World number four Elena Rybakina withdrew from the French Open due to illness on Saturday, giving defending champion Iga Swiatek an unexpected and significant title boost as Casper Ruud ended Zhang Zhizhen’s dream of making history for China.
Rybakina should have faced Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo in the third round in the opening match at Court Philippe Chatrier.
“Yesterday and the day before yesterday I didn’t feel well. I didn’t sleep last night,” said the 23-year-old Wimbledon champion.
“I had a fever and a headache and it’s hard to breathe. I tried to play in the warm-up, but I feel it’s the right decision to withdraw.”
Rybakina had progressed to the last 32 without dropping a set and was seeded to face two-time champion Swiatek in the semifinals.
The Russian-born Kazakh was seen as a potential champion who had arrived at Roland Garros with the prestigious Italian Open clay court title in his pocket.
“I think with my allergy my immune system just went down and I picked up on something,” Rybakina said. “The doctor said there is a virus in Paris.”
Rybakina said she will focus on recovery before defending her title at Wimbledon, which kicks off on July 3.
Sorribes Tormo, number 132 in the world ranking, plays in the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time. She will face Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia or Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil for a place in the quarterfinals.
– ‘Sloppy Shots’ –
Later on Saturday, world number one Swiatek will take on China’s 80th-ranked Wang Xinyu for a place in the last 16 as she continues her bid to become the first back-to-back champion since Justine Henin in 2007. continues.
World number four Ruud, Rafael Nadal’s 2022 runner-up, dropped the first set before easing to a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 victory over world number 71 Zhang.
Zhang, 26, bid to become the first Chinese man since 1936 to reach the fourth round in Paris.
“It was very tough in the first set, he hit a lot of winners and I couldn’t find a gap in his game,” said Ruud.
“At 5-4 in the second set, he played some sloppy shots and that gave me the set, maybe the game,” said Ruud who hit 36 winners and saved seven of ten break points.
Ruud, who is playing in the third round for the fifth consecutive year, will face Chile’s Nicolas Jarry or Marcos Giron for a place in the quarter-finals.
Russian 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva, the Roland Garros breakaway star, will take on 2022 runner-up Coco Gauff and sixth-place finisher Coco Gauff for a place in the fourth round.
Andreeva made it through qualifying and has mocked her world ranking of 143 by dropping just six matches in two rounds in the main draw.
The French-based Russian is the youngest player to reach the last 32 since 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva advanced to the quarter-finals in 2005.
She is only the seventh player under the age of 17 to reach the third round in 30 years, a group that includes serial Slam champions Serena Williams and Martina Hingis.
“My dream? I know that Novak Djokovic has won 22 Grand Slams, so I want to go to 25,” said Andreeva, who played the junior tournament in Paris last year.
Holger Rune, who reached the quarter-finals on his debut in 2022, will face Argentina’s Genaro Alberto Olivieri.
The 231st-ranked Argentine has dedicated his run to the third round to his father who died during a pandemic.
“He was my sidekick, the person who helped me in every way – psychologically, emotionally,” said the 24-year-old.
“I always remember him. I hope he now looks at everything that happens to me this week and has an even bigger smile than me.”