Bethanie Mattek-Sands skipped backward across the clay,her wagging tongue framed by a smile as she savored yet another surprising victory for American tennis at the French Open.
Rejuvenated by a rain delay,Mattek-Sands came from a set down to beat 2011 champion Li Na 5-7,6-3,6-2 on Thursday in the second round at Roland Garros.
Following the second interruption of the match,Mattek-Sands swept seven consecutive games to take a 5-love lead in the final set. She served out the victory with the sun shining as rain fell.
In men’s play,six-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic crushed Guido Pella 6-2,6-0,6-2. Djokovic needs five more victories to become the eighth man to complete a career Grand Slam.
By winning in the second round,Mattek-Sands matched her best effort at Roland Garros. She failed to qualify for the Australian Open in January and arrived in Paris with a 10-8 record this year and a No. 67 ranking.
Li was ranked sixth. Since winning her lone major title,she has lost in the first or second round at four of the eight major events.
She’s a champion,and I had to play some of my best tennis ever to beat her, Mattek-Sands said. I’m really proud of myself that I was able to close out the match the way I did, she said.
Mattek-Sands’ best Grand Slam showing came at Wimbledon in 2008,when she reached the fourth round. The 28-year-old is best known for her funky outfits,such as the one she wore at the finish against Li a long-sleeve top with black and white horizontal stripes,a black skirt,black sneakers and as the piece de resistanceblack knee-high socks.
I haven’t worn anything too crazy on court for a few years now, Mattek-Sands said. I feel like my racket has been doing a lot of the talking, she said.
Playing on cozy court 1,nicknamed the bullring,Mattek-Sands appeared on the verge of defeat in the second set when rain prompted a 90-minute delay. She returned whacking winners,including a picturesque crosscourt backhand lob that gave her a break point and control of the final set.
Former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic won 12 consecutive games to beat the rain and Garbine Muguruza. Jankovic fell behind early but rallied past Muguruza 6-3,6-0 shortly before showers interrupted the first matches of the day on 12 other courts.
A brief dry spell allowed 2010 runner-up Sam Stosur to complete a second-round victory over Kristina Mladenovic,6-4,6-3,before the rain resumed.
No. 27 Yaroslava Shvedova lost to Paula Ormaechea 6-4,7-6 (6).
With temperatures in the mid-50s,Jankovic took the court wearing pink leggings and a long-sleeve pink shirt. She looked uncomfortable at the start,losing the first three games,then won the rest after adjusting to the strokes of Muguruza,a 19-year-old Spaniard.
She’s a great up and coming player, Jankovic said. She hits the ball very hard,very flat. And in the beginning of the match she gave me a lot of trouble.
Jankovic won with steady play from the baseline,while the big-swinging Muguruza committed 29 unforced errors. Jankovic,seeded 18th,is a three-time semifinalist at Roland Garros. She’ll next play 2011 U.S. Open champion Stosur.
The No. 9-seeded Stosur never lost serve but needed nearly an hour to take the first set against Mladenovic. Stosur reached set point for the fourth time on a fluky point with her opponent at the net,hitting a line-drive reflex volley that sent Mladenovic ducking to avoid. The ball kissed the baseline for a winner,and Stosur waved in apology to Mladenovic.
I ran in thinking she would drop-shot,and she didn’t drop-shot, Stosur said. I don’t know what grip I had,what I did,where it landed. I don’t know anything. It was very,very lucky,but obviously at a really important time.
Said Mladenovic: Obviously it was not on purpose,but it was an amazing reflex. I think she won’t do it again in her life. We both laughed after it,because it was just an unbelievable one.
Mladenovic then double-faulted to lose the 16-point game. Stosur took a 3-0 lead in the second set and held the rest of the way.
No. 16 Philipp Kohlschreiber moved into the men’s third round when Yen-hsun Lu withdrew because of a right ankle injury. Victor Hanescu also advanced when Dmitry Tursunov retired with a strained left thigh muscle trailing 6-4,6-6 (3).
Shortly after play resumed following the second rain delay,No. 26 Grigor Dimitrov beat wild card Lucas Pouille 6-1,7-6 (4),6-1.
On Wednesday,No. 1-ranked Serena Williams extended her career-high winning streak to 26 matches and improved to 69-3 since a first-round loss at the French Open a year ago by beating French wild-card entry Caroline Garcia 6-1,6-2.
Garcia’s takeaway? She’s very accurate in her shots,” Garcia said,despite the fact that they’re very hard. When Garcia won the second point of the match on a missed forehand by Williams,someone in the crowd yelled,Allez,Caroline!
Not much to cheer for after that,though,as Williams hit six aces and won 32 of 39 service points to reach the third round. I came out strong, Williams said,because I knew I had to.
The 19-year-old Garcia is ranked only 114th,but much is expected of her. Against Maria Sharapova in the 2011 French Open,she won the first set and led 4-1 in the second before collapsing to lose the match. Her performance was good enough to inspire Andy Murray to write on Twitter that Garcia is going to be No. 1 in the world one day.
For now,it’s Williams who holds that distinction in the rankings,and she certainly looks like someone intent on keeping it that way.