Russian teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova sent third seed Vera Zvonareva crashing out of the French Open yesterday to further throw the tournament wide open.
With the two top seeds, Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters already out, Zvonareva’s departure after a 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-2 loss means that fourth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus is the top-ranking player left in the draw.
For 19-year-old Pavlyuchenkova the win represents a major breakthrough as it will be a first appearance for her in a Grand Slam quarter-final.
Pavlyuchenkova, the youngest player left in the draw, got off to the perfect start with a break of serve and led 2-0 before her more seasoned compatriot ran off four games in a row.
Zvonareva served for the set at 5-3, but was broken as the 2006 world junior champion forced a tiebreak.
The younger and taller of the two Russians took early control of that with some big-hitting ground-strokes from the baseline giving her a 3-0 lead and she held on to that advantage to pocket the first set in 57 minutes.
That was the cue for Zvonareva to enjoy her best spell of the match in which she won four games in a row to dominate the second set.
Another break of serve to Zvonareva in the third game of the decider could have deflated Pavlyuchenkova, but instead she rallied strongly to level and, after winning a marathon fifth game, she raced away to pull off an impressive win.
In the men’s singles, Roger Federer slamdunked compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory which powered the third seed into the quarter-finals.
He suffered a minor wobble in the third set when he slipped 4-1 down, but burst back thanks to his vast variety of shots and broke for a second time when Wawrinka netted a volley. He sealed the match with an ace.
Earlier, Fabio Fognini of Italy overcame a cramping left leg and five match points to outlast Albert Montanes of Spain 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 11-9.
The match lasted 4 hours, 22 minutes and by the end, the 49th-ranked Fognini could barely move. His left thigh was massaged and wrapped during a series of visits from a trainer in the final set, including when play was halted in the middle of the 14th game.
The 38th-ranked Montanes was broken while serving for the match at 5-3 in the fifth and he later failed to convert match points on Fognini’s serve at 8-7 and at 9-8.
Fognini broke Montanes to lead 10-9, then served out the victory, closing it with a backhand winner.
In the third round of the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Chan Yung-jan and her partner, Monica Niculescu of Romania, were beaten by third seeds Vania King of the US and Yaroslava Shvedova of Russia 6-2, 3-6, 4-6.
On Saturday evening, winning machine Novak Djokovic brushed aside Juan Martin del Potro to join champion Rafael Nadal in the French Open fourth round.
Twice runner-up Robin Soderling also crushed Leonardo Mayer 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 and Maria Sharapova overcame Taiwan’s Chan Yung-jan 6-2, 6-3 in bright, but blustery conditions in a wide open women’s draw.
After the players were halted because of bad light at the end of the second set on Friday, Djokovic used the unexpected break to swing the momentum back his way and take his winning streak this year to 40 matches with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 triumph.
Djokovic now locks horns with home favorite Richard Gasquet.
Juan Ignacio Chela, Gilles Simon and Alejando Falla also progressed on Saturday with contrasting victories.