French Open Day 8: Sloane Stephens out after battle with world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka; doubles team DQ'd for hitting ball girl

Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka (R) shakes hands with US Sloane Stephens after her victory during their women's singles match on day eight of the Roland-Garros French Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 4, 2023. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
U.S. star Sloane Stephens shakes hands with Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka after a loss in their French Open women's singles match. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (EMMANUEL DUNAND via Getty Images)

Before unseeded American Sloane Stephens took the court to face No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, the French Open marketed the matchup as David vs. Goliath. But Sabalenka and Stephens are both Grand Slam champions, and it showed on Sunday.

The Belarusian star advanced to her first Roland-Garros quarterfinal in a hard fought 7-6 (5), 6-4 win. Stephens' experience in the 2018 final showed when she came back from down 5-0 in the first set to force a tiebreaker.

Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, also stormed back from 4-2 to 4-4 in the second before Sabalenka broke to go up 5-4 and serve out for the match.

Sabalenka now leads the tour with 33 match wins this year. The 2023 Australian Open champion will play Ukraine's Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals.

Doubles team disqualified after ball hits ball girl

No. 16-seeded doubles team Miyu Kato of Japan and Aldila Sutjiadi of Indonesia were disqualified from Roland-Garros on Sunday when Kato inadvertently sent a ball flying toward a ball girl during their third-round match.

Per the Associated Press, the ball hit the ball girl in the neck, leaving her in tears. It made contact when the ball girl wasn't looking as she walked off the court. The incident was clearly an accident.

Umpire Alexandre Juge initially gave Kato a warning. Tournament referee Remy Azemar and Grand Slam supervisor Wayne McEwen then issued the disqualification after reviewing video of the incident, AP reported.

Kato and Sutjiadi lost the opening set to Marie Bouzková and Sara Sorribes Tormo, but they were up 3-1 in the second when Kato's unintentional hit left the ball girl in tears.

Bouzková said after the match she asked Juge “to look into it more and ask our opponents what they think happened” in the immediate aftermath of the incident. She also called it a "bad situation."

“It’s just a bad situation for everyone,” Bouzková said, per AP. “But it’s kind of something that, I guess, is taken by the rules, as it is, even though it’s very unfortunate for them. ... At the end of the day, it was the referee’s decision.”

She said that she heard an official say the ball “has to do some kind of harm to the person affected" to warrant a disqualification when explaining the judgment.

Novak Djokovic breaks tie with Rafael Nadal

On Roland-Garros' opening day, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic told reporters that the odd year without Rafael Nadal represented a new title opportunity. A week later, Djokovic secured his place in the French Open quarterfinals in record fashion.

With a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas on Sunday, he reached the quarterfinals for the 14th consecutive year, the longest streak by a man in the event's history. Roger Federer made the second-most uninterrupted appearances, advancing to the French Open quarterfinals for nine years straight before he retired.

While Djokovic added he doesn't miss Nadal because of his track record against him, he now holds the record for most solo French Open quarterfinals appearances by a man with 17. He and Nadal were previously tied.

“Well, I’m proud of it, but my attention is already on the next match,” Djokovic said after the victory on Sunday. The 22-time Grand Slam champion will play Russian No. 11 seed Karen Khachanov next.

Djokovic likely has another goal in his sights. He and Nadal currently both have 22 Grand Slam singles championships. Djokovic has two French Open titles from 2016 and 2021. With a win this year, he would become the first man to have at least three different major tournament trophies.

Notable upsets

  • Unseeded Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated No. 28 Elise Mertens 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3. Pavlyuchenkova missed last year's tournament due to a knee injury and has now defeated three consecutive seeded opponents.

  • Ukraine's Elina Svitolina defeated No. 9 Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 7-6 (5).

Other results

  • No. 1 seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, who is expected to be Djokovic's biggest competition for the La Coupe des Mousquetaires, defeated Italy's Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

  • Greece's No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Austrian qualifier Sebastian Ofner 7-5, 6-3, 6-0.

  • Karolina Muchova defeated Elina Avanesyan 6-4, 6-4.

What to watch on Day 9

  • No. 6 Coco Gauff of the United States vs. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova

  • World No.1 Iga Swiatek vs. Lesia Tsurenko

  • No. 7 Ons Jabeur vs. Bernarda Pera

  • No.14 Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo