Amid an unusual silence on an empty Court Philippe Chatrier at the French Open on Thursday, defending champion Rafael Nadal celebrated his 35th birthday with another victory against Richard Gasquet, but play at Roland Garros was overshadowed by the news that Paris police had detained Russia’s Yana Sizikova over the suspected fixing of a doubles match last year.
Sizikova, 26, who is ranked 101st in the women’s doubles, was detained after an investigation into possible corruption and fraud was opened in October last year over a first-round match last year that saw Sizikova and American partner Madison Brengle defeated by Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig.
Suspicions were aroused because abnormally high betting activity on the game was registered in other nations and was reported to law enforcement, a source close to the case said at the time.
One game in particular — the fifth of the second set — was being analyzed by investigators after it featured two unusual double faults by Sizikova.
Earlier on Thursday, Sizikova and partner Ekaterina Alexandrova were heavily defeated in under an hour 1-6, 1-6 by Australian duo Storm Sanders and Ajla Tomljanovic in the first round of the women’s doubles.
Nadal won 6-0, 7-5, 6-2 against Gasquet to improve to 17-0 against the Frenchman since they first met in 2004. Gasquet has not even won a set in the past 12 losses to Nadal and not since 2008.
There were no fans on Court Philippe Chatrier to witness Nadal’s 102nd victory at Roland Garros due to a COVID-19 curfew.
The 13-time champion won the first set in 24 minutes.
“I think I played an amazing first set,” Nadal said. “I don’t feel that Richard was playing that bad to have that score, but I didn’t miss that much.”
Nadal was not too bothered by finishing at nearly 11:30pm in humid conditions.
“The main thing is to feel myself playing well,” he said.
Roger Federer beat Marin Cilic 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 for his ninth win in 10 meetings against the big-serving Croat and the fifth in Grand Slams.
“I think I played a really good match, I surprised myself a bit. I didn’t think I could play at this level for two-and-a-half hours against Marin,” Federer said. “It shows I have something in reserve, I have some energy left and that’s really good for my confidence.”
Novak Djokovic made brief work of beating clay-court specialist Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, saving eight of the nine break points he faced.
Eighteen-year-old qualifier Carlos Alcaraz of Spain beat world No. 28 Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to become the youngest man to reach the third round at Roland Garros since 1992 and youngest to make a Grand Slam third round since Nadal at the Australian Open in 2004.
In the women’s singles, world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty retired from her second-round match, leaving the tournament without its top two women’s seeds and any of the top three women in the rankings.
However, defending champion Iga Swiatek breezed through to the third round, beating Rebecca Peterson 6-1, 6-1 on Court Simonne-Mathieu.
Swiatek, who turned 20 on Monday, is looking to become the first woman to win consecutive Roland Garros titles since Justine Henin won her third straight in 2007.
Barty, the 2019 champion, trailed 6-1, 2-2 when she signaled that she could not continue against Polish opponent Magda Linette on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I was battling the pain and it just became too severe, and like I said, was becoming unsafe,” Barty said of the injury that had flared up during training.
In the second round of the men’s doubles yesterday, Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun and Yoshihito Nishioka fell to a 6-3, 6-2 defeat to ninth seeds Kevin Krawietz of Germany and Horia Tecau of Romania.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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