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Elise Mertens Mutes No. 3-Seeded Jessica Pegula in Roland Garros Upset

Elise Mertens of Belgium puts her finger to her lips as she celebrates a point against Jessica Pegula of United States during the Women’s Singles Third Round match on Day Six of the 2023 French Open at Roland Garros on June 02, 2023 in Paris, France. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Seeing her backhand tangled up in net, Jessica Pegula waved her arms in frustration like a woman shoving a dance partner for stepping on her toes.

A precise Elise Mertens choreographed confusion on Court Chatrier and Pegula couldn’t stay in step.

Smooth shifting tactics, Mertens muted No. 3-seeded Pegula 6-1, 6-3 high stepping into the Roland Garros fourth round for the third time.

“I feel very happy. It was a good day at the office,” Mertens said. “I mean, I played an incredible first set. Of course, I knew that she was going to come back. She’s a great competitor, a great player and fighter.

“So I think the game from 4-3 to 5-3 was crucial to get that one and to get the win. So, yeah, I mean, the confidence was there today. So happy about my level.”

It’s a deeply disappointing defeat for Pegula, who was riding a streak of Slam success reaching quarterfinals in four of her last five majors and arrived in Paris with high hopes of rising to her first Grand Slam semifinal.

The draw presented open opportunity too.

No. 5-seeded Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, eighth-seeded Maria Sakkari and Olympic gold-medal champion Belinda Bencic were already eliminated from field leaving Pegula a path to a maiden semifinal in the bottom half of the draw.

Credit the crafty Mertens for playing clean, intelligent tennis to score her seventh career Top 5 win and beat Pegula for the third time in as many meetings.

Mertens pumped up the pace on first and second serves and was a perfect five-for-five in break point conversions completing a tidy one hour, 22-minute triumph.

The former Australian Open semifinalist Mertens will play 2021 French Open finalist Anastasia Pavyluchenkova for a quarterfinal spot.

Continuing her inspired comeback, Pavlyuchenkova conquered 24th-seeded Anastasia Potapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.

“It’s going to be a tough one, of course, but I’m going to focus on myself, and I’m going to review and watch today’s match again and focus on myself, as I said. I hope I’ll have the best possible chances,” Mertens said.

Historic French futility has left Roland Garros without a French singles player in the third round.

The French-speaking Mertens, who is from neighboring Belgium, hopes French fans will continue to support her as the crowd, which included Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters, did today.

“Of course, it does bring a lot of support,” Mertens said. “I’m almost at home here, and I try to speak French because I’m in France here. It gives a lot of energy.”

It was a bruising day on Paris’ red clay for American women. 

No. 9-seeded Daria Kasatkina crushed 2022 NCAA champion Peyton Stearns 6-0, 6-1 in a 55-minute thrashing on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Kasatkina connected on a remarkable 27 of 29 first serves, won 23 of those 27 first-serve points and did not face a break point reaching the French Open fourth round for the third time.