No.11 seed Caroline Wozniacki overcame the Paris night and a determined young prodigy in Catherine Bellis 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 to win a darkness-delayed third round and move into week two of Roland Garros for only the second time.
“You know, once you start a match you want to finish it. It’s tough coming back, but it’s the same for both of us,” Wozniacki said. “Honestly, last night I just came home, didn’t want to think about the match, because the more you think about it, the less you can sleep. I just watched a series, that kind of got my mind off of it. I got a great night’s sleep, came out here early, prepared, prepared like it was any other match.
“It was all about just winning today. I didn’t really care if it was pretty or ugly, as long as it was a win, I was happy.”
The Dane’s wall-like defence had proved insurmountable for Bellis in their sole previous meeting, earning her a 6-3, 6-2 win in their Dubai quarterfinal in February.
For a set, it looked as though this rematch was going the same way: after going down an early break, Wozniacki reeled off six games in a row for the “hidden bagel.”
The 18-year-old American, the youngest player left in the women’s singles draw, was unable to hit through Wozniacki in the opener, striking 12 unforced errors.
The second set found Bellis tighten up her game significantly, constructing her points more carefully – particularly with a forehand that she was able to direct all over the court at will – and reducing her unforced error tally to just five.
Crucially, too, raising her first serve percentage from 52 percent to 71 percent prevented Wozniacki from taking charge of the rallies herself. But the 26-year-old wasn’t just bothered by her young opponent’s game: throughout much of the set, she battled extensively with the chair umpire over the extent of the encroaching Paris darkness.
Eventually, the match was suspended with Bellis on the brink of serving for the set at 5-2.
On resumption, Wozniacki was slower out of the blocks: some loose forehands eased Bellis’s path to the set, and she continued leaking errors to go down an early break in the decider.
Thereafter, though, the No.9 seed gathered herself, both in tightening up her groundstrokes and approaching points with a more aggressive strategy.
Dominating key points with deep, heavy balls and displaying a willingness to finish points at net, Wozniacki struck eight winners in the third set, and got her reward when her teenage opponent cracked serving at 3-4, handing the break over as her aim went awry.
Bellis, for her part, regressed to her level in the first set, ceding 15 unforced errors in the decider – and the No.9 seed closed the match out with her fifth ace.
“She’s young, playing well. I have a lot of respect for her game and the way she’s grinding. I think we are going to see a lot more of her in the future,” Wozniacki assessed of the teenager. “Obviously you never know what’s going to happen, but at the same time, you know, she’s one of those youngsters I see working very hard, and fighting for every point, which is, you know, she just keeps her head down. I like that about her.
“To finish off with two aces is very unusual for me, especially on clay. I was happy with that. I really stayed focused, [and] did what I had to do out there.”