Damien Kayat previews Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Anastasia Potapova and Sloane Stephens vs Yulia Putintseva in selected Round 3 matches of the French Open, on the 2nd of June 2023.
2023 WTA Tour
Grand Slam Tennis
Stade Roland Garros, Paris, France (Outdoor Clay)
Selected Round 3 Matches – 2nd June
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 13/10 | Anastasia Potapova 6/10
The story of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is one of the most compelling ‘Cinderella’ stories going around Paris this year (and there are quite a few). The 31-year-old Russian is a former World No.11 with twelve WTA titles to her name.
She came to mainstream attention with a run to the 2021 French Open final (losing to Krejcikova in three-sets). But the Russian’s career came to a halt last year, as she was forced to withdraw from the French Open due to a serious knee injury.
She would be sidelined for eight months, not certain of whether she would ever take to court again. And it has been an absolute grind for the Russian this year. She never won a tour-level match until the Madrid Open. She was then double-bagled by Swiatek in Rome (that is never great for the confidence).
But she found something in Strasbourg, beating Aussie Open semi-finalist Magda Linette en route to a quarterfinal appearance. Coming into this event ranked 333rd in the world, Pavlyuchenkova has taken the event by storm.
She first beat the in-form Fruhvirtova before taking down 15th seed powerhouse Samsonova. She really flaunted her clay-court acumen against Samsonova, absorbing those massive serves and groundstrokes and counterpunching accordingly.
Rounding out this all-Russian clash is 24th seed Anastasia Potapova. Her most memorable moment of the year unfortunately had nothing to do with tennis.
The WTA gave her a formal warning prior to a match in Indian Wells. She was wearing a Spartak Moscow shirt and the tour deemed that a public show of support for the Russian cause in Ukraine. I personally found it ridiculous.
In any event, Potapova has actually picked up some really impressive results throughout this season. She won her 2nd WTA title in Linz before a quarterfinal run in Miami (where she beat the likes of Gauff and Zheng).
She then showcased her clay-court nous with a notable semi-final run in Stuttgart (where she claimed the impressive scalps of Gauff (again) and Garcia). She is an arch-baseliner who hits it solidly off both wings. She thrashed Townsend in her first-round match but needed three-sets to overcome a spirited Sherif last time out.
Verdict: Pavlychenkova to win in three at 44/10
Potapova won their only previous meeting (a hotly contested three-setter at the 2021 Istanbul Open). I’m really being sucked in by the sentimentality with this one. Pavlyuchenkova reached the final here in 2021 and seems to have rediscovered something on this hallowed turf.
That victory over Samsonova has got to be one of the surprises of the tournament. Potapova struggled against Sherif and I can see the more experienced Russian emerging victorious here.
Sloane Stephens 5/10 | Yulia Putintseva 31/20
I just had a feeling about Sloane Stephens this week. This arena seems to bring out the best in her and she has been picking up some improved form of late. She recently won her first WTA 125 event in Saint-Malo.
She followed that up with a semi-final run in Rabat. She recently turned 30 and I just felt the American had something to prove this year. And she has looked absolutely brilliant in Paris thus far. She dominated former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova before a similarly dominant display against Gracheva.
That victory over Gracheva improved her formidable French Open 3rd round record to 8-1. She reached the quarterfinals here last year without any lead-in form. She has now won 11 of her last 13 matches (including that WTA 125 event). Stephens seems more focused than ever, perhaps realizing that her chances to maximize her potential are diminishing.
Next up for Sloane Stephens is dogged 28-year-old Kazakh Yulia Putintseva. Putintseva has developed a reputation for being something of a clay-court specialist.
She reached five ITF clay-court finals and both of her WTA titles have come on the sticky stuff (the 2019 Nuremberg Cup and the 2021 Budapest Grand Prix). She has also twice reached the quarterfinal stage at this event (in 2016 and 2018).
Her road to this year’s French Open actually shares some similarity with that of Stephens. She was plodding her way through the season before picking up a quarterfinal run in Rabat last week. To be fair, that quarterfinal loss to 195th ranked Julia Riera wouldn’t have done wonders for her confidence.
She snuck by Zanevska in a tight first-round win before an impressive three-set win against 19th seed Zheng. The Kazakh will look to draw on a positive head-to-head record as she faces down the flying Stephens.
Verdict: Stephens to win in straight-sets at 11/10
Putintseva leads Stephens 3-2 in their head-to-head meetings. Their last meeting took place at the 2021 Aussie Open and all of their matches have gone to three sets. Putintseva doesn’t have the natural talent of Stephens.
But she has a ferocious work ethic that has allowed her to remain more than competitive against the American. I just have the feeling that Stephens is a slightly different proposition this year. She seems focused and unwilling to let any points slide. I predict a routine win for the American.