Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sports

Five U.S. women moving right along, into third

PARIS — There were moments, as recently as last year, when a body that would not stay healthy and on-court results prompted Bethanie Mattek-Sands to wonder whether it was time to call it a career after more than a decade as a professional tennis player.

"She was ready to quit," her husband, Justin Sands, recalled. "She was like, 'I'm done. I can't do it. I don't want to come back.' "

Instead, Mattek-Sands "stuck it out," in her words, making significant changes — to her diet after discovering a host of food allergies, to her point-to-point focus. And at age 28, in her 27th Grand Slam tournament, Mattek-Sands earned her most significant victory to date, a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 upset of 2011 champion Li Na at the rain-soaked French Open on Thursday to join four other American women in the third round.

"I know how I can play, and, you know, there were times when I just physically couldn't do it," the 67th-ranked Mattek-Sands said, "and I think that's really frustrating."

By beating the sixth-seeded Li to earn her fourth career win in 25 tries against top-10 players, Mattek-Sands helped give the United States its largest group of women in the third round at the claycourt Grand Slam since six made it in 2004. The five U.S. women left, out of the 15 in the main draw, are the most this far at any Grand Slam since the half-dozen at Wimbledon in 2005.

The other Americans in the third round: No. 17 Sloane Stephens and 54th-ranked Jamie Hampton, who also won Thursday, and No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 29 Varvara Lepchenko, who won Wednesday.

Only 18 of 32 scheduled singles matches were completed, with two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and 2011 U.S. Open champion and Tampa resident Sam Stosur among the winners. Six were suspended in progress — defending champion Maria Sharapova led Eugenie Bouchard by a set and a break when they stopped — and eight were postponed, including Rafael Nadal against Martin Klizan.

Last year's runnerup to Nadal, Novak Djokovic gestured at the dark, threatening sky between points, as if to admonish the clouds for even considering halting play before he could finish a 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 victory over 83rd-ranked Guido Pella.

"The most important thing for a player in these interruptions and rain delays is not to get frustrated mentally, because it's a very fine line. … Your intensity is there, and suddenly they call it off," Djokovic said.

"So it's not easy warming up, cooling off, getting tape, putting off the tape, taking a shower or not taking a shower," he said. "It's unpredictable."

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