French Open 2013: Victoria Azarenka emerges as the main challenger

Day nine of the French Open was a relatively peaceful one for the women, and there are few signs of seismic activity in the coming days.

Victoria Azarenka, the third seed, confirmed she might be the only player capable of stopping Serena Williams when she dismissed the former champion Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 6-0, one of the veteran Italian's more embarrassing defeats on a big stage. Azarenka next plays the 12th seed Maria Kirilenko, who was detained a little longer in beating the American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5, 6-4.

This is Kirilenko's 10th French Open campaign and she is in her first quarter-final. If she goes no further, the Russian is already savouring the moment, because there have been many disappointments. "I had opportunities in previous years to make it, and never did," she said. "Now I turn 26 and I finally did it. I can say that is timely." She remembers being 4-2 up in the third set against Williams as a 16-year-old and blowing it. "I was so little and I played three sets with Serena," she said. "For the last couple of years I couldn't win more than two, three games against her." Mattek-Sands, one of four Americans to reach the fourth round – alongside Williams, Sloane Stephens and Jamie Hampton – later watched Stephens give the No2 seed Maria Sharapova occasional discomfort before the Russian closed it out in the fading light on Court Philippe Chatrier, 6-4, 6-3.

On Tuesday Williams plays the in-form Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova and Agnieszka Radwanska meets the Italian Sara Errani. Both are good matches, with the world No1 still a clear favourite to advance to the semi-finals, while there is little between the stylish Pole and Errani, who has just broken into the top five.

Powered by article was written by Kevin Mitchell at Roland Garros, for The Guardian on Monday 3rd June 2013 20.37 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Bruno Girin