Published June 01, 2012
A flat-footed Ana Ivanovic and a completely out-of-sorts Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska bade an early farewell to a cool and blustery Roland Garros on Friday.
For a woman who showed no weaknesses while dispatching Venus Williams in the previous round, Radwanska unusually suffers stage fright when she comes face-to-face with 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
So it proved again on Friday as the world number three froze on the biggest stage in claycourt tennis, winning a measly three games during a 6-1 6-2 third-round humbling by the Russian 26th seed on Philippe Chatrier Court.
Kuznetsova skipped off court - perhaps to experiment with another eye-catching hairdo after showing off cropped, tight braids - after notching up a sixth successive win over Radwanska and securing a last-16 date with Sara Errani.
The defeat also dashed Radwanska's hopes of finishing the tournament as world number one as she had been in a three-way race for the top spot with Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.
World number five Jo-Wilfried Tsonga prolonged local interest with a 7-5 6-4 6-4 win over Italian showman Fabio Fognini, while Tomas Berdych kept up the serene run by the top men's seeds with a 6-4 3-6 6-7 6-4 6-4 win over South African Kevin Anderson.
Italy's Errani may not yet be a household name but she is likely to provide a stiffer test to Russian Kuznetsova as she has already won three claycourt titles this season.
On Friday, Errani roared back from a first-set meltdown to beat Ivanovic 1-6 7-5 6-3 and reach the fourth round in Paris for the first time.
After assured performances in her last two outings, Ivanovic had high hopes of progressing beyond the fourth round of a major for the first time since her triumph here in 2008.
It was not meant to be for the bubbly 24-year-old Serbian.
"I was making some unforced errors when I was too flat-footed," said the 13th seed. "Some double faults really came out of nowhere. Maybe I wasn't using my legs enough.
"It's really disappointing because I felt like I had a game and I was playing really well. My serve really let me down."
It is a sentiment probably shared by Japan's Ayumi Morita, who simply could not fire up her serving arm and fell by the wayside 6-1 6-1 in a second-round thrashing by title favorite Sharapova.
The Russian second seed had been scheduled to face Morita on Thursday but failed to get on to Centre Court after Paul-Henri Mathieu took almost six hours to beat John Isner.
On Friday, with the weather having turned so fresh that the usual queues around the ice-cream stands had disappeared, Sharapova refused to hang around longer than necessary.
"It was a pretty long day yesterday. I feel like I warmed up like 20 times for this match," said Sharapova.
"It was one of those days where you just want to get on the court and then, you're (hanging around) all day, sitting, waiting around, eating, sleeping. It's like a good way to put someone into retirement.
"It was nice to get out there today and finish it."
The Japanese player did well to keep Sharapova on court for an hour but her postcard home from Paris is unlikely to contain too many happy memories as she managed to hold serve just twice.
Sharapova, on the other hand, will have plenty more happy snapshots to post on her Facebook account, which already has seven million fans and counting.
"Facebook is more like a travel journal for me. I take a lot more pictures now than I used to, because I feel like I want to share it...with my fans."
Roger Federer will also have plenty of fans, a club which includes Nicolas Mahut's wife, cheering for him when he takes on the Frenchman in third-round action.
World number one Novak Djokovic will face another local hope, Nicolas Devilder later on Friday.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)