PARIS, France – 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova was made to work for her post in the third round as an inspired Oceane Dodin pushed her to a tough three sets.
Despite the vocal support for Dodin from the Parisian fans on Court 1, Kuznetsova took down the Frenchwoman 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-3 after a hard-fought two hours and thirty minutes.
“It was a tough one, she is a tricky player,” Kuznetsova said in her post-match press conference. “Definitely the crowd was helping quite a bit. She was just going for everything, and maybe I was too passive sometimes. The conditions were quite tough too.
“The players who are not top seeds, they have nothing to lose and they play at much higher level than they normally have. These are situations you have to face, and I’m happy I’m through.
“I’m happy with today’s match – it was not easy, but I faced the match. I was tough. I was playing against the whole stadium and I felt great. I was strong mentally, and I think that’s important.”
Dodin, who was through to the second round of Roland Garros for the first time, played well above her World No.56 ranking but was ultimately undone by her unforced error count and double faults in the double digits.
She stayed undaunted even as she found herself down 5-2 in the first set, Kuznetsova pouncing on her misfiring shots to keep her under pressure. Dodin took every chance to step into the court, playing aggressively to get both breaks back and eventually level the match at 5-5 – dodging a Kuznetsova set point along the way.
Kuznetsova’s long experience showed during the tiebreak, though, opening up another big lead at 5-2. Despite Dodin once again clawing her way back into it, saving three more set points, the Russian edged through to take the close first set 7-6(5).
Dodin stuck to her game plan in the set as both players wrestled for the momentum; the Frenchwoman broke Kuznetsova twice, and both times the Russian broke straight back to immediately silence the roaring Court 1. Dodin was finally rewarded late in the set as a third break gave her the set, leveling the score.
Dodin started with a break in the first game of the decider, but her efforts were undone by a pair of double faults which put Kuznetsova back on even terms. The Russian reeled off four games in a row to put some distance her and her inspired opponent, who proved she was still in the contest as she got a break back at 4-3.
Kuznetsova stayed steady to tamp down Dodin’s late comeback efforts, as two double faults from Dodin – bringing her total to 12 – handed the Russian another break. Kuznetsova calmly served it out, firing off three aces in a row to move into the third round.
Despite the disappointing loss, Dodin praised the vocal support from the audience on Court 1, which she said helped her through in the tough moments.
“They helped me a lot,” Dodin said in her post-match press conference. “I have never played with a crowd that was so crazy. It was quite incredible. It did something special to me. It gave me a chill, a shiver.
“But then at a certain moment, you think, okay, you're going to go back home. I thought about this, and then 4-2, 4- 3, and the crowd was there to help me come back.
“It's incredible. It's only here that you can play with such conditions, and I enjoyed it so much.”
Kuznetsova will face the No.32 seed Zhang Shuai in the next round for a spot in the round of 16.