RG day 9 diary and highlights: Women's 'open' field full of delicious suspense

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Front-runner? Simona Halep.

For the first time in 40 years, the women’s quarter-final line-up at Roland Garros consists of no previous Grand Slam champions.

We will get a brand new major winner on Saturday and it’s fair to say each of the eight women still standing can lift the title.

The most repetitive line we’ve heard this fortnight has revolved around how “open” the women’s draw is this year but it’s also worth noting that five of the quarter-finalists (Svitolina, Pliskova, Wozniacki, Halep, Mladenovic) came to Paris ranked inside the top seven in the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard – meaning they’ve already had very strong seasons coming into this.

Yes, the title is anyone’s to win, but how is that worse than if we already knew who was going to grab the trophy a few days into the tournament, or before it even started? I for one am loving the suspense and I’m very curious to see who will rise to the occasion and take this opportunity by the horns.

“For sure there’s going to be a changing of the guard,” is how ex-world No1 Lindsay Davenport put it. “Two through 18 (in the rankings), it seems like it’s not that big a difference. Maybe not (Karolina) Pliskova, but it’s still land of opportunity.

“We’ll see who holds up under that pressure. But it wouldn’t surprise me if we had a different Grand Slam champion in Wimbledon, and maybe even at the US Open.

“The return of Vika (Azarenka) especially on hard courts, she hasn’t been in the mix obviously for over a year. I think (Maria) Sharapova the more she plays… I just want to see everybody back healthy playing, because that’s when any sport is at its best. Hopefully this time next year we’ll have everybody playing, everybody healthy, all the big names.”

The likes of Azarenka and Sharapova will no doubt feel that the landscape has significantly changed in their absence, with a few of the women separating themselves a little from the chasing pack.

A compelling factor over the next few days is that Pliskova and Halep can actually play for the No1 ranking. Pliskova is two wins away while Halep needs three victories to replace Angelique Kerber at the top.

Davenport initially had Halep as the favourite for the title but she also feels the scales have tipped slightly towards local star Kristina Mladenovic, who has capitalised on the home support to get through some brutal battles so far this tournament.

“I think Mladenovic might have a slight edge because she’s got the crowd, and she’s got their energy and she knows how to use them,” said the American retired three-time Slam champion.

“It’s been very rare that a player can come in and get 15,000 people chanting and yelling for them and not feel pressure and not feel scared and she’s embracing it. That’s half the battle when you’re playing at home.”

It’s no secret that whoever is the strongest mentally will end up taking this title and Davenport agrees.

“With opportunity comes pressure, and who’s going to hold up the best? Halep who three years ago it was like she will win a major. She looks so good here, that brutal final against Maria, such high quality. And it seems like sometimes it got to her. The pressure and opportunities… it’s so hard to pick,” said Davenport, who is the current coach of world No13 Madison Keys.

“She was my favourite to win the tournament but you look at the other players – I don’t know, if Svitolina is not healthy, which I heard today she not 100 per cent (against Martic), I didn’t see it. You’ve got to think that Halep’s kind of the favourite in that bottom half.”

Moving on to some highlights, here’s what you may have missed from day 9 at Roland Garros…

Points of the day

Ignore the moonballs, wait for the smooth hands.

Special Kei!

Stats of the day

7 — Roland Garros quarter-finals Murray has now reached to take sole ownership of fourth place among active players with the most last-eight appearances at the French Open.

15 — aces for Caroline Garcia so far this tournament. Tied in second place with Jelena Ostapenko overall behind Kiki Bertens who hit 17.

650 — tour-level match wins for Murray after his victory over Karen Khachanov on Monday.

Quotes of the day

“I think it meant a lot that he took that decision. Helped me. I just felt that it was like a shock, because I lost the coach. So I have just to improve in this way, because he never had something to complain about my game and about the work that I do, because I’m working. But just with my attitude. I knew that is the only one thing that I have to change to have him back.”
— Simona Halep on how briefly losing her coach Darren Cahill this year got her back on track.

“It was the coldest kiss I had in my life, but it was a kiss (smiling). It’s a good point already, and I was actually also surprised. I was not expecting that she wanted to give me a kiss. And I liked it. I mean, it was good to finish on this note, you know, like I wouldn’t have liked like just a handshake, like very cold. I’m not this kind of person. I’m a very nice person. I don’t like the conflict. So I told her good luck, and I mean it.”
— Alize Cornet on the unexpected kiss she got from Garcia after their fourth round despite the off-court tension between them.

“I was just so happy. I just went for it. I mean, everyone was waiting for a very cold match. Everyone was surprised, maybe it’s going to be a battle or whatever. But, I mean, I just tried to stay like a professional player. I play tennis because I enjoy it, and I don’t want to get any fight with anyone. What happen, happened. We never forget about it. Tennis is a game. I play to enjoy and that’s it.”
— Garcia on opting to kiss Cornet at the net after their match.

“Actually I’m very bad with the memories (smiling). I don’t even know if I win or lost. I won?”
— Kei Nishikori when asked about his 2016 US Open win over Andy Murray. It was obviously not that memorable!

Comeback of the day

Elina Svitolina

The Ukrainian No5 seed rallied back from 2-5, 0-30 down in the final set against Petra Martic to turns things around and get the win 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. How did she do it?

Tweet of the day

Such bad luck for David Goffin. Come back soon!

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