French Open: Svetlana Kuznetsova survives thriller against the powerful Oceane Dodin

Svetlana Kuznetsova was not at her best and forced to work very hard for the win over Oceane Dodin in the second round of the French Open, in what could have been the best match of the women's competition thus far.

French Open: Svetlana Kuznetsova survives thriller against the powerful Oceane Dodin
Svetlana Kuznetsova moves on to the third round | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Svetlana Kuznetsova
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Oceane Dodin

Coming from a break down in the final set and despite looking out-of-sorts throughout the whole second round match at the French Open, title favourite Svetlana Kuznetsova managed to hold her nerves and fend off the inspired Oceane Dodin in three tough sets, having wasted many chances of her own too.

Kuznetsova lets huge lead slip

Dodin had the best possible start to the match as she had the comfortable hold of service in the opening game, with her powerful groundstrokes helping her to force errors out of Kuznetsova. The Russian proved that she could do better as she had a love service hold that followed, with her groundstrokes looking very solid as they helped her to clinch two winners in that game.

Svetlana Kuznetsova survived a poor serving performance today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Svetlana Kuznetsova survived a poor serving performance today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Kuznetsova then made the first breakthrough in the match as Dodin started to commit a couple of unforced errors and allowed the Russian to take advantage of her inconsistent play, taking the early lead. Fending off two break points and a couple of strong returns, Kuznetsova then extended the lead to two games as she consolidated the break despite facing some troubles. The Russian then relied on Dodin’s inconsistent serving to earn yet another service break, saving three game points along the way to have the double break advantage.

Having a game point to consolidate the break for a formidable 5-1 lead, Kuznetsova failed to convert it as Dodin hit some powerful winners to break straight back and keep herself in the set. Nevertheless, the experienced Russian did not get affected by the loss of her service game as some poor unforced errors from Dodin gave back the advantage to her, gifting her the opportunity to serve out the set.

Oceane Dodin hits a forehand | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Oceane Dodin hits a forehand | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

It was from then when Dodin mounted a huge comeback, playing some of her peak offensive and powerful tennis to break serve twice and return level on the scoreboard for the first time since the second game, saving a set point along the way. After an exchange of service breaks, the set was eventually extended into a tiebreak to decide the winner.

In the tiebreak, Dodin returned to her inconsistent form as three unforced errors gave Kuznetsova a 4-1 lead. This lead seemed to have sealed her the set, but Dodin had other ideas when she came from 1-5 down to return level on serve at 5-6 with a booming forehand winner to save one of the set points. However, the set had a bittersweet ending as the Frenchwoman threw in an unexpected double fault at 5-6, allowing Kuznetsova to take the first set after exactly one hour of hard-hitting tennis despite failing to serve out the set thrice in a row.

Svetlana Kuznetsova was struggling to dictate play | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Svetlana Kuznetsova was struggling to dictate play | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Dodin fights back

Dodin began the comeback trail in the opening game of the second set as she was determined to send the match into a deciding set, breaking Kuznetsova’s game to love in the first game. However, the Russian followed suit as she came up with some powerful returns to make an immediate reply, breaking straight back to love too.

The higher-ranked player then had the first service hold of the set as she strolled to win the points on her serve, which was unexpected as she only won 39 percent of first serve points before that game. The string of service holds continued until the fifth game where Dodin threatened to break serve after holding two break points. However, she was unable to convert them as Kuznetsova held onto her service game tightly to stay on serve.

Oceane Dodin celebrates her win over Giorgi two days ago | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Oceane Dodin celebrates her win over Giorgi two days ago | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

The Frenchwoman, who looked the better player on the court in the second set, deservedly earned the next breakthrough as she came up with some powerful groundstrokes which helped her dictate play, breaking that stubborn Kuznetsova defence to take the lead. Despite so, Kuznetsova maintained her composure and started to step up her game, regaining the momentum to break straight back and prevent Dodin from extending her lead.

Playing an offensive style of tennis in which the momentum and rhythm are very important, Dodin lost four consecutive points on Kuznetsova’s serve to hand her a 5-4 lead, being just a game away from the win. Serving to stay in the match, Dodin was unfazed by the pressure as she comfortably held her serve after finding back the rhythm on her serve, leveling the scores at 5-5.

Oceane Dodin's serve was inconsistent today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Oceane Dodin's serve was inconsistent today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Dodin then regained the lead after breaking Kuznetsova for a massive seventh time in the match, with the Russian looking out-of-sorts at the crucial moments. Dodin then successfully served out the set, hitting some really powerful serves to outhit the higher-ranked player and level the match at one set all after 1 hour and 45 minutes of play.

Kuznetsova triumphs eventually

Dodin had the best start to the final set as she managed to utilize the home crowd’s roaring support to break serve in the opening game and take the early lead, looking poised for the huge upset. With the help of three double faults by Dodin, Kuznetsova had to thank her luck after breaking straight back to level the final set just when everyone thought Dodin was strolling to the victory with the momentum running in her.

Oceane Dodin was pleased with her win over Giorgi on Monday | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Oceane Dodin was pleased with her win over Giorgi on Monday | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Unexpectedly, the Russian held her serve comfortably and took the lead for the first time in the final set. At 15-30 in the fourth game, Dodin hit a crucial and fantastic down-the-line winner to prevent Kuznetsova from getting to break point, which still did not help her not to get broken eventually as the Frenchwoman started to gift the Russian some free points with her errors, allowing her to break once more and take a 3-1 lead out of nowhere. Kuznetsova then comfortably consolidated the break of serve and opened a huge 4-1 lead, with the victory already within her reach.

H owever, a love service hold for Dodin changed the whole storyline once again as she regained the momentum and confidence, together with the support of the home crowd. This saw her break straight back in the next game and return on serve all of a sudden, with the finishing line slowly returning into her sight yet again.

Svetlana Kuznetsova was often inconsistent today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Svetlana Kuznetsova was often inconsistent today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Gaining a 0-30 lead, Kuznetsova looked to break back once again and she eventually got it after Dodin hit yet another double fault on the crucial points, this time on break point itself to allow Kuznetsova to regain the lead and have the golden opportunity to serve out the match. Hitting two consecutive aces, it finally brought up two match points for Kuznetsova as she managed to prevail on the more important points, eventually relying on a Dodin unforced error to triumph after a marathon 2 hours and 27 minutes.

Tennis