiffer challenge after serene progress in his first two matches at the tournament.
Title favourite Halep, the 2018 champion, avenged last year’s French Open loss to Amanda Anisimova by thrashing the American teenager 6-0, 6-1 in just 54 minutes.
Reigning Wimbledon champion Halep made only seven unforced errors as she stretched her career-best winning run to 17 matches.
“I think I played a really good match. I was very aggressive and I knew from last year I had to change something and I did that today,” said Halep, dedicating the win to her coach.
“It’s a gift for Darren (Cahill) because it’s his birthday.” Halep meets another 19-year-old opponent, Poland’s Iga Swiatek, for a place in the quarter-finals. She dropped just one game when the pair met here in the last 16 a year ago.
“I played against her before,” said Halep. “She’s hitting strong and flat. I have to stay focused on myself. I really want to win again.”
Halep’s status as the women’s frontrunner was reinforced following the withdrawal of Serena Williams, on top of the absence of world number one and defending champion Ashleigh Barty, as well as US Open winner Naomi Osaka.
Meanwhile Thiem, the runner-up to Nadal in Paris the past two years, broke down early resistance from Norway’s Casper Ruud to secure an impressive 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 victory.
The Austrian third seed set up a potential showdown with 2015 French Open winner Stan Wawrinka, who was playing the lone Frenchman left in the draw, 239th-ranked Hugo Gaston.
Wawrinka and left-hander Gaston exchanged the first two sets before rain halted play on all but Court Philippe Chatrier.
Two-time quarter-finalist Elina Svitolina ensured she will stick around for the second week in Paris with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova, the 27th seed.
Ukrainian Svitolina is full of confidence after capturing her 15th career WTA at Strasbourg last weekend.
“It’s always really nice to have another chance to go deep in the tournament,” she said. “It’s a little bit different without the crowd, so you start to treasure every match and every Grand Slam you play.”
Swiatek dismissed former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-2 to seal a return to the last 16, matching her best result at a major.
Later on Friday, 12-time champion Nadal meets 74th-ranked Italian Stefano Travaglia, who is through to the last 32 of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Unsurprisingly, Nadal has yet to drop a set in Paris against opponents with a combined ranking of 319, but the Spaniard knows tougher examinations await in his pursuit of Roger Federer’s record 20 major titles.
“I’ve won two matches in three sets. When you win like this it’s not bad, it means you don’t make many mistakes and manage to make a difference,” said Nadal.
“It’s a good thing. I know in the next round more is going to be asked of me and I need to be ready for that.”
Sixth seed Alexander Zverev tackles Italian qualifier Marco Cecchinato, who famously beat Novak Djokovic on his way to a semi-final appearance at Roland Garros in 2018.
Zverev was again taken to five sets in round two — 31 percent of his Grand Slam matches have now gone the distance, compared to just nine percent for Nadal.
Kiki Bertens will attempt to move on her from her stormy win over Sara Errani after which the Dutch fifth seed departed the court in a wheelchair.
Former finalist Errani accused Bertens of faking injury during a three-hour clash which left her in cramps and the Italian screaming an obscenity.—AFP