Maria Sakkari completes the improbable composition of the semi-finals of Roland-Garros
Maria Sakkari completed a wholly unlikely set of Grand Slam semi-finalists by ending defending champion Iga Swiatek’s unbeaten streak at Roland Garros.
Sakkari joined Barbora Krejcikova, who beat Coco Gauff, and Tuesday winners Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Tamara Zidansek to advance four times to this stage of a grand slam for the first time.
This is only the second time in the Open era that a slam has occurred and the first since the 1978 Australian Open, when many top players did not make it to the tournament.
Sakkari and Pavlyuchenkova stand out as the players who have been knocking on the door for some time, and Sakkari will certainly remain confident in Thursday’s clash with Krejcikova after following her victory over last year’s runner-up Sofia Kenin by knocking out the champion. Swiatek 6- 4 6-4.
The 25-year-old Greek, who has a British coach at Tom Hill, was however determined to deal with her emotions, saying: “I don’t want to be too excited because I don’t have a day off tomorrow. I still have to play, stay focused.
“But it’s a great success, for sure. I had people around me telling me it was coming. They were right. I was impatient, telling them, “When and when and when? It happened this week, so I’m happy with it.
As the only player in the tournament’s top 20, Sakkari finds herself in the unexpected position of favorite, but said, “I think the draw has changed so much that it doesn’t matter who was the highest ranked in this tournament. . We are four very good players, players who can win a title for sure.
Sakkari’s success coupled with Stefanos Tsitsipas’ run to the men’s semi-finals also means this is the best Grand Slam tournament in Greek tennis history.
Swiatek defended his title vigorously and won an 11-game, 22-game winning streak in the contest, but felt it was one game too far away.
The Polish lacked her usual clarity and poise and took a 2-0 medical time-out in the second set, coming back with her right thigh taped.
Swiatek said: “Obviously I haven’t played my best tennis. That’s for sure. But Maria did a good job playing on my forehand, which didn’t work out very well today. It’s good for her that she saw that. She chose good tactics.
“I think the last two weeks hit me yesterday. I just didn’t have good days, couldn’t do good physical recovery because I was stressed. Days like this happen, and that’s normal.
Swiatek qualified for the doubles semi-finals with Bethanie Mattek-Sands but didn’t feel like she overplayed, saying: “I can change so many things it’s really hard to tell what the problem was . I don’t think it was duplicated.
“Of course we’re going to try to relax a bit, calm down, find a bit of a step back as well. Basically when I close my eyes I only see a tennis court and balls, so that’s is quite tiring.
Krejcikova ended Gauff’s hopes of reaching a first Grand Slam semi-final with a 7-6 (6) 6-3 victory.
The 17-year-old American was in excellent shape on clay and qualified for her first slam quarter-final, but she couldn’t take any of the five set points in the first set.
The disappointment for Gauff was obvious as she got off to a bad start in the second set, crushing her racquet forcefully on the pitch after a double fault left her 4-0 behind.
Krejcikova, better known as a doubles player but quickly progressing in singles, blinked at the finish line as Gauff fought back 5-0 to 5-3, but the Czech took her sixth match point.
One of Krejcikova’s former coaches was former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, who died of cancer in 2017 at the age of 49.
Krejcikova said: “Whenever I go out on the pitch I go out of the pitch, I always think of her. I always wonder what she would say to me after such a race, all those winning games and everything. I’m just really sad that I can’t hear it.
“I feel like she always knew I could play at this level, that I could play games like this. But it’s just sad that it didn’t happen sooner.
Gauff relativized the defeat by declaring: “I am obviously disappointed not to have been able to complete the first set. It’s in the past, it’s already happened. After the game, Enzo, my hitting partner, told me that this game would probably make me a champion in the future. I really believe it.