Stuttgart: World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka said beating former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova in the second round of the tune-up event in Stuttgart will boost her preparation for the Roland Garros Grand Slam.
Sabalenka defeated Krejcikova 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and 15 minutes on Wednesday, becoming the first player to book her spot in the quarterfinals.
The Belarusian said the victory over the 2021 French Open winner handed her a confidence boost ahead of the May 28-June 11 major on the Parisian clay.
“It’s tough but an interesting challenge to play the first match against a Grand Slam champion,” Australian Open winner Sabalenka, who received a bye in the opening round, told reporters.
“It is something unique like you’re never going to play the first round against a Grand Slam champion in the bigger tournament.
“I think it’s a good preparation before the bigger tournament. You play only tough matches from the first round, so I think it’s a good tournament to play before going into the big tournaments.” Sabalenka has never reached the second week at the French Open, bowing out in the third round at the last three editions, but the 24-year-old said earlier in the week the Parisian clay was not the problem.
“I was just struggling with the Grand Slams before and it was more about me really wanting to win a Grand Slam and me getting really crazy on matches than something about the clay,” she said on Tuesday.
“Because clay is good there and it’s one of the best clay courts there. I really like the courts, and hopefully this year I’ll be able to do well.”
Ons Jabeur was four points away from an early exit before storming back to beat No 22 seed Jelena Ostapenko 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 to advance to her second straight quarter-final in Stuttgart.
Also advancing to the next round are sixth seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who got the better of Jule Niemeier of Germany 7-5, 6-3 while Maria Sakkari of Greece overcame Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-3. Meanwhile, No. 5 seed Coco Gauff scored her first career victory in the event with a 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(3) win over Veronika Kudermetova in 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Quick out of the blocks
Before their opening round clash in Stuttgart on Wednesday, Ostapenko and Jabeur had split their two previous matches on the WTA Tour level. Their one meeting on clay came on the ITF level in 2015, in which Ostapenko won 6-3, 6-4, said a report on the WTA Tour website.
Ostapenko was quick out of the blocks. Coming off a 58-minute win over Emma Raducanu, Ostapenko needed just 30 minutes to race past Jabeur in the first set. That form continued until Ostapenko found herself serving for the win at 6-1, 5-4.
But Jabeur raised her level to reel off 11 of the next 13 points to earn a pair of set points at 6-5, 15-40. Ostapenko did well to save three set points and earned two points to force a tiebreak, but Jabeur finally closed out the set on her fourth set point to force a final set.
Having turned the momentum around, Jabeur took firm control in the third set. After breaking Ostapenko to lead 4-2, Jabeur saved a break point in her final service game to seal her sixth consecutive win after 2 hours and 3 minutes.