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Sabalenka, Rybakina advance at Roland-Garros

Aryna Sabalenka Aryna Sabalenka - The Canadian Press

PARIS (AP) — Grand Slam winners Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka reached the fourth round of the French Open in straight sets on Saturday.

Former Wimbledon champion Rybakina, seeded fourth, beat Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4, 6-2. Two-time Australian Open champion Sabalenka, seeded second, followed her on Court Philippe Chatrier and won against Paula Badosa 7-5, 6-1.

“It’s tough to play your best friend,” Sabalenka said.

It was for a while.

After trailing 5-3 in the first set, Sabalenka won eight straight games to take control.

“I was just feeling myself and trusting my shots,” Sabalenka said.

Badosa said their friendship does not affect how they play.

“We have a great relationship and then when the match comes we separate things," she said. “We are opponents there but, after that and before that, we are always going to be friends.”

Former No. 1 Sabalenka’s best performance at Roland Garros was the semifinals while Rybakina — the only player from Kazakhstan to win a major title — has one quarterfinal appearance.

Russian-born Varvara Gracheva of France advanced to the fourth round of a major for the first time after downing Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 7-5, 6-3.

In a match that finished just after 3 a.m. local time on Sunday, defending champion Novak Djokovic rallied from two sets to one down to eventually overcome 30th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti 7-5, 6-7 (8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 in nearly four-and-a-half hours.

It was the second time in three years the top-seeded Djokovic had been pushed to five sets by the Italian, who in their 2021 fourth round in match in Paris took the first two sets before retiring in the fifth.

Djokovic faces 23rd-seeded Francisco Cerundolo in the fourth round.

Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev rallied from 4-1 down in the fifth set to beat 26th-seeded Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (3), clinching victory with an ace.

Zverev, who won the Italian Open last month, has reached the semifinals at the past three French Opens and avoided his earliest exit at Roland Garros since losing in the first round in 2017.

Zverev’s trial in Germany for allegedly causing bodily harm to a woman began on Friday. The prosecution accuses Zverev of pushing his ex-partner against a wall and choking her during an argument in Berlin in May 2020.

Griekspoor fell short of reaching the fourth round of a major tournament for the first time and his record against top-five players dropped to 0-11.

In other men's third-round play, former U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev won 7-6 (4), 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 against Tomas Machac and 21st-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime beat No.15-seeded American Ben Shelton 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.

Their match was halted by rain on Friday night. Shelton was bothered by a left shoulder issue and had it worked on by a trainer.

Auger-Aliassime has never reached the quarterfinals here, and must get past two-time major winner Carlos Alcaraz.

For the fifth consecutive day, rain interrupted play. Shortly before 1 p.m. rain came again with a chilly wind and the temperature dropped to an unappealing 14 degrees (57 F).

Medvedev wore leg warmers during his first set against Machac, who beat Djokovic last week in the Geneva Open semifinals, then removed them for the second set.

There was an unusual moment late in the match when chair umpire Damien Dumusois collected a pigeon that fell onto the court.

For almost five hours, the only play was under the roofs of Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Singles play finally resumed elsewhere at 5:37 p.m. and Elina Avanesyan beat Australian Open runner-up Zheng Qinwen won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6). Avanesyan led 5-2 in the third set but Zheng forced a tiebreaker, making a long day even longer.

“Thanks for everybody here for staying to support us," Avanesyan said. “After a few days here I guess everybody got used to this (weather). At the break we were just playing cards and drinking tea.”


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