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Japan’s Naomi Osaka screams after scoring a point against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus during their second round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Thursday, May 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
Japan’s Naomi Osaka screams after scoring a point against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus during their second round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Thursday, May 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)|Associated Press
Tennis

French Open Women: Abrams picks 3rd round Saturday matches at Roland Garros -- Osaka, Serena, Barty, Anisimova and Keys 

Osaka match starts at 8:10 am EDT

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

French Open
Stade Roland Garros
Paris, France
Saturday, June 1, 2019
Women’s Third Round Picks

Naomi Osaka over Katerina Siniakova
Naomi Osaka taught me something in her first two matches here: she is a ferocious competitor in addition to being a fine, young tennis player. The sign of a true champion is the athlete who can win while not playing her best, and that surely is what we’ve seen so far from the world’s No. 1. She looked plain awful starting out against A.K. Schmiedlova when she dropped the first set without winning a game. But after recovering a bit and gutting out the second set tiebreaker, she ran away with the third set, 6-1. In the next round she again seemed to save her best play and her toughest resolve for when most needed, and took out the very difficult former No. 1, Vika Azarenka 6-3 in the third. Katerina Siniakova surprised a lot of people, including me, by upsetting Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-3 in the third in Round Two, and wants this match greatly. But she has neither the game (Osaka won their only meeting 6-4, 6-0 last year in Qatar) nor the stubborn resolve to take out Osaka, based on what I’ve seen from Osaka and her competitiveness this week.

Amanda Anisimova over Irina-Camelia Begu
I’ve been waiting rather impatiently, if only for five months, for American Amanda Anisimova to have a coming out party, and this is it. Anisimova should use this wonderful opportunity to make the Fourth Round in her first Grand Slam event with a win here over Irina-Camelia Begu. Begu (#116) has made it into the Third Round with wins over Karolina Muchova (#73) and Lin Zhu (#106), neither of whom is near the top tier of Tour players. Anisimova, the 17-year-old who runs like a cheetah, pounds groundies like she’s hitting out on almost all of the shots, and who plays so quickly it’s like she’s paying a babysitter, has had two very fast, very convincing wins here in Paris, the second against Aryna Sabalenka, the 11th-ranked women’s player on Tour. That win was very impressive, indeed. Anisimova is the better player between the two, and this win over Begu will put her in the second week of a Slam for the first time in her career. Get used to seeing her in this position.

Serena Williams over Sofia Kenin
Frankly, I was greatly looking forward to Serena Williams taking on Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu, who burst onto the scene back in March in Indian Wells. The 19-year-old ran through Begu, Cibulkova, Voegele, Wang, Muguruza, Svitolina, and Kerber to win her first Premier Mandatory title and pocket the winner’s purse of $1,354,010 in the California desert. It served notice to the women’s Tour that there was a new champion to contend with, and gave Andreescu confidence to know that she could beat any women on the Tour. But Andreescu hurt her serving shoulder in the process of winning that title, and she was trying to make a comeback here in Paris after not making an appearance on Tour since the victory in the desert. Unfortunately, the shoulder has not healed, and the Canadian had to drop out of the draw before her Second Round match against American Sofia Kenin. So, once again, Serena Williams will benefit from having to play a woman who cannot beat her in Kenin, instead of playing a young woman on the verge of greatness, in Andreescu. This is nothing against Kenin, but even at this advanced age, Serena is better.

Ash Barty over Andrea Petkovic
Ash Barty is going to flat out beat Andrea Petkovic silly. Petkovic struggled in two straight three set wins over Allie Riske and Su-Wei Hsieh here, although her win over Hsieh, who is ranked #25, is a nice win for a player like Petkovic who is ranked 69th. But Barty is playing lights-out tennis, evidenced by her Second Round pasting of feisty American Danielle Collins 7-5, 6-1. After Barty showed Collins, an Australian Open semi-finalist this year, the door in Madrid, I figured that Collins would seek revenge here in Paris. But Barty showed the University of Virginia alum that she is simply the better player, especially on clay, and I think she’ll show the same thing to Petkovic, a 31-year-old German.

Madison Keys over Anna Blinkova
Anna Blinkova, a 20-year-old qualifier from Moscow, took out Caroline Garcia, the 24th seed here, to highlight her first French Open and move into the Third Round. But that’s where her first French Open will end. American Madison Keys seems relaxed, motivated, and reasonably confident this week on the slow red clay of Stade Roland Garros. And when she’s confident, Keys is very tough to beat, especially for a rookie on the WTA Tour. I don’t see the young Russian doing it here, and I don’t see the young Russian doing it now. But if Keys fails to perform, Blinkova is good enough to rise to the occasion, so we’ll see how they look when they hit the court.