Cilic, Thiem battle into round of 32

WARRIOR: Croatia’s Marin Cilic reacts during his second round match against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz on Thursday. REUTERS

Title challengers Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem struggled into the French Open last 32 on Thursday.

Third seed Cilic reached the third round for the eighth time with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 7-5 win over Polish qualifier and world number 188 Hubert Hurkacz.

Cilic will face Steve Johnson of the United States for a place in the last 16.

Seventh-seeded Thiem, a semifinalist in 2016 and 2017, racked up his 31st win of the year. The Austrian saw off Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a match which had been suspended overnight after the third set.

Highly-rated Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov was knocked out by Germany’s Maximilian Marterer 5-7, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, 6-4.

Nadal powers on

Reigning champion Rafael Nadal bludgeoned his way into the third round with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 defeat of Argentine Guido Pella. 

Next in the firing line for Nadal is Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

“I have a great relationship with him (Gasquet) since we were kids,” said Nadal.

“We met each other for the first time when we were 12. First thing is he’s a very good person, no? He’s a very normal guy. We practiced hundreds of times together. He came to Mallorca.” 

Argentinian fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro eased into the third round by ending the Roland Garros farewell of home favourite Julien Benneteau.

Former US Open champion Del Potro will next play Spanish 31st seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas for a last-16 spot after winning 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

French number one Lucas Pouille put down a spirited comeback by unseeded Briton Cameron Norrie on Thursday to lead home hopes going into the third round. 

Pouille looked tight throughout the match but eventually prevailed 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (3) victory.

Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, was too strong for France’s number 257 Fiona Ferro 6-4, 6-3.

Meanwhile, Australian 24th seed Daria Gavrilova came back from a set and 2-5 down, saving a match point in the process, to defeat America’s Bernarda Pera 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.

 Maria Sharapova huffed and puffed her way into the third round with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Croatia’s Donna Vekic.

The former world number one, back at Roland Garros after a two-year absence, was erratic throughout but her iron willpower helped her set up a meeting with sixth seed Karolina Pliskova.

Simona Halep’s focus was still not as sharp as she would have liked but that did not prevent the Romanian top seed from blazing past American Taylor Townsend 6-3, 6-1 in the second round. 

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Cilic, Thiem battle into round of 32

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