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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, September 30, 2020

 
Victoria Azarenka

World No. 161 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova swept Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-2 to reach the Roland Garros third round for the second time.

Photo credit: Roland Garros Facebook

In the City of Light, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova continues pulling the plug on power players.

Schmiedlova stunned Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-2 to reach the Roland Garros third round for the second time and blow open the bracket.

More: Serena Pulls Out of Paris

It is Schmiedlova's second straight win over a former world No. 1 Grand Slam champion—she opened the tournament topping Venus Williams for the second time in Paris—and sends the world No. 161 into her first French Open third round since 2014.




When the Roland Garros draw as released, many looked forward to a fourth-round blockbuster clash between former world No. 1 major champions Serena Williams and Azarenka in what would have been a rematch of this month's US Open semifinals.

In New York, Azarenka and Serena Williams made history as the first pair of mothers to reach the semifinals at the same Slam. In a space of a couple hours both Grand Slam champions are gone from Paris.

The sixth-seeded Serena conceded a walkover to Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova citing an Achilles injury she sustained in her semifinal loss to Azarenka.

While Williams withdrew, the typically intense Azarenka delivered a detached performance never fully showing the same fire and desire she had in New York or in Rome where she force-fed Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin a double bagel.

"Well, the lesson I need to learn is that sometimes when things don't work for me, the way I was playing today was just not the right time, was to be willing to adjust a little bit more and not think kind of in the end of the match to finally start changing your kind of my game," Azarenka said. "I felt like I was trying a lot, trying different things, but today things were not working. I felt like nothing really was working, but I still had to find a way to win, and I didn't.

"So it's a lesson for me to learn how to be more, I will say, courageous, to go for more. And I will learn it, for sure."

Azarenka's departure means all four of the US Open semifinalists are done in Paris. US Open champion Naomi Osaka did not post, Jennifer Brady fell in her first-round match yesterday and both Azarenka and Serena Williams are out today.

Full credit to Schmiedlova who relied on her smooth movement, jumping topspin and accuracy to dismantle the 10th-seeded Belarusian.

Schmiedlova, who underwent knee surgery in the summer of 2019 and is playing Paris on a protected ranking, conceded fear factor both before and during the match. She was a little apprehensive about facing Azarenka and survived a scary second-set tumble to the court, but took it all in stride today. 

"I'm extremely happy, especially when I won against such great players, I have big respect for both of them," Schmiedlova said. "I never played against Vika before. I watch her many times in the TV, even when I was not on the tour.

"When I was younger, I watched many of her matches. I think she's great player. She played really well in US Open. I was little bit scared before the match. But I started well, and I'm really happy how I manage to play all match."

A stubborn Schmiedlova saved all five break points she faced against one of the game's premier returners and won 13 of 21 points played on Azarenka's serve. 

Azarenka had won 15 of her last 17 matches, but looked like a woman who was out of gas by the second set today.  The Belarusian scattered 38 unforced errors and dropped the final five games to fall in one hour, 42 minutes.

The first round of Slams has been a final stop for Schmiedlova, who had lost 12 consecutive major first round matches before arriving in Paris.

The woman who finished the 2019 season ranked No. 138 has displayed poise and power and will try to keep her dream run rolling when she faces No. 131 Nadia Podoroska for a spot in her first major fourth round in her 24th career Grand Slam.

In her opening two wins, Schmiedlova had nothing to lose, how will she perform when favored to win with a fourth-round spot on the line?

"I don't remember playing against her, but I know her little bit," Schmiedlova said. "She's really good clay player. It will be very different than matches before. These two matches I had nothing to lose. I played big court. I was doing my best.

"Now I just need to be relaxed and play my game, and we'll see how it goes. She has to play really well here because she's in third round. It definitely won't be easy at all. She's a really good player. I will fight and I will do my best, but I don't want to feel any pressure at all."

 

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