Tennis-Sabalenka powers into French Open fourth round, Khachanov survives

  • Tennis
  • Friday, 02 Jun 2023

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 2, 2023 Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka celebrates winning her third round match against Russia's Kamilla Rakhimova REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

PARIS (Reuters) - Aryna Sabalenka swatted aside Kamilla Rakhimova to remind her rivals of her French Open title credentials while Russian 11th seed Karen Khachanov also moved into the fourth round by stopping wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis on Friday.

Sabalenka, the big-serving world number two, beat Russian Rakhimova 6-2 6-2 on a sunbathed Court Philippe Chatrier to set up a clash with American Sloane Stephens or Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan in her quest for a second Grand Slam title.

Khachanov looked to be in trouble midway through his match against Kokkinakis but stepped up his game in the crunch moments to get past his Australian opponent 6-4 6-1 3-6 7-6(5).

World number three Jessica Pegula had never beaten Elise Mertens in two previous meetings and the American's hopes of snapping that run to remain on track for a maiden Grand Slam trophy ended in disappointment following a 6-1 6-3 defeat.

The 29-year-old Pegula particularly struggled against the versatility of Mertens, who ran her opponent ragged with some delightful sliced forehands, drops, lobs and deep shots to breeze through the match in 82 minutes.

Daria Kasatkina was even quicker across the finish line against another American as the ninth seed dropped only one game in her win over Peyton Stearns.

"I have to be quick because I'm not that powerful like many girls," Kasatkina explained. "Physically I'm not that gifted, so I have to be quick. I have to find ways to win, to survive.

"So I have to do it with my legs, with the brain, and try to squeeze the maximum I can."

Last year's semi-finalist Kasatkina will need to show her best form again in the next round where she can potentially meet former world number three Elina Svitolina. The Ukrainian takes on Russian Anna Blinkova later on Friday.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 runner-up, got off to a slow start before finishing strong to down 24th seed Anastasia Potapova 4-6 6-3 6-0 to book a clash with Mertens.

Novak Djokovic, who is seeking a 23rd Grand Slam title, is in action against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina while world number one Carlos Alcaraz will play Denis Shapovalov in the evening session.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Paris, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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