The two players who played for last year's French Open title overcame tough challengers in Paris on Saturday to return to the fourth round.
To start the day on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, No.4 seed Sofia Kenin rallied for a 4-6, 6-1 6-4 victory over No.28 seed Jessica Pegula for a berth in the fourth round for the third year running. Later in the day on Court Philippe-Chatrier, No.8 seed and defending champion Iga Swiatek was tested early and rolled late in a 7-6(4), 6-0 win over No.30 seed Anett Kontaveit, running her streak of consecutive sets won in Paris to 20.
Keep calm and Kenin on 💪— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 5, 2021
Top remaining women’s seed @SofiaKenin digs deep to reach a third straight fourth round in Paris, dispatching fellow American Pegula 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/JE9VWFMYTQ
The first of two all-American matches on tap for the afternoon went the way of the one at the top of the rankings as Kenin beat Pegula in a decider for the second time this year. With a staggering 48 winners over the course of one hour and 56 minutes. Kenin also served six aces, winning 65 percent of her first-serve points, and broke Pegula seven times.
The win is Kenin's second three-setter of the tournament so far, after five of her seven matches at the event last year went the distance.
"I was obviously really happy. It was a tough match. It was a lot of ups and downs, emotions," Kenin said after the win. "I'm just really happy with the way I'm playing.
"Of course, being in the fourth [round] of a Slam is obviously really nice and special, so towards the end it was more emotions.
"I have great memories from here. I obviously cannot live on that. I have to try to move on. In terms of that, I just take one match at a time I'm playing. And of course those memories will always be with me. I just think I need to lock in and put that aside. That was last year. Try to make some new memories this year."
A quick 3-0 start for the World No.5 was quickly erased in the opener by Pegula, who won six of the next seven games to build a one-set lead. Despite being the clear aggressor off the ground in the first set - Kenin racked up 18 winners and 16 unforced errors, while Pegula totaled 10 less of each - the highest-ranking American struggled on serve. Broken three times, Kenin served five double faults, and also went just 1-for-12 on points played behind her second serve.
However, she quickly turned the match around to begin the second set: Pegula pressured Kenin to deuce in the first game and was unable to break, and soon found herself trailing 4-0 thanks to a pair of marathon service games herself that didn't go her way.
The two Americans again traded breaks to start the decider, where Kenin's second for 2-1 gave her a lead she'd never relinquish. She nonetheless saved break point in the sixth game, and was pushed to 30-30 in the eighth, but never dropped her serve to finish the match.
"I've worked hard on my fitness and my game the past few weeks, so I feel like it's obviously improving," Kenin said. "Of course, the more matches that I'm playing, more confidence I'm getting. Of course, I'm happy that it's clicking during French Open. I'm not going to complain about that.
"In terms of how I'm playing now, I mean, compared to this whole year and since last year['s] French, I feel like it's some good tennis. I'm happy with the way I'm playing. Of course it gives me confidence. I'm finally not on a one-match winning streak. Because this whole year, it was like the second time I won two matches in a row."
Kenin will next face No.17 seed Maria Sakkari as she bids for her third career Grand Slam quarterfinal. To reach the fourth round in Paris for the first time, Sakkari overcame No.14 seed Elise Mertens in a two hour, 52-minute marathon, 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-2.
✊Second week! Happy with the consistency and...now I have my reward. Pecan pie it is. 🥧— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) June 5, 2021
✊Drugi tydzień! Jestem zadowolona z jakości i mam też wreszcie nagrodę...🥧#secondweek #stepbystep pic.twitter.com/nEaobmksZs
Second up on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Swiatek needed to summon all her guile to secure the tightest of openers against Kontaveit, against whom she was 0-2 previously.
The defending champion rallied from a break down in the opener, where she cooled off a red-hot Kontaveit who doubled her own winner total off the ground, and later sprinted to her second bagel set in three matches.
"I think I had a late start because not looking at the first games but overall at first set, it was game by game. So if I wouldn't have got broken in the first game, I think it would just look differently, the score. But I'm really happy that I was consistent, and in tiebreak I could lead pretty easily," Swiatek said after the match.
"But in the second set, Anett made more mistakes because I guess that she was staying pretty risky, and in the second set her shots... sometimes, she just made a lot more mistakes.
"I think that was a good choice for me to do, just step back a little bit and react quicker because she was playing pretty fast from the beginning. Sometimes, I had problems with seeing where she's going to play, but it wasn't as hard later."
After losing 10 of the first 12 points of the match, Swiatek worked her way into rhythm against the Estonian's first-strike tennis, and got back on serve in the eighth game. A high-quality opening 57 minutes saw Kontaveit hit 23 winners and 11 unforced errors, with Swiatek totaling 13 and 11, respectively; however, by the end of the 82-minute affair, Kontaveit had 32 winners and 23 unforced to the Pole's 21 winners and 12 errors.
Weathered the storm ⛈☀️😁— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 5, 2021
Defending champ @iga_swiatek tallies her 20th straight set won at #RolandGarros en route to securing a 7-6(4), 6-0 win over No.30 seed Kontaveit. The 20-year-old faces Kostyuk in R4. pic.twitter.com/wmcstZFOcV
Swiatek will next face 18-year-old Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, who became the youngest woman from her country to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam after a 6-1, 6-2 win over Russian Varvara Gracheva.