Aryna Sabalenka broke fresh Grand Slam ground as she reached the second week of the French Open for the first time in her career through a 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Kamilla Rakhimova on Friday.

The second seed owns an Australian Open title from January but has never escaped the Roland Garros third round; she has yet to drop a set at this edition.

Her victory took 68 minutes and kept alive her bid to knock Iga Swiatek from the top WTA ranking spot; she has booked at least the semi-finals at each of the other three majors.. 

Sabalenka counted six aces among her 27 winners, though she also had to deal with 19 unforced errors on the way to the business end of the tournament.

The seed drove a return down the line to earn a match point but sent a return long. Sabalenka came good on her second chance, advancing as she broke her opponent to end the afternoon.

“It’s good to have a Grand Slam title in your pocket, it gives good confidence,: the winner said.

“I played way better than in the previous matches, and I’m super happy with that. 

“It wasn’t an easy match. She’s moving well, putting a lot of balls back.

“I was trying my best every point and super happy with the win today.

“I had fewer unforced errors and I was more focused and played with more discipline.” 

Sabalenka increased her narrow lead in WTA match wins this season after notching her 32nd.

Ninth seed Daria Kastakina defeated American Peyton Stearns with the loss of just one game, advancing in just under an hour on the clay.

The 26-year-old posted a semi-final here a year ago.

“Definitely I played a very good match,” the winner said. “. At the beginning I saw she was a bit tired. 

“That’s when I realised exactly what I had to do. Even if the match goes one way, I think the level was pretty high.

“I’m just happy that I was able to close the match and take all my chances.”

Elise Mertens reinforced her career-long domination of third seed Jessica Pegula with a 6-1, 6-3 third-round victory which took her record in the series to 3-0.

The Belgian now faces 2021 finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, – a 2022 knee injury absentee – who swept the 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Anastasia Potapova.

Former No. 11 Pavlyuchenkova, now standing No. 333, is the second-lowest-ranked player to reach the fourth round here since Serena Williams (ranked 451 in 2018 during one of her late-career comebacks).  

Mertens wrapped up her defeat of Pegula in 82 minutes, earning her seventh career win over a Top 5 opponent; it was her first defeat of an elite since overcoming Simon Halep in Madrid two years ago .

The veteran is into the second week of a major for the 13th time from 25 Grand Slams.

Mertens was aided by 28 Pegula unforced errors while keeping her own count to 13.

Popular Ukrainian Elina Svitolina had the crowd on her side in a 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 comeback win over Anna Blinkova in two and a quarter hours.

The wife of French player Gael Monfils twice traded breaks in the deciding third set, but clawed to victory with a winner down the line on match point.

“At the end I was extremely happy to finish with that backhand down the line,” she said. “I gave 1,000 per cent on that shot.

“I decided to leave it all out there while serving for the match against the wind.

“I came here with no expectations and I’m just playing match by match 

“Coming back after giving birth is extremely complicated. I’m motivated to go further in this tournament.”

Main photo:- French Open 2023 Ukraine’s outspoken Elina Svitolina celebrates third round victory by Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd