Upsets were the story late in the day on Monday at the Ariake Tennis Park as Paula Badosa, Alison Van Uytvanck and Donna Vekic took out a trio of Top 10 seeds to reach the third round at the Olympics.
Badosa was the sole player of the three to take her victory in straight sets, taking out No. 6 seed Iga Swiatek 6-3, 7-6(4), while van Uytvanck and Vekic took out No. 10 seed Petra Kvitova and No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka, respectively, in lengthy three setters.
Belgium's Van Uytvanck came from a set down to beat World No.13 Kvitova, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, by winning the last 10 games. It is the 27-year-old's first win over a Top 20 player in over three years, dating back to a famous victory over then-defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza at Wimbledon in 2018. She'll have a rematch with the Spaniard in the next round.
“She’s a legend in our sport,” Van Uytvanck said, as reported by the ITF. “She’s an absolute great player and it’s an honor to share the court with her – that’s what I told her at the net. I think what she has done for women’s tennis is incredible.
“I hope that I can maybe some day achieve the same things she has achieved. I’m proud of myself with what I did on court today and the level I reached."
The Belgian is now ranked world No.59 after also having knee surgery in February, and has now won back-to-back matches for just the third time this year. She snapped a six-match losing streak thanks to a quarterfinal run on grass at the WTA 250 in Nottingham, and later reached the final of the $100,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event held there.
“After the surgery, it has been tough to come back to competition," she added. "I lost a couple of matches in a row, then I had the grass season which gave me good confidence. Then to come here and beat Petra is one of the biggest wins I ever had.
“I’m playing Muguruza next, another great champion in our sport. It’s going to be tough, but in the Top 100, a lot of girls can play. It’s who has the better mentality and confidence. I hope I can play another good match and let’s see what happens.”
After beating Caroline Garcia in a staggering 2 hours and 48 minutes on Sunday, Vekic needed 2 hours and 35 minutes to knock out No.3 seed Sabalenka, rallying from 4-2 down in the decider to secure her eighth career Top 10 victory. For a spot in the quarterfinals, she'll take on No.15 seed Elena Rybakina, after the Kazakh beat Sweden's Rebecca Peterson, 6-2, 6-4.
“It is really good, really satisfying,” Vekic said after the match. “Winning 7-6 in the third set is always great. She’s playing really good tennis this year so I’m sure this win will give me a lot of confidence."
After a strong start to the 2021 season where she reached the fourth round of the Australian Open - where she picked up a knee injury that ultimately required surgery - former world No.19 Vekic is still finding her feet. Now ranked world No.50, she's won back-to-back matches in two of her past three events, having also lost twice in a tough draw to Karolina Pliskova at the French Open and Wimbledon.
“I’ve played two tough, long matches. I’ve come here, I would say, not 100 percent prepared. I’m still struggling a little bit with my knee," she added. "I’m just taking it one day at a time. I will try to recover and get ready for tomorrow.”
Both Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina managed to avoid the upset bug to close out Day 3, taking out Spain's Carla Suárez Navarro and Australia's Ajla Tomlanjovic, respectively, in another pair of three-setters.
Forever an inspiration and an honour to watch ❤️@CarlaSuarezNava sees her #Olympics singles run come to an end at the hands of Karolina Pliskova in three sets#Tennis | #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/sYMQbOBaMk— ITF (@ITFTennis) July 26, 2021
No.5 seed Pliskova put an end to Suárez Navarro's Olympic singles run - though she's still in the doubles with Muguruza - by virtue of a 6-3, 6-7(0), 6-1 win. The Wimbledon finalist rallied for parity at 5-5 after coming from 4-1 down in the second set, but ultimately needed over two hours to overcome the former Top 10 player after being bageled in the tiebreak.
After winning the longest match of the tournament so far against Germany's Laura Siegemund in the opening round, No. 4 seed Svitolina came from 6-4, 3-1 down to maintain a perfect career record against Tomljanovic, taking a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
“The ice bath is waiting for me, definitely,” Svitolina told the ITF. “To be fair, I started not bad, 2-0 up, but then everything went downhill for me. I was playing really bad, I was a bit slow and I didn’t feel my game at all.
“Maybe it’s because of yesterday’s match, but in the end, I was just trying to find my rhythm, move my feet a bit quicker and adjust. I just had to fight and try to find my game.”