Women’s favorites remain, top men win with physical tennis as quarterfinals begin

Romania's Simona Halep celebrates after winning against Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro their tennis match at the Roland Garros 2017 French Open on June 5, 2017 in Paris.  / AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT        (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)

PARIS – Five thoughts from the second Monday at the 2017 French Open, where fourth round play wrapped up and the quarterfinalists secured their spots in the final eight in the men’s and women’s draws.

“In the absence of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, the women's draw is one giant, gaping chasm.”

This was the received wisdom before the 2017 French Open kicked off. To some extent this has come to pass. At the halfway mark of the tournament, we were already assured that a first-time Slam winner would emerge. And yet most of the favorites remain. Simona Halep, a finalist three years ago and the third seed, is back to playing top-shelf tennis. She stormed past Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-1 on Monday.

Elina Svitolina—who's already won four titles year—stole victory from the mandible of defeat, beating Petra Martic after being down 2-5, 0-30 in the third set. And Karolina Pliskova, the second seed, required three sets, but held off Veronica Cepede Royg in three sets. Say this about the favorites: they've played like it.

“The sport has never been more physical.” 

That's more received wisdom in tennis. And we got a vivid display on Monday at Roland Garros, an afternoon of body blows. Two competitors may not touch each other until the handshake. But that doesn't mean they don't impose their physical will on the opponent. Kei Nishikori didn't show up for the first set against Fernando Verdasco but then put on the hurt, winning by the unusual score 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0.

Likewise, Stan Wawrinka brutalized Gael Monfils with his heavy strokes and corner-to-corner accuracy, winning in straight sets. And Kevin Anderson lasted just 12 games against Marin Cilic before retiring with a left thigh injury. We talk about the “last man standing” as the draw winnows and is pruned of players. Here, more than any other event, it can be taken literally.

More thoughts on French Open Day 9:

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