Tennis: Federer reaches French Open fourth round, Pliskova out

Federer gestures after his third round match against Norway's Casper Ruud.
Federer gestures after his third round match against Norway's Casper Ruud.PHOTO: REUTERS
Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova returns the ball to Croatia's Petra Martic during the women's singles third round match at The Roland Garros 2019 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 31, 2019.
Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova returns the ball to Croatia's Petra Martic during the women's singles third round match at The Roland Garros 2019 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 31, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Roger Federer became the oldest man to reach the French Open fourth round in 47 years on Friday (May 31) by winning his record 400th Grand Slam match in straight sets against Norwegian Casper Ruud, while women’s second seed Karolina Pliskova was dumped out.

The 37-year-old Federer, playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, saw off the 63rd-ranked Ruud 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (10/8) on Court Suzanne Lenglen despite an action-packed fourth set.

It is the 14th time the 20-time Grand Slam champion has reached the second week in Paris, and he will face either French wildcard Nicolas Mahut or Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer for a quarter-final spot.

“It was hard to find weaknesses in his game, so I’m relieved, I’m now going to have a good shower and it’s going to be great,” said the 2009 winner, who hit 52 winners and served 11 aces past Ruud, whose father Christian played the 1999 French Open when Federer made his debut.

“It was a nice match to play in.” Federer is the oldest man to book a last-16 place since Tunisian-born Italian Nicola Pietrangeli, a two-time champion, at the age of 38 in 1972.

The 20-year-old Ruud, who was ranked as low as 135 earlier in the season, started well, but Federer broke for a 4-3 lead with a sumptuous flicked backhand passing shot and wasted little time in finishing off the set.

Third seed Federer romped through the second set, hitting 17 winners, and then quickly recovered an early break in the third as Ruud started to find some rhythm.

The underdog did well to force a tie-break, saving two break points in game seven, but Federer moved through the gears in the breaker to take a 6-4 lead.

Ruud saved back-to-back match points to keep Federer waiting, though, but saw a set point come and go as the Swiss great successfully served and volleyed before finally completing the win on his fourth match point with an emphatic smash.

Later on Friday, reigning champion Rafael Nadal continues his bid for a record-extending 12th French Open title against Belgian 27th seed David Goffin, while Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic.

Second seed Pliskova crashes out

Pliskova exited the French Open in a blaze of unforced errors on Court Philippe Chatrier as she was comfortably dismissed 6-3, 6-3 by Croatia’s Petra Martic.

The 31st-seeded Martic will face Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi for a place in her first-ever Grand Slam quarter-final.

Pliskova’s defeat means Naomi Osaka will retain the world number one spot after Roland Garros.

Martic has now won 14 matches on clay this season, more than any other player on the WTA Tour.

Pliskova was considered one of the favourites after winning the Italian Open in Rome, but said Roland Garros’ premier court did not play to her strengths.

“I think the court is pretty slow, so you just have to play some extra shots,” said the former world number one, who is still yet to win a Grand Slam title.

“The centre court, I played twice, and twice it was slow.”

Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, made short work of Ukrainian Elina Svitolina as the ninth seed’s disappointing clay season ended on a low note.

Spanish 19th seed Muguruza eased to a 6-3, 6-3 victory on Chatrier to reach the fourth round for the sixth successive year and set up a tie with either last year’s runner-up Sloane Stephens or Slovenian Polona Hercog.

Elsewhere in the women’s third round, Anastasija Sevastova saved five match points in an epic clash to beat Elise Mertens 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 11-9.

The Latvian 12th seed will take on impressive Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in the fourth round, after the 19-year-old saw off Spanish 28th seed Carla Suarez Navarro 6-4, 6-4.