After going 0-6 in Slam QFs, Pavlyuchenkova finally wins 1

Don’t get Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova wrong: Of course she’s happy to finally make it to her first Grand Slam semifinal at age 29 after going 0-6 in major singles quarterfinals — and 0-5 in doubles quarterfinals — until now.

Just understand that she is not satisfied with how far she has made it so far at the French Open.

“Still matches to go through,” she said. “Still work to be done.”

The 31st-seeded Pavlyuchenkova will make her debut in the final four of a Slam in her 52nd appearance at one after edging her doubles partner, Elena Rybakina, 6-7 (2), 6-2, 9-7 on Tuesday.

The whole thing took more than 2 1/2 hours, and Pavlyuchenkova needed to recover from a fall early in the second set that left her back caked with clay and then overcome being a break down in the third.

“Unreal match,” said Pavlyuchenkova, who credits coaching help from her brother and working with a sports psychologist with helping her on-court progress of late.

On Thursday, she will face another first-time major semifinalist: 85th-ranked Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia.

Zidansek also needed the tennis equivalent of overtime to get through the quarterfinals Tuesday — the French Open is the only Grand Slam event that doesn’t use final-set tiebreakers in singles — eliminating No. 33 seed Paula Badosa 7-5, 4-6, 8-6.

“It feels overwhelming,” said Zidansek, a junior national champion as a snowboarder.

She called her first-round victory over 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu “a big breakthrough for me; I got a lot of confidence from that.”

Rybakina, who was seeded 21st, had eliminated 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the fourth round.

But Rybakina’s steadiness in that match was not as present against Pavlyuchenkova, with whom she is scheduled to team up in the doubles quarterfinals Wednesday.

There were a record half-dozen first-time Grand Slam quarterfinalists in the women’s bracket, including Zidansek, Barbosa, Rybakina and a trio on Wednesday’s schedule: 17-year-old American Coco Gauff, Barbora Krejcikova and Maria Sakkari. Gauff plays Krejcikova, and Sakkari faces 2020 champion Iga Swiatek.

FANS FOR DJOKOVIC

The easing of coronavirus-related restrictions means fans will be able to attend the French Open’s final night session of this year’s tournament on Wednesday, featuring a men’s quarterfinal between Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini.

It also means more folks can be in the stands at Court Philippe Chatrier.

The changes include shifting a curfew — one that forces spectators to leave Roland Garros — from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. And tournament organizers also moved the start of the night session up an hour to 8 p.m.; the last match of each day’s scheduled had been beginning at 9 p.m.

Another difference Wednesday: Up to 5,000 fans will be allowed inside the main stadium for the final five days of the tournament.

Previously, only 1,000 spectators were permitted inside Chatrier this year.

A new electronic health pass system will be used to monitor fans as of Wednesday, too.

ANDREESCU, COACH SPLIT

A week after a narrow first-round French Open loss, Bianca Andreescu split with the coach who helped her win the 2019 U.S. Open championship.

The No. 7-ranked Andreescu posted on social media Tuesday that she and Sylvain Bruneau “have mutually decided to end our incredible coaching relationship.”

They worked together for four years.

Andreescu described him as a “coach, mentor and friend” and also wrote: “Sylvain was more than a coach… he is family.”

At Roland Garros, Andreescu lost 9-7 in the third set in the opening round against Tamara Zidansek, a Slovenian ranked 85th who won Tuesday to reach the semifinals in Paris.

In 2019, Bruneau was there when a 19-year-old Andreescu beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final to give Canada its first Grand Slam singles trophy and become the first woman in the professional era to win the title in New York in her main-draw debut.

That was only Andreescu’s fourth appearance in any Grand Slam tournament.

She has dealt with various injuries since and only appeared in two majors — losing in the second round of the Australian Open in February before the narrow loss in Paris.

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AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome and AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed to this report.

Zverev reaches 3rd Grand Slam semifinal, 1st at French Open

Alexander Zverev did not want to believe that his opponent in the French Open quarterfinals had saved a break point with a shot that landed on — or was it merely near? — a line in the fourth game Tuesday.

So Zverev crouched down near the mark on the red clay and engaged in a bit of an argument with chair umpire Alison Hughes, repeatedly saying, “No!” and then “How?”

Hughes, whose call was backed up by an unofficial video rendering shown on TV, didn’t budge, and Zverev quickly lost that game, then the next one, too, to fall briefly behind. Could have been the start of an unraveling.

Instead, Zverev recovered quickly, grabbed 16 of the remaining 19 games and easily moved into his third Grand Slam semifinal by defeating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.

The No. 6-seeded Zverev, the U.S. Open runner-up to Dominic Thiem last year, will participate in his first semifinal at Roland Garros against either No. 2 Daniil Medvedev or No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas. Their quarterfinal was scheduled for Tuesday night.

In the two women’s quarterfinals played earlier in the day at Court Philippe Chatrier, No. 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and 85th-ranked Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia each earned her first berth in a major semifinal.

Pavlyuchenkova entered the day with an 0-6 record in Slam quarterfinals — including a loss in Paris back in 2011 — but she edged her doubles partner Elena Rybakina 6-7 (2), 6-2, 9-7.

“Mentally it was really, really hard this morning,” the 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova said. “Especially since I needed to play Elena.”

Rybakina managed to eliminate 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the fourth round but wasn’t able to play as well against Pavlychenkova.

Before last week, Zidansek never had advanced past the second round at any Grand Slam tournament.

Indeed, her biggest triumphs as an athlete might have come in an entirely different sport: She was a junior national champion in snowboarding.

But spurred on by the vocal support of her coaching team on Court Philippe Chatrier, Zidansek got past No. 33 seed Paula Badosa 7-5, 4-6, 8-6.

“It feels overwhelming,” Zidansek said.

There were 15 service breaks in that match and Badosa acknowledged being a bit undone by her nerves.

She threw her racket at the changeover after falling behind 6-5 in the third set.

“I guess I managed to keep my composure today a little bit better than her,” Zidansek said.

Zverev was able to contain whatever was roiling inside after what, to him, perhaps felt like a critical moment — even if it came after just 20 minutes of play against the 46th-ranked Davidovich Fokina, a 22-year-old from Spain who loves to use drop shots.

But after getting broken three times in the opening set, Zverev never faced so much as one break point the rest of the way.

And he played so much more cleanly that Davidovich Fokina, who wound up with 37 unforced errors to Zverev’s 16.

Zverev began this French Open in the worst way possible last week: He lost the initial two sets he played — 6-3, 6-3 against qualifier Oscar Otte.

But Zverev hasn’t dropped one since, completing a comeback in five against Otte to start a run that has now stretched to 15 sets in a row.

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AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington and AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.

Djokovic, Nadal beat Italian teens to reach French Open QFs

For two sets and more than two hours at the French Open on Monday, Novak Djokovic found himself being outplayed by a 19-year-old opponent from Italy making his Grand Slam debut.

And yet, to hear Djokovic tell it afterward, he had the kid right where he wanted him. Which turned out to be true.

Rafael Nadal also faced an Italian who’s just 19 in the fourth round — and also took a bit of time to get going. Nadal’s trouble lasted all of eight games and less than 45 minutes Monday before he took control, ran his Roland Garros streak to 35 consecutive sets and joined Djokovic in reaching a record 15th quarterfinal at the clay-court major tournament.

After dropping a pair of tiebreakers, Djokovic suddenly went from a big deficit to his best tennis. He grabbed 13 games in a row before Lorenzo Musetti stopped playing because of lower back pain and cramps while trailing 6-7 (7), 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0.

“I like to play young guys in best-of-five, because I feel even if they are leading a set or two sets to love, as it was the case today, I still like my chances,” said the top-seeded Djokovic, who is 34, “because I feel like I’m physically fit and I know how to wear my opponent down.”

Nadal, who turned 35 last week, trailed 5-3 early on against the 18th-seeded Jannik Sinner, who served for the first set at 5-4.

“I was playing a very good player with a big future,” Nadal said.

But 13-time French Open champion Nadal took eight games in a row and, after a blip in the second set, resumed his excellent play and closed his 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 win on a 10-game run.

Musetti, a talented Italian so good at the outset with his one-handed backhand and tremendous touch, is hardly used to this best-of-five-set format at the majors and he took a medical timeout after the fourth.

“It didn’t make sense to keep playing. I couldn’t win any points or stay in the rallies. It was hard for me to move,” Musetti said. “I was at my limit.”

Djokovic wound up 9 for 9 on his break-point chances and with a 53-30 edge in winners.

How shocking was it just to see Musetti take a pair of sets against Djokovic, who is seeking his second French Open championship and 19th Grand Slam trophy overall?

“Even for me,” Musetti acknowledged afterward, “it was a little surprising.”

The top-seeded Djokovic never has been beaten at Roland Garros by someone ranked as low as the No. 76 Musetti. Djokovic’s only previous loss against a teen at the French Open came back in 2006 against a guy named Nadal. And Djokovic entered the day 14-0 in the fourth round at the place.

Plus, consider Djokovic’s recent form: He was 10-0 in Grand Slam matches in 2021 and hadn’t ceded more than four games in any set in Paris — let alone an entire set — while dropping a total of just 23 games until Monday.

Eventually, Djokovic earned his fifth career comeback from two sets down by limiting his mistakes and making Musetti look like what he is: Someone with plenty of promise but not much experience.

Djokovic’s 49th major quarterfinal will come against another Italian, No. 9 seed Matteo Berrettini, who advanced without needing to swing his racket once Monday.

That’s because the man Berrettini was supposed to face, 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, withdrew Sunday in order to let his surgically repaired right knee and the rest of his 39-year-old body recover with an eye to Wimbledon, which starts June 28.

Just as Nadal vs. Sinner was a rematch from last year in Paris — Sinner also served for the first set in that one before losing in three — Nadal will play No. 10 seed Diego Schwartzman next in a reprise of a 2020 semifinal.

Schwartzman saved seven set points in the opening set Monday on the way to eliminating Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (9), 6-4, 7-5.

In women’s play, 17-year-old American Coco Gauff became the youngest player since 2006 to reach the women’s quarterfinals at any Grand Slam tournament by overwhelming No. 25 seed Ons Jabeur 6-3, 6-1 in under an hour.

Gauff now meets Barbora Krejcikova, who reached her first major quarterfinal with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up.

Maria Sakkari, who is seeded 17th, beat No. 4 Sofia Kenin, last year’s runner-up, 6-1, 6-3. Sakkari’s quarterfinal opponent will be 2020 champion Iga Swiatek or Marta Kostyuk.

Gauff, Krejcikova and Sakkari are three of the six women making their Grand Slam quarterfinal debuts.

On an afternoon that began with the sun shining, before clouds intervened, Djokovic’s two-handed backhand, his best shot, was off. Way off.

By the second game of the third set, he already had accumulated two dozen unforced errors off that wing alone.

And while Djokovic is normally adept at tiebreakers — he made no errors at all in the three tiebreakers of his 2019 Wimbledon final win against Federer — Musetti was on-target and so good in that high-pressure, high-stakes environment. Musetti is now 10-0 in tour-level tiebreakers for his nascent career.

After that, though, Djokovic took over.

“I never thought I had it won. Absolutely not,” Musetti said. “Against a champion like Djokovic, you truly only have a victory when he shakes your hand at the end.”

___ AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington and AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.

The Latest: Gauff into French Open 4th round, Brady retires

The Latest on the French Open (all times local):

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7:30 p.m.

American teenager Coco Gauff is into the French Open’s fourth round for the first time after her opponent, Jennifer Brady, stopped playing because of an injured left foot.

The 24th-seeded Gauff, a 17-year-old based in Florida, took the opening set 6-1 before Brady retired from the match. The two players met for a hug.

Brady was seeded 13th and was the runner-up at the Australian Open in February and a semifinalist at the U.S. Open last year.

But she said she has been dealing with plantar fasciitis and a bone bruise in her foot and considered not even entering the French Open at all.

Against Gauff, Brady said, “I wasn’t even really running for balls, just because I was in so much pain. I wasn’t serving at full capacity.”

Gauff next faces No. 25 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia with a quarterfinal berth at stake.

Gauff has been as far as the fourth round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open but has never been past that stage at a Grand Slam tournament. She lost in the second round in her Roland Garros main-draw debut last year.

“Obviously, she’s an incredible talent,” the 26-year-old Brady said. “She’s so young. … She’s definitely continuing to climb the ranks, improve her game. She’s really good. Yeah, I wish her all the best.”

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6:15 p.m.

Rafael Nadal advanced to the round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the 50th time by beating Cameron Norrie in the French Open, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

Nadal won easily despite losing serve twice in a row in the second set. He’ll next play 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner.

Nadal is trying to add to his record 13 French Open championships and seeks his 21st major title, which would break the men’s record he shares with Roger Federer.

Federer and Novak Djokovic are the only other men to have reached the fourth round at 50 major events.

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5:55 p.m.

Defending champion Iga Swiatek rallied from a slow start for her latest win at the French Open.

She was down a break in the opening set but regrouped and beat Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (4), 6-0.

Swiatek has won 20 consecutive sets at Roland Garros and that streak was in jeopardy when she trailed 4-2. She dominated from there and lost only 12 points in the second set.

The eighth-seeded Swiatek next faces 18-year-old Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, who has reached the round of 16 at a major event for the first time.

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3:55 p.m.

Novak Djokovic has reached the fourth round of the French Open for a record 12th consecutive year.

The No. 1-seeded Djokovic has not been pushed yet in any match — or any set, really — in Week 1 at Roland Garros. His latest victory was by a 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 score against 93rd-ranked Ricardas Berankis.

Djokovic’s streak of appearances in the round of 16 in Paris is now one longer than the previous professional era mark for men of 11. That was shared by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who both got that far every year from 2005-15.

Djokovic is seeking a second French Open championship and 19th Grand Slam title overall. Nadal and Federer share that record with 20.

Against Berankis, Djokovic never faced a break point and compiled 30 winners to just 18 unforced errors.

Djokovic has dropped a total of 23 games across three matches so far.

He will meet 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti of Italy for a spot in the quarterfinals.

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3:40 p.m.

Fourth-seeded Sofia Kenin remains the highest seed in the women’s draw after rallying to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 against American countrywoman Jessica Pegula.

Kenin is chasing her first title at Roland Garros after losing last year’s final to Iga Swiatek.

She clinched victory on her third match point against the 28th-seeded Pegula.

The 22-year-old Kenin won the Australian Open last year for her first and only major title so far.

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2 p.m.

Former French Open doubles champion Barbora Krejcikova matched her best performance in singles at a Grand Slam by reaching the fourth round.

She used a heavy forehand to upset fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-3, 6-2 on Court Philippe-Chatrier. She thrust both hands in the air and shouted with joy after winning on her first match point.

Krejcikova also reached the fourth round in singles at Roland Garros last year and now will face 2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens for a place in the quarterfinals.

The unseeded Krejcikova’s best singles performance at any other major was reaching second round at the Australian Open.

She is a former top-ranked doubles player with titles from the French Open and Wimbledon in 2018.

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1:20 p.m.

Former runner-up Sloane Stephens advanced to the fourth round of the French Open by beating 18th-seeded Karolina Muchova 6-3, 7-5.

Muchova had 23 winners compared to 22 for Stephens but the Czech player made 32 unforced errors to 25 for the unseeded American.

Stephens lost the final at Roland Garros in 2018 after winning her only Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open the year before.

She next faces either fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina or Barbora Krejcikova. They were playing their match on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

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12:45 p.m.

Philipp Kohlschreiber has resumed his third-round match against Diego Schwartzman after taking a medical timeout for a tight muscle around the groin area.

The veteran German player was trailing by two sets and 30-0 up on his opening service game in the third set when he called for a medical timeout. He explained that he had tightness around his groin.

The 10th-seeded Schwartzman got permission from the umpire to nip back to the dressing room while his opponent was receiving treatment.

The crowd at Court Suzanne Lenglen gave Kohlschreiber a loud ovation when he resumed playing.

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11:30 a.m.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are heavy favorites against unseeded players as they try to advance to the second week at the French Open.

The 13-time champion Nadal will face 45th-ranked Cameron Norrie for the third time this year and has won both previous meetings. Nadal holds a 102-2 record at Roland Garros.

Federer, whose only title here was in 2009, will take on Dominik Koepfer, and the 2016 champion Djokovic will face Ricardas Berankis.

Two all-American matchups highlight the women’s schedule.

Sofia Kenin is the highest-seeded remaining player in the draw at No. 4 and she faces Jessica Pegula.

Jennifer Brady takes on 17-year-old Coco Gauff.

Familiar results at French Open as Nadal, Swiatek advance

Iga Swiatek closed out her latest French Open victory and raised a triumphant right fist. Rafael Nadal won less than half an hour later and celebrated with a left uppercut.

The two defending champions make for a potent one-two combination at Roland Garros, where both won going away Saturday to reach the fourth round.

Swiatek rallied from a break down in the opening set to beat Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (4), 6-0. Nadal was unfazed at losing serve twice in a row in the second set and eliminated Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

Nadal, 35, advanced to the round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the 50th time. He’s trying to add to his record 13 French Open crowns and seeks his 21st major title, which would break the men’s record he shares with Roger Federer.

As Nadal spoke to the crowd after the match, fans reminded the Spaniard of his title total by shouting “treize!” — 13 in French.

“Can you repeat that?” he responded in English with a smile.

Nadal will next play 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, who is seeded 18th.

“He’s young, he’s improving every week, he has big shots,” Nadal said. “I need to be solid. I need to be aggressive too. I need to make him play from tough positions. It’s the fourth round — you can’t expect an easy opponent.”

Nadal knows that from experience. Federer and Novak Djokovic are the only other men to reach the fourth round at 50 major events.

Swiatek, 20, has won 20 consecutive sets at Roland Garros and that streak was in jeopardy when she trailed Kontaveit 4-2. The title holder dominated from there and lost only 12 points in the second set.

“It’s good to have matches like that, because it keeps you down to earth, and you have to be careful on every point,” Swiatek said. “I’m just happy that I’m able to play really solid in really important moments.”

The eighth-seeded pride of Poland next faces 18-year-old Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, who has reached the round of 16 at a major event for the first time.

Sofia Kenin advanced to the fourth round for the third consecutive year by winning a seesaw all-American match against Jessica Pegula, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Kenin is the highest-seeded player left in the women’s draw at No. 4, and she has shaken a slump with her return to Roland Garros, where she was the runner-up to Swiatek in October.

“This whole year hasn’t been so great in terms of my tennis,” Kenin said. “I’ve had some early round exits. I’m just happy that I’m finally finding my rhythm and playing some good tennis again.”

The top-seeded Djokovic didn’t face a break point en route to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 victory over unseeded Ričardas Berankis.

Sinner beat Mikael Ymer 6-1, 7-5, 6-3 and was joined the round of 16 by another Italian 19-year-old, Lorenzo Musetti, who outlasted Marco Cecchinato — also from Italy — 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Another teen, 17-year-old American Coco Gauff, advanced to the fourth round in Paris for the first time. She led 6-1 when her opponent, Jennifer Brady, stopped playing due to a left foot injury.

Gauff next faces No. 25 Ons Jabeur with a shot at her first berth in a major quarterfinal.

“When I first came on tour I felt like I had pressure to win,” Gauff said. “I realized I’ve just got to be myself and have fun on the court, and I will say, I’m having fun even in the pressure moments.”

Kenin blew a 3-0 lead in the opening set against the No. 28-seeded Pegula, but then began stepping into the court to take charge of rallies, especially with a backhand that produced two dozen winners. She hit 48 winners overall to 18 for Pegula.

Kenin had 10 double faults and was broken five times but held her final four service games to close out the win. The 2020 Australian Open champion, who was sidelined by an appendectomy in February, improved to 10-8 this year.

“I’m happy it’s clicking during the French Open,” the 22-year-old Kenin said. “I love the court, I love the clay. It’s a good surface for me. My game is not where it was at the Australian Open in 2020 but we’re getting there.”

American Sloane Stephens, who is ranked 59th and out of the top 50 for the first time since 2017, advanced by beating 18th-seeded Karolina Muchova 6-3, 7-5. Stephens, the runner-up in 2018, will next face Barbora Krejcikova, who upset fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2.

Djokovic advanced to the round of 16 at the French Open for the 12th consecutive year and said he made necessary adjustments on a cool, cloudy afternoon.

“Maybe for those watching it looked simple, but it wasn’t,” he told the crowd in French. “The conditions were different. How do you say in French … the bounce was lower. I think I coped well.”

Djokovic next faces Musetti, who is playing in his first Grand Slam event.

“He is a big challenge to me,” Djokovic said. “He will not have much to lose. I’m sure he’s going to come trying to play the tennis of his life.”

Jan-Lennard Struff, a 31-year-old German, matched his best Grand Slam effort by advancing to the fourth round when he beat 18-year-old qualifier Carlos Alcaraz 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

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Wine reported from Miami.

Slowing down? Federer says no as he advances at French Open

Roger Federer disliked the implication he’s slowing down.

When the 39-year-old Federer drew a time violation Thursday at the French Open for not playing fast enough, he protested to the chair umpire and to his opponent, Marin Cilic.

The warning in the second set came after Cilic twice complained to the chair that Federer wasn’t getting ready to receive serve quickly enough.

“Marin, am I playing too slow?” Federer said. “I understand the rule. I’m going from one corner to the next trying to get my towel. I’m not doing it on purpose.”

Federer, a 13-time winner of the ATP’s annual sportsmanship award, pointed out that he has played little since the coronavirus pandemic prompted changes in procedure between points, and players now fetch their own towels.

“It was a misunderstanding on many levels,” Federer said later. “First I didn’t understand what was going on. I did not know he was upset.”

With a chuckle, Federer added, “I guess I’m new to the new tour. It got a little energy into the match, which I like.”

The dispute delayed play for more than three minutes and seemed to unsettle Federer for the rest of the second set, but he regrouped and won, 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2. The victory advanced Federer to the third round at Roland Garros, his first major tournament in 16 months.

Federer showed in the third set that he harbored no lingering hard feelings toward Cilic, conceding a point he didn’t lose.

On the first point of the pivotal tiebreaker, Cilic hit a serve near the line and Federer conceded it as an ace. The umpire climbed out of his seat and called the serve long, but Federer gave Cilic the point anyway. Replay showed the ball was long.

ENDING A DROUGHT

Former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens beat a top-10 player for the first time in 2 1/2 years — and it was the same player as last time.

Stephens returned well and used her defensive skills to defuse 10th-ranked Karolina Pliskova’s power for a 7-5, 6-1 victory.

Stephens’ last top-10 win came against Pliskova in the WTA Finals in Singapore in late 2018.

At No. 59, Stephens is ranked outside the top 50 for the first time since 2017, but she’s always dangerous on clay. She was the runner-up at the 2018 French Open and made the quarterfinals in 2019.

DOMESTIC BLISS

No. 5-seeded Elena Svitolina says she and her fiancé, former top-10 player Gael Monfils, don’t argue about tennis — or anything else.

“He always has to agree with me, you know,” a grinning Svitolina told the crowd during a post-match interview Thursday, “because I’m the boss in the house.”

Svitolina was in a good mood after beating Ann Li 6-0, 6-4. Monfils later lost to Mikael Ymer, 6-0, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

3D RAFA

A three-dimensional painting of Rafael Nadal packaged with a digital token of the image in motion shows him playing in the 2014 French Open, which he won.

The 3D image is on multiple layers of plexiglass, and each of the 300 physical paintings from Sulzberg Sports Media & Fine Art is signed by Nadal.

Proceeds from sales will benefit the Rafa Nadal Foundation.

Sponsors hail Naomi Osaka’s ‘courage’ on mental health

A few years ago, a star athlete dropping out of a major tennis tournament over mental health issues might have been seen as a sign of weakness.

Today, at least for Naomi Osaka’s corporate sponsors, it is being hailed as refreshingly honest.

That would explain why so many of them have stuck by Osaka after the four-time Grand Slam champion announced Monday that she was withdrawing from the French Open because she didn’t want to appear for the requisite news conferences that caused her “huge waves of anxiety.”

Osaka, who also acknowledged suffering “long bouts of depression,” received criticism by some who say the media events are just “ part of the job. ” But Nike, Sweetgreen and other sponsors put out statements in support of the 23-year-old star after she revealed her struggles.

“Our thoughts are with Naomi,” Nike said in a statement. “We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience.” Sweetgreen tweeted that its partnership with Osaka “is rooted in wellness in all its forms.” And Mastercard tweeted: “Naomi Osaka’s decision reminds us all how important it is to prioritize personal health and well-being.”

Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce, said that Osaka’s disclosure has made her a more authentic spokesperson — and more valuable to corporate sponsors.

“Every athlete gets a sports sponsorship because they win games or perform well,” he said. “But the best ones become true brand ambassadors when they have a broader persona. The best brand ambassadors are real people. (Osaka) is talking about an issue that is relevant to many people. Mental health is a bigger issue than winning or losing tennis.”

Reilly Opelka, a 23-year-old American tennis player seeded 32nd at the French Open who plays his third-round match Friday, told The Associated Press he’s glad Osaka “is taking time to get better.”

“She’s one of the best players in the world — she’s very influential,” Opelka said. “The sport needs her. She’s an icon. It’s bad for the sport to have one of the main attractions not around.”

Osaka, who was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, moved to the United States with her family when she was 3, and now lives in Los Angeles.

She has taken a leading role in protesting the deaths last year of George Floyd and other Black people who died at the hands of the police, wearing a mask with a different victim’s name on each match day at the 2020 U.S. Open. She was named the 2020 AP Female Athlete of the Year.

According to Forbes, Osaka is the world’s highest-paid woman athlete, earning $37 million in 2020 from blue-chip sponsors such as Tag Heuer, AirBnB, and Louis Vuitton in addition to Mastercard and Nike.

Nike has stood by sports stars after other controversies, including Tiger Woods after his 2009 sex scandal and former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick after he knelt during games to protest police brutality against Black people. But it recently dropped Brazilian soccer star Neymar after he refused to cooperate with an internal investigation into sexual assault allegations from a Nike staffer.

Osaka’s disclosure comes as celebrities and other public figures openly address their own issues with depression and anxiety. Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, shared their experiences in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey and have since teamed with her to create a mental health focused series called “The Me You Can’t See,” in which Prince Harry talks about working through anxiety and grief.

Osaka also joins a growing list of top-tier athletes speaking out about mental health. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, NBA players Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan, and the WNBA’s A’ja Wilson have all spoken very publicly about their bouts with depression, sharing both the successes and setbacks.

The four Grand Slam tournaments reacted to Osaka’s withdrawal by pledging to do more to address players’ mental health issues. The episode also could serve as a tipping point for the professional tennis tours — and leagues in other sports — to safeguard athletes’ mental, and not just physical, health, said Windy Dees, professor of sport administration at the University of Miami.

“It’s absolutely a growth opportunity for the (Women’s Tennis Association) and all leagues, there’s a lot of work to be done,” Dees said.

Marketing consultant Adamson believes Osaka’s decision to come forward will encourage many more athletes to divulge their own mental health battles. He noted that if Osaka had revealed her bouts with depression 10 years ago, her corporate sponsors likely would have stayed on the sidelines because the issue had been taboo. But, he noted, the pandemic has raised awareness around mental illness.

From August 2020 to February, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or a depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, according to a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Census Bureau.

The survey also found the percentage of those reporting they didn’t get the help they needed increased from 9.2% to 11.7%. Increases were largest among adults aged 18–29 years and those with less than a high school education.

Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer for the National Alliance On Mental Illness, said Osaka’s decision to go public is a positive development for all people who feel isolated.

“We are moving from mental health and mental illness as a ‘they” thing to a ‘we’ thing,” he said. “These are ordinary common human problems. And I firmly believe that isolation and shame directly contributes to people not getting help. I look at a great athlete, an exceptional athlete, as one potential role model.”

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AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

French Open: No. 1 Barty retires, Djokovic & Federer advance

Bothered by a painful hip, top-ranked Ash Barty retired Thursday from her second-round match at the French Open, leaving the clay-court Grand Slam tournament without its top two women’s seeds and any of the top three women in the rankings.

The 2019 champion trailed 6-1, 2-2 when she signaled that she couldn’t continue against Polish opponent Magda Linette on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“I was battling the pain, and it just became too severe, and like I said, was becoming unsafe,” Barty said of the injury that had flared up during training before the tournament.

Defending champion Iga Swiatek breezed through to the third round, beating Rebecca Peterson 6-1, 6-1 on Court Simonne-Mathieu. The No. 8-seeded Pole next faces No. 30 Anett Kontaveit.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, both former champions, advanced to the men’s third round.

Federer beat Marin Cilic 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 for his ninth win in 10 meetings against the big-serving Croat and fifth in majors.

“I think I played a really good match, I surprised myself a bit. I didn’t think I could play at this level for 2 ½ hours against Marin,” Federer said. “I still think the level was high, I tried everything and I had some very good moments, notably in the tiebreak. I finished by serving really well. It shows I have something in reserve, I have some energy left and that’s really good for my confidence.”

The eighth-seeded Federer next faces unseeded Dominik Koepfer, who beat No. 30 Taylor Fritz 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. Fritz left the court in a wheelchair after appearing to hurt his knee.

Federer looked sharp, and could even afford to get a little distracted, arguing with chair umpire Emmanuel Joseph after being given a time warning for slow play during the second set on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Federer even asked Cilic for his opinion.

“Marin, am I playing too slow?” he asked.

Cilic suggested he was.

But after winning in the first round on Monday, Federer spoke about the strange feeling of having to handle his own towel, because of coronavirus rules, and how it upset his rhythm. He argued the point to Emmanuel, and to Cilic.

“I understand the rule,” Federer protested to Cilic. ”(But) I’m going from one corner to the next trying to get my towel. I’m not doing it on purpose.”

Federer, whose 40th birthday is Aug. 8, hadn’t appeared on the Grand Slam stage since Jan. 30, 2020, when he lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals.

“I guess I’m just new to the new tour,” Federer said with a laugh in his post-match news conference.

He could meet Djokovic here, since they are in the same side of the draw along with defending champion Rafael Nadal — who is level all time on 20 major titles with Federer.

Djokovic made brief work of beating clay-court specialist Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, saving eight of the nine break points he faced. The 18-time Grand Slam champion next plays unseeded Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis.

Nadal was set to play during the night session on his 35th birthday, with fans having to leave the grounds by 9 p.m. because of coronavirus rules.

The 13-time champion was facing Richard Gasquet, having a 16-0 career record against the Frenchman.

Elsewhere, 18-year-old qualifier Carlos Alcaraz of Spain beat No. 28 Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. Alcaraz became the youngest man to reach the third round at Roland Garros since 1992 and youngest to make a Grand Slam third round since Nadal at Australian Open in 2004. Nadal also reached the Wimbledon third round in 2003.

This is only the third time at any Grand Slam tournament in the professional era, which began in 1968, that the top two women’s seeds are gone before the third round. It also happened at the French Open in 2014 (No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 2 Li Na) and the U.S. Open in 2018 (No. 1 Simona Halep and No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki).

In addition to Barty’s departure, No. 2 Naomi Osaka withdrew after the first round, saying she is going to take a break from competition for mental health reasons. The third-ranked Halep pulled out before the tournament because of a leg injury.

In the buildup to this year’s French Open, Barty played 13 matches on clay and won 11. She posted a record of 27-5 and won three singles titles before Roland Garros. But she was forced to retire in the quarterfinals in Rome in May because of an injury to her right arm. She said that injury had healed and did not hamper her in Paris.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Barty said. “We have had such a brilliant clay-court season.”

The Australian started the match with her left thigh bandaged and it was immediately clear she could not move properly. Too slow to chase her opponent’s shots, she struggled in long rallies and with her first serve.

Barty called for a medical timeout at the end of the opening set, then briefly left the court for treatment. She stopped after Linette hit an ace. Barty then walked to the net to shake the 45th-ranked player’s hand.

She decided not to defend her title last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, choosing instead to remain home in Australia.

After ending a four-match losing streak on clay in the previous round, 2020 runner-up Sofia Kenin advanced to the third round with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Hailey Baptiste.

The 2020 Australian Open champion from the United States underwent an emergency appendectomy in Melbourne in February and her record was 7-8 entering the clay-court Grand Slam.

Fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina beat Ann Li of the United States 6-0, 6-4.

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AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed to this report.

Why did Naomi Osaka withdraw from French Open? Tennis star explains sudden decision to step away

The 23-year-old tennis star and four-time Grand Slam champion confirmed that she would withdraw from the tournament at Roland Garros ahead of her second-round matchup against Ana Bogdan. Naomi Osaka’s 2021 French Open has come to an end.

In a Twitter post, Osaka nitty gritty her choice to take such an action in the wake of declining to converse with the media and uncovered that she has “endured long episodes of sadness” since the 2018 U.S. Open.

A couple parts of Osaka’s statement stand out above all. The first is when she explained her own mental health issues and why speaking to the media brings on “huge waves of anxiety.”

Truly I have endured long episodes of sadness since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a truly difficult time adapting to that. Anybody that realizes me realizes I’m independent, and anybody that has seen me at the competitions will see that I’m regularly wearing earphones as that dulls my social uneasiness. Despite the fact that the tennis press has consistently been sorts to me (and I wanna apologize particularly to every one of the cool writers who I may have harmed), I am not a characteristic public speaker and get immense floods of tension before I address the world’s media. I get truly apprehensive and think that its unpleasant to consistently attempt to draw in and offer you the best responses I can.

Osaka also outlined exactly why she instigated what effectively amounted to her media blackout. She was attempting to “exercise self-care” and shed light on rules that she believes are “quite outdated in parts.”

So here in Paris I was at that point feeling helpless and restless, so I thought it was smarter to practice self-care and skirt the public interviews. I reported it preemptively in light of the fact that I do feel like the guidelines are very obsolete in parts and I needed to feature that. I composed secretly to the competition saying ‘sorry’ and saying that I would gladly talk with them after the competition as the Slams are extraordinary. I’m going to remove some time from the court now, yet when everything looks good I truly need to work with the Tour to examine ways we can improve things for the players, press and fans.

Obviously, Osaka and the Tour had been at chances about her media power outage. The four Grand Slam competitions delivered a joint articulation and fined her $15,000 for skipping media commitments after Round 1 of the French Open and compromised a default in the event that she kept on doing as such.

Osaka mourned that her “message might have been more clear” in her assertion, so doubtlessly the different sides have a ton to discuss pushing ahead if Osaka needs a portion of the “obsolete” media rules to change.

Yet, until further notice, the No. 2 part on the planet will pass on the greatest earth court occasion of the year. Prior to pulling out, Osaka beat Patricia Maria Tig in two sets, (6-4, 7-6).