American Peyton Stearns leads unseeded players pulling off upsets on a long day at the French Open – Metro US

American Peyton Stearns leads unseeded players pulling off upsets on a long day at the French Open

France Tennis French Open
Stadium workers cover due to the rain during the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Thursday, May 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

PARIS (AP) — Good thing the French tennis federation installed artificial lights on every court at Roland Garros in 2021, because they sure did come in handy Thursday, allowing match after match to stretch deep into the night, including one particular result that stood out: unseeded American Peyton Stearns’ elimination of No. 10 Daria Kasatkina.

All of the waiting around all day to get on court did not disrupt Stearns one bit, and the 22-year-old from Cincinnati, who won an NCAA singles title at the University of Texas, used 17 forehand winners through the cold, damp and slow conditions to defeat Kasatkina 7-5, 6-2 in a match that didn’t start until after 9 p.m. and didn’t finish until after 10:30 p.m.

“You just kind of don’t know what to expect,” the 62nd-ranked Stearns said about waiting to get on court as showers created a start-stop-start scheduling fiasco all around the grounds. “You have to accept that.”

How did she prepare to finally get started?

“I had a single expresso before I went out there,” she said with a smile. “So it was like morning for me.”

Kasatkina had a harder time with the situation.

“Mentally, it’s tough to face the day when it’s a long wait,” said Kasatkina, a 2022 semifinalist at the French Open. “You have to be calm, but at the same time, you have to be ready to jump on the court. And you don’t know when.”

The last of the long day’s 55 matches didn’t wrap up until just about 1 a.m., when 17-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva finally got through a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 win against No. 19 seed Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion who is 34.

Andreeva next faces Stearns, with the winner reaching the fourth round in Paris for the first time.

Other seeded women sent home included No. 9 Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 champion in Paris, who lost to Denmark’s Clara Tauson 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3; No. 11 Danielle Collins, defeated by Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4; No. 18 Marta Kostyuk, who was beaten 7-5, 6-4 by Donna Vekic; and No. 23 Anna Kalinskaya, eliminated 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 by oft-injured 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu.

Men’s seeds who bowed out included No. 25 Frances Tiafoe and No. 31 Mariano Navone. A frosty handshake came when Tiafoe and Denis Shapovalov — who are friends — met at the net after Shapovalov’s 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win. That’s because Tiafoe sent a tennis ball off the side of Shapovalov’s head with one on-the-run shot.

“I wasn’t happy with it. But it’s tennis, so you can do what you want,” said Shapovalov, who joined Felix Auger-Aliassime to give Canada two men in the third round at Roland Garros for the first time in the Open era, which began in 1968. “Look, I’m sure we’ll be fine in a couple days. Obviously, (in the) heat of the moment, it’s not fun. But we’ll get through it.”

Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov are among the players who originally were supposed to complete their second-rounders Wednesday. Because they didn’t get done until Thursday, on account of the weather, they need to get back on court Friday for the third round, losing the usual day off at a Grand Slam.

There were victories for several top men Thursday: No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who seeks his fourth French Open championship and 25th from all Grand Slam tournaments, No. 4 Alexander Zverev, No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz and two-time runner-up Casper Ruud. No. 5 Daniil Medvedev and No. 15 Ben Shelton both advanced when their opponents stopped because of injury.

Women moving on included No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 4 Elena Rybakina, No. 14 Madison Keys and No. 15 Elina Svitolina.

This is the fourth tournament for Stearns since she began working with Tom Hill, who used to coach two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Maria Sakkari. Last week, Stearns claimed her first career WTA title, in an event on clay at Rabat, Morocco, celebrating by posing for photos while doing a handstand.

That skills is from her days in gymnastics, a sport her mother, Denise, used to do. Mom — who Stearns said good-naturedly offered some critiques of her form in the pictures — came to Paris with plans to watch just daughter’s first-round match, then fly home to Ohio. But a win that day prompted a new flight booking. Now after the win against Kasatkina, Stearns said her mother is sticking around for the third round, too.

“I was like, ‘Look, just stay. Please,” Stearns said with a laugh. “We’ve got to keep this going.”

Nothing too onerous about getting to stay in France while watching your kid win tennis matches, right?

Ah, but Stearns said she put Denise to work.

“She’s running me through my warmups and cool downs. And before my matches, we have a ritual where she’ll fill up my three water bottles and add electrolytes. Keeping her busy,” Stearns said. “She jokes, ‘You’re not paying me.’ So I said, ‘Hey, I’m paying you in wine.’”

AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis