Coco Gauff makes progress but French Open loses Elena Rybakina to illness

Coco Gauff makes progress but French Open loses Elena Rybakina to illness

Coco Gauff fought off the challenge of 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva to reach round four on Saturday while the French Open lost one of its favourites to illness.

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina withdrew minutes before she was due to take to Philippe Chatrier to face Sara Sorribes Tormo, revealing she was struggling with a virus.

Gauff and Andreeva’s combined age is younger than Novak Djokovic, and the American teenager looked like she could lose to a player her junior for the first time in her senior career.

But Andreeva was unable to sustain the level she showed in winning the first set and ended her debut grand slam with a 6-7 (5) 6-1 6-1 defeat.

The Russian is undoubtedly a player of huge potential, though, and she more than matched Gauff during a high-class first set full of fierce shot-making.

The 19-year-old, who was facing a younger opponent for just the third time, served for it at 5-4 but Andreeva broke back and then converted a lead in the tie-break.

There were moments of youthful petulance from Andreeva that she will need to stamp out, particularly an incident late in the tie-break when she swiped a ball angrily into the crowd.

Mirra Andreeva has made a name for herself this fortnight
Mirra Andreeva has made a name for herself this fortnight (Christophe Ena/AP)

She earned a code violation but was fortunate she did not hurt a spectator, which could have seen her defaulted.

Top seed Iga Swiatek, meanwhile, defeated an opponent 6-0 6-0 for the fourth time in her career and first at a grand slam.

China’s Wang Xinyu was the unfortunate recipient as Swiatek hit top form at Roland Garros – four of the six sets she has played so far this year have now been bagels.

The major barrier to the Pole reaching the final appeared to be a projected last-four clash with Rybakina, who she has lost to three times this season.

Explaining her withdrawal, the fourth seed said: “I was not feeling good already yesterday and the day before, so I didn’t sleep two nights and had some fever. Today I really tried in the warm-up but I feel that the right decision is to withdraw, because it’s really tough to play with these conditions.

“I saw the doctor and they said that actually it’s all a virus here in Paris. I guess with my allergy, immune system just went down and I picked up something. It’s difficult to perform and obviously to run and even breathe. So I think that was the only right decision I could make.

“Today I just wanted to give 100 per cent and obviously I’m far from being 100 per cent. It was unlucky for me. I just try to recover and do my best to be prepared for the grass season already.”

Elena Rybakina won the Italian Open in Rome last month
Elena Rybakina won the Italian Open in Rome last month (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

The timing is hugely unfortunate for the 23-year-old, who has established herself at the top of the tree in women’s tennis alongside Aryna Sabalenka and Swiatek.

“Of course I’m really upset not to be able to play but I guess that’s life,” added the Kazakhstan player. “There is a lot of ups and downs.”

Rybakina is due to play her first grass-court tournament in Berlin beginning on June 19 before heading to Eastbourne as she builds up to the defence of her Wimbledon title.

Meanwhile, the seventh prime-time night session on Sunday will belatedly feature a women’s match for the first time, with Sabalenka’s clash against former finalist Sloane Stephens selected for the slot.

Organisers have again come under fire after only picking one women’s match across the fortnight last year.