Thursday was a day for milestones in Paris as the favorites moved on to the third round.
Most notable was Rafael Nadal overcoming an brief deficit out of the gate (serving at 0-30, down 0-2) to steamroll Facundo Bagnis, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 and tally the 200th Grand Slam win of his career:
GS singles wins
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) May 26, 2016
Nadal has been on fire through two matches, dropping just nine games. Notoriously slow with pace of play, the King of Clay set a new personal record for least time spent on court in his first two matches:
2008 – 14 juegos (4h 24')
2010 – 13 juegos (4h 08')
2012 – 09 juegos (3h 48')
2016 – 09 juegos (3h 05')
— Pau Ferragut (@PauFerragut) May 26, 2016
He’ll face fellow Spaniard Marcel Granollers in the next round, against whom he holds a 4-0 record and an 8-0 record in sets, including a 6-3, 6-2 win last month in Barcelona.
Also setting records were Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Djokovic was again shaky in a straight-set win, this time over Steve Darcis, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. The World No. 1’s returning is still a bit off and he’s making routine errors on groundstrokes. Djokovic wisely never goes full throttle in the opening week of a major, but his next couple matches will be interesting to examine, starting with Aljaz Bedene on Saturday.
Regardless, he became the third player ever (Roger Federer, Serena Williams) to win 50 matches at all four Slams (for the curious, Nadal’s injuries and recent Wimbledon losses put his estimated date for that record at either Wimbledon 2017 or 2018, while Andy Murray has a long way to go due to early career struggles at the French Open).
As for Tsonga, he came from two sets down to beat Marcos Baghdatis, 6-7 (6), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, for his 100th career Grand Slam victory. He’s the first Frenchman in the Open Era to accomplish the feat and will become the country’s all-time leader with four more wins.
Elsewhere in Paris on Thursday:
-Serena Williams cruised to another win, thumping Teliana Pereira, 6-2, 6-1. Her first intriguing opponent will come next round against Kiki Mladenovic.
-Tomas Berdych (dropped a set), David Goffin (did not drop a set) and David Ferrer (gritty four-set win in a brutal draw against Juan Monaco) all advanced. Goffin will face a revived Nico Almagro, who beat Jiri Vesely in straights. The mercurial Spaniard is back in fine form (and the top 50) after years of injury. Almagro has made the quarters in Paris three times, and may have gotten further if not for the poor fortune of facing Nadal all three times.
-Dominic Thiem and Sascha Zverev are set for a highly anticipated third rounder clash. Thiem beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in straights despite Garcia-Lopez serving for the first and third sets. Good friends, Thiem and Zverev will be meeting for the third time in a month, with Thiem taking their semi in Munich and the Nice final, though Zverev took a set in both. The winner will likely see Nadal in the round of 16.
-While Zverev is rapidly rising, the fact that Borna Coric needed four tight sets to dispatch the underachieving and allergic-to-clay Bernard Tomic is not a great sign.
-The top women were in fine form. Venus Williams stunningly beat Louisa Chirico 6-2, 6-1. She’s in the third round for the first time since 2010. Timea Bacsinszky nearly blew a 5-0 second set lead, but prevailed 6-4, 6-4 over Genie Bouchard. Ana Ivanovic, Carla Suarez Navarro, Madison Keys and Elina Svitolina (over Taylor Townsend) won easily in straights. Dominika Cibulkova overcame a dropped second set to bagel Ana Konjuh in the third. Top prospect Dasha Kasatkina came from a set down to make her third straight third round at a Grand Slam.
-The drama of Day 5 came at the very end. In the final match of the day, Monica Puig outlasted Julia Goerges in what some viewers called a potential match of the year, and before that, the always feisty Alize Cornet began cramping against Tatjana Maria, but was allowed to receive treatment at each changeover, which is not usually permitted. Powered by the home crowd, Cornet eventually won and reacted as if she’d won the whole tournament:
Needless to say, Maria was understandably unenthused at the whole spectacle, saying, “You’re not fair play.” The two face each other again on Friday in doubles:
-In non-Paris news, Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times reports Maria Sharapova does not expect to be reinstated in time for the Rio Olympics, which means she would miss Wimbledon as well. Russia did name her to their Olympic roster, on which she would be replaced by Ekaterina Makarova if she’s still suspended.
Friday’s marquee matches:
Kei Nishikori vs Fernando Verdasco: A battle of two great shotmakers, Verdasco needs to pull the upset to be part of Spain’s Olympic team. He’ll get hot for stretches but Nishikori is far more solid. Prediction: Nishikori in 4.
Richard Gasquet vs Nick Kyrgios: Gasquet’s futile affairs against the Big Four are snoozefests but somehow this matchup is one of the best in tennis. They have somehow played six times already, including two Wimbledon meetings. Kyrgios saved nine(!) match points at Wimbledon 2014, while Gasquet avenged that loss last year. Prediction: Throwing a dart with Gasquet in 5.
Simona Halep vs Naomi Osaka: Halep has to be glad that Osaka took out Mirjana Lucic-Baroni for her, but the rapidly-rising 18 year old is no slouch herself. Prediction: Halep in 3.
Men in action: Andy Murray vs Ivo Karlovic, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, John Isner, Jack Sock, Gilles Simon vs Viktor Troicki
Women in action: Aga Radwanska vs Barbora Strycova, Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova, Sloane Stephens, Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Sam Stosur vs Lucie Safarova