Much has been made of the chaos and catharsis that has visited this Roland Garros women’s draw. Seven of the Top 10 seeds failed to reach the third round, but what if this is really just the new normal? The accelerated natural process of evolution, happening before our eyes – like time-lapse photography.
Three players born this century – Amanda Anisimova, Leylah Fernandez and Coco Gauff – advanced to the fourth round on Friday. Two more, Iga Swiatek and Zheng Qinwen, followed them on Saturday.
That’s five in the remaining field of 16. These are the children of Generation Z, the future of tennis and, apparently, the present.
The first volley came from Gauff, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon three years ago as a 15-year-old. Bianca Andreescu was 19 when she won the 2019 US Open. Swiatek broke through as an unseeded 19-year-old at the 2020 French Open and Emma Raducanu was the 18-year-old champion at last year’s US Open.
Gen Z (which technically began in 1997) collides Sunday with a contest between the No.17-seeded Fernandez and No.27 Anisimova. That the 19-year-old Fernandez, a US Open finalist opposite Raducanu, is the highest seed left in the bottom half of the draw is instructive.
“I know them fairly well,” Fernandez said. “I’m always happy to see younger players like the next generation coming up and playing so well in the tour. I think it’s great for the sport, and it’s also good for the fans. We can bring in more the younger fans into tennis, just enjoying the matches. Hopefully they can pick up a tennis racquet.
“I think it’s just great to see that all of us, we are improving every year and that we keep playing against the best players in the world here and we can keep our own.”
The only time Fernandez and Anisimova played, back in March in the Round of 64 at Indian Wells, there was drama. Anisimova, now 20, was serving for the match at 5-4, 40-love and failed to convert her second, third and fourth match points. She abruptly retired, leaving Fernandez and the 5,000 gathered in Stadium 2 stunned. Later, in a social media post, Anisimova said she was sick.
Their paths through the draw have been impressive. Anisimova faced four-time major champion Naomi Osaka in the first round and won in straight sets. Donna Vekic fell in a second-round match and Karolina Muchova retired with an ankle injury Friday with Anisimova leading 6-7 (7), 6-2, 3-0. Anisimova showed some moxie after leading the first-set tiebreak 5-1 and losing eight of the last 10 points.
It was Anisimova’s 13th win on clay this season; she’s made the quarterfinals or better at all three tournaments she’s played. Three years ago, Anisimova became the youngest American to reach the semifinals at Roland Garros since Jennifer Capriati in 1990.
“I think my game has always been pretty good when it comes to clay,” Anisimova told reporters. “Like when I played juniors there were a lot of tournaments in South America and I’ve always done well at those. It just fits my game style well and I just enjoy playing on it because it gives me more time and, yeah, it’s just fun for me.”
Fernandez, too, embraces play on clay. She was down 2-0, love-40 in the third set against Bencic, the Olympic gold medalist a year ago in Tokyo. She’s now broken opponents’ service games 17 times in three matches. She was also the 2019 Roland Garros junior champion.
“To be honest, I think this year I totally forgot that I won the juniors a few years back,” Fernandez said. “When I did get into the Roland Garros a few years back in the professional side, I was able to just to kind of copy what they were doing and just try to find my own rhythm, my own way of training, my own way of doing things, my own routine. And I think this year everything is just coming in together.”
Sunday's other fourth-round matches
No.18 Coco Gauff vs. No.31 Elise Mertens
Gauff, who defeated 36-year-old Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-4, is attempting to reach her second consecutive quarterfinal at Roland Garros. Mertens was a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Varvara Gracheva. Mertens equals her best showing at Roland Garros, the Round of 16 in 2018. She’s now 13-5 at the French Open. Mertens is also the No.2 seed in doubles here with Veronika Kudermetova.
Their only previous match, last year at Eastbourne, was a barnburner. Gauff dropped the first set of the Round of 32 match 6-0, but rallied to win the last two sets 7-6 (4), 7-5.
No.23 Jil Teichmann vs. Sloane Stephens
At 29, Stephens is the oldest player left on this side of the draw – she’s also the only major champion, going back to her 2017 US Open title.
Interestingly, in terms of match wins, Roland Garros is her best Grand Slam venue. Stephens dispatched France’s Diane Parry 6-2, 6-3 for her 31st overall win in Paris. Stephens lost in the 2018 French Open final to Simona Halep in three sets.
Teichmann was a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5) winner over No.15 Victoria Azarenka. In her 11th major main-draw appearance, this is the first time she’s advanced to the fourth round.
This is their first meeting.
Martina Trevisan vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich
Trevisan has both momentum and personal history going for her. The 28-year-old Italian is coming off her first career title, in Rabat, Morocco – and two years ago she advanced to the quarterfinals here as a qualifier. Trevisan defeated Australian wildcard Daria Saville 6-3, 6-4, while Sasnovich handled No.21 seed Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-5 (5).
“She’s playing really good and she’s confident and she’s enjoying it,” Saville said of Trevisan, who has won eight straight. “I think she can win a few more matches with the way she’s playing.”
This is another first-time match.