French Open: Arnaldi shocks sixth seed Rublev, Sinner marches on | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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French Open: Arnaldi shocks sixth seed Rublev, Sinner marches on

May 31, 2024 08:13 PM IST

Rublev, a 10-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist, slipped to a 7-6 (8/6), 6-2, 6-4 defeat against world number 35 Arnaldi on Court Suzanne Lenglen

Two months ago, Matteo Arnaldi was knocked out of the Monte-Carlo Masters in the first round by India’s Sumit Nagal – a player ranked 55 spots below him. It was a disappointing start to the clay season for the 23-year-old, who had risen steadily over the past year.

Russia's Andrey Rublev reacts after missing a shot against Italy's Matteo Arnaldi during their third round match of the French Open(AP)
Russia's Andrey Rublev reacts after missing a shot against Italy's Matteo Arnaldi during their third round match of the French Open(AP)

On Friday, though, he completed a turnaround of epic proportions by defeating sixth seed Andrey Rublev in straight sets in the French Open third round.

Despite featuring in the main draw of a Major for just the fifth time, Arnaldi showed the skills and composure of a seasoned campaigner to earn a 7-6(6), 6-2, 6-4 victory. It was his first win against a top 10 player at a Grand Slam and undoubtedly the biggest one of his young career.

Following his ATP main draw debut in 2022, the Italian had grabbed attention by defeating two-time French Open finalist Casper Ruud in Madrid last year. He then broke into the top 50 by edging out Cameron Norrie to reach the US Open fourth round. After helping Italy win the Davis Cup in November, he had more misses than hits in the first half of 2024. Until Friday, when he delivered a commanding performance to show why he’s rated so highly.

For Rublev, it was a match he would like to forget in a hurry. The 26-year-old lost in the third round at Roland Garros to an Italian for the second year running. He slammed his racket on multiple occasions, kicked his chair repeatedly, yelled at his box throughout, and even had a lengthy disagreement over a line call with the chair umpire. But none of it helped as he simply couldn’t find any rhythm. He became the first men’s singles seed among the top 15 to exit.

Rublev was high on confidence earlier this month after winning the Madrid Open title. With injuries and lack of form hampering several of the top seeds, he would’ve even dreamt of going all the way in Paris this time. But against Arnaldi, he unraveled spectacularly in more ways than one.

“I am completely disappointed with myself, with the way I behaved and performed,” said Rublev, who has reached Grand Slam quarter-finals on 10 occasions but never gone beyond. “I can't remember ever behaving worse in a Grand Slam tournament. It was the first time I ever behaved that badly.”

Sinner marches on

Second seed Jannik Sinner, meanwhile, continued his impressive run with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Russia’s Pavel Kotov, who had defeated Stan Wawrinka in the second round.

Having won his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, it was another strong statement on clay from Sinner. The Italian has dropped just 32 games across the nine sets he has played so far in the tournament.

Earlier this year, Sinner was hoping to build a good friendship with clay. “It is not the surface where I feel that comfortable,” he had said before the Monte-Carlo Masters. His general discomfort only grew from thereon, though. Monte-Carlo was his first clay event this year and he did well to reach the semi-finals. But he was forced to withdraw from the Madrid Open quarter-finals due to a hip injury, before skipping his home Masters in Rome.

At Roland Garros, the 22-year-old has looked good physically and a lot more assured in his movement on the red dirt. “I think the conditions here are quite different from the ones in Madrid,” said Sinner after his latest win. “I just tried to stay focussed on my game.”

Balaji advances, Yuki exits

India’s N.Sriram Balaji and Mexico’s Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela Martinez advanced to the men’s doubles second round. The duo earned a 6-3, 6-4 victory against the Dutch-American pair of Sem Verbeek and Reese Stalder. They will face French wildcards Theo Arribage and Dan Added next.

Yuki Bhambhri’s campaign, however, ended early as he and Albano Olivetti were knocked out in the opening round. The Indo-French pair went down 6-3, 7-6(5) against John Peers and Roman Safiullin.

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