Seeds are thin on the ground as the French Open enters the weekend with the top three all done and dusted.
The latest to go was No. 3 Aryna Sabalenka, who fell apart in the final set of a 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 defeat by experienced Russian Anastasia Pavlychenkova.
The third-round shocker was the third of the week for the elite after No. 2 Naomi Osaka flew back to her Beverly Hills home after pulling out on Monday on grounds of preserving “mental health” by not taking media questioning.
No. 1 Ash Barty went on Thursday, retiring in the second round with a hip injury which could threaten her Wimbledon.
The upsets now leave 2020 finalist Sofia Kenin on fourth as the leading survivor and give Serena Williams a leg up with seeds in her quarter long gone.
The three-time champion seeded seventh defeated US compatriot Danielle Collins 6-4, 6-4 but remained unimpressed by the clearing of her path through the draw.
“There’s still a lot of matches, a lot of great players,” the 39-year-old Williams said.
“There’s so much depth in this game now, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing in the first round or not, you really have to fight for every match; nothing comes easy.”
Sabalenka was unable to duplicate her defeat of Pavlychenkova a month ago in the Madrid semi-finals on the way to the title.
Pavlychenkova played the quarter-finals here a decade ago.
“2011, that was a long time ago,” the 29-year-old said. “Today apart from having pain in my knee and my leg, I was enjoying, I’m trying to embrace this.
“I’m still here in the second week, still playing good tennis. That shows me that I was playing good tennis 10 years ago and still now.
“I’m just trying to stay in the present: I’m in the second week of the French Open. Let’s just enjoy this”
Sabalenka came to the court with 27 victories, second-most on the Tour.
Pavylchenkova advanced into the last 16 in 97 minutes with five breaks of serve and 22 winners; Sabalenka owns titles from Abu Dhabi and Madrid so far in 2021.
Former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka unlocked a 6-2, 6-2 win over Madison Keys to reach the Paris fourth round for the first time since 2013.
The double Australian Open winner played under the new roof of the Chatrier showcourt as morning showers moved through and decisions on closing the roof got complicated..
.”This morning was a disaster,” she said. “I tried to stay focused on my game, there was. too much happening.
“No one was sure of rain-no rain or about the roof, I tried not to focus on too many things – only on myself.”
Neither player served an ace during the 71-minute encounter, with Azarenka converting five of 11 break points.
Others into the fourth round included Kazakh Elena Rybakina, Romania’s Sorana Cirstea and Czech Marketa Vondrousova.
Main photo Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova winning 3rd round match by WTATennis.com