PARIS, France -- Johanna Konta's fantastic form during the 2019 clay-court season continued on Friday, as the No.26 seed from Great Britain dispatched Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-1, to reach the second week at Roland Garros for the very first time.
Konta had gone 0-4 in the French Open main draw prior to this week, but has now won three matches on the trot as she improved to 6-0 in Grand Slam third-round matches. She moved to a stellar 13-3 on clay in 2019 after her win over World No.46 Kuzmova, with runner-up showings at Rabat and Rome contributing to her colossal clay-court run this year.
The No.1 Brit started off her clash with Kuzmova with aplomb, unleashing a crosscourt backhand winner to break for 2-0, then held with ease for 3-0. Kuzmova deployed a backhand winner of her own, this one down the line, to get back on serve at 3-2, but Konta took advantage of errors by the Slovak to once again go up a break at 4-2.
Konta had no trouble obtaining the one-set lead from there, as Kuzmova double faulted while down set point to cede the opening frame to the former World No.4. Konta won 76 percent of points on her first serve in the opening set, helped along by three aces.
The second set was even more straightforward for Konta, as she never faced a break point during that stanza, and dominated with 11 winners versus just a single unforced error. Konta finished with a powerful error-forcing serve to polish off her victory after a swift 54 minutes of commanding play.
Konta next plays No.23 seed Donna Vekic for a spot in the Roland Garros quarterfinals, after the Croat beat No.15 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland earlier on Friday, 6-4, 6-1. Konta and Vekic have played six times previously, with each woman garnering three victories. This will be their first-ever meeting on clay.
Earlier in the day, two simultaneous third sets extended deep into extra innings. But while the marathon match between Anastasija Sevastova and Elise Mertens, eventually won by Sevastova, started first thing Friday morning, the encounter between No.27 seed Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine and Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia was a resumed holdover from Thursday.
The second-round match between Tsurenko and Krunic was stopped for darkness late Thursday night, deadlocked at 6-6 in the final set. But there had already been tremendous drama in the clash, as Tsurenko had let a 4-1 final-set lead slip, ultimately having to stave off a match point for Krunic at 6-5 before breaking the Serb to extend the match into a second day.
Between the two days, Krunic broke Tsurenko to serve for the match four straight times -- at 5-4 and 6-5 on Thursday, and 7-6 and 8-7 on Friday -- only to see Tsurenko break directly back each of those times to keep herself in contention for the win.
Ultimately, Tsurenko ended that run of eight straight breaks, and put together two service holds at 8-8 and 9-9 before breaking Krunic to prevail, 5-7, 7-5, 11-9, after three hours and three minutes of play. Tsurenko thusly booked a spot in the third round of Roland Garros for the third straight year.
“It was really tough mentally to play, and at the end my body was just not listening to me,” Tsurenko said in her post-match press conference. “The only thing that I wanted to do is to finish or quit that match. But you know, always being a tennis player, at some point you think, ‘No, no, no. I'm going to fight.’ And this is exactly what happened.”
“It was a really tough match for me, probably the toughest one ever,” concluded Tsurenko, who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open last year.
Tsurenko -- who experienced a tumultuous 30th birthday on Thursday for the first day of her match with Krunic -- will have to recover as best she can in preparation to head back onto the court on Saturday for a stern test. The Ukrainian will next face defending champion and No.3 seed Simona Halep; Halep leads their head-to-head 7-0, including two wins this year.
“I'm actually really excited to play Simona again this year,” said Tsurenko. “We played a few times already and in general -- I think, like, seven times. So I think that matches like it makes me better. Win or lose, it's always good experience and it's always positive for your future.”
In another second-round match held over from Thursday, last year’s semifinalist Madison Keys of the United States outlasted Australian wild card Priscilla Hon, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3, to seal her spot in the third round.
Hon, who achieved her first-ever Grand Slam main draw win in the first round over Timea Babos, pushed the match into a second day by winning the final three games of the second set just before darkness fell.
But No.14 seed Keys finally took control from 3-3 in the third set, winning the last three games of the tilt to set up a third-round match with Russian qualifier Anna Blinkova on Saturday. Keys had nine winners to just six unforced errors in the decider, while Hon’s six final-set winners were undone by 15 unforced errors during that timeframe.
Meanwhile, the victors of two third-round matches represented the gamut of experience. Former World No.15 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, who has reached six Grand Slam quarterfinals including two at Roland Garros, rebounded from an opening-set loss to overcome Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, in one hour and 51 minutes.
19-year-old Czech Marketa Vondrousova, on the other hand, booked just her second fourth-round showing at a Grand Slam event. The left-handed teen defeated No.28 seed Carla Suarez Navarro, a two-time Roland Garros quarterfinalist, 6-4, 6-4, in an hour and a half. Rapidly rising Vondrousova will meet Sevastova in the round of 16.