Maria Sakkari stunned defending champion Iga Swiatek to become the fourth first-time semi-finalist at the French Open.
Swiatek burst onto the global stage in October by winning her first grand slam title in spectacular style and found herself this time as the only player in the quarter-finals previously to have gone further at any slam.
The Pole was on a winning streak at Roland Garros of 11 matches and 22 sets but a right thigh problem appeared to affect her as she fell to a 6-4, 6-4 defeat by 17th seed Sakkari, who is now the highest-ranked player left in the tournament.
“I am speechless,” Sakkari said. “It is a dream coming true. I don’t know, it is a very nice feeling and I could not have done it without my team and their support. We have a long way to go but we made a huge step today.”
Sakkari will now face Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova, who earlier knocked out Coco Gauff, while in the other semi-final, 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will face world No 85 Tamara Zidansek.
Getting to know Sakkari
Women’s Sport reporter Molly McElwee spoke to Maria Sakkari earlier this year ahead of the Australian Open on her Fantasy Football obsession and channeling her Spartan heritage.
“In Sparta, people grow up with that mentality, they know how to survive, they know how to fight for everything. It’s in my blood, I’m gonna take it with me everywhere I go. I worked a lot on my mentality with Tom and with a specialist, and then I beat all these players back to back. I realised that I also belong there because of my results and I just gained confidence. I haven’t lost it yet.”
Read the full interview here
Sakkari is the highest seed left too at 17th.
Swiatek* 4-6, 4-6 Sakkari (*denotes next server)
Great composure from Sakkari to show soft hands with a lovely drop shot for the opening point. Just three more needed to get her over the line. An ace will do nicely! Just two more points needed. A whipped forehand cross court brings up three match points in a flash. Sakkari looks briefly to her corner and then focuses on her service routine. She attempts an ace down the T, it goes long and Swiatek gives the second serve short shrift. Another first serve goes begging and Swiatek punishes another slower second serve. But finally, finally Sakkari sees a slower second serve fly past her. She’s only gone and secured the biggest win of her career. SAKKARI KNOCKS OUT DEFENDING CHAMPION WITH 6-6, 6-4 WIN
Swiatek 4-6, 4-5 Sakkari* (*denotes next server)
Swiatek hasn’t been able to establish any rhythm this match, while Sakkari continues to keep asking her questions and forcing her to play one more shot. Swiatek makes the Greek serve for the match by slamming an overhead home. New territory for Sakkari now.
Swiatek* 4-6, 3-5 Sakkari (*denotes next server)
Fantastic serving still from Sakkari as she rushes to two game points at 40-15. An outswinging ace, her fourth of the match, takes her to one game from a first-ever grand slam semi-final.
Swiatek 4-6, 3-4 Sakkari* (*denotes next server)
It’s not going all Sakkari’s way. The Greek hides her face briefly before unleashing a beaming smile at missing a regulation forehand. And moments later she’s puffing her cheeks out as Swiatek catches her off balance at the baseline for 40-15. Sakkari pushes a forehand into the middle and has to let this game slide. She knows that she doesn’t want to allow her opponent any opportunity to find a way to dig herself out of trouble.
Swiatek* 4-6, 2-4 Sakkari (*denotes next server)
Sakkari bouncing around on her toes with every service motion, keeping her energy levels high and maintaining the focus. Three game points now, a first serve down the T takes her closer to the end of this second set – and a potential huge upset.
Swiatek 4-6, 2-3 Sakkari* (*denotes next server)
The crowd starting to gee Swiatek up now as she stares at two break points and starts muttering to herself in annoyance at a few loose strokes. She lifts her arms to the skies after striking a forehand winner and then backs it up with a smash into the ad court. She’s swinging freely and making her shots now as if she has nothing to lose. A third straight point, again off her forehand wing takes her to advantage, and a fourth straight point should give her a lift.
Swiatek* 4-6, 1-3 Sakkari (*denotes next server)
Swiatek thinks about slapping her racket to the clay after watching one forehand strike the tape but opts against it. Sakkari maintains her focus and game to secure a comfortable hold and put the pressure straight back on Swiatek.
Swiatek 4-6, 1-2 Sakkari* (*denotes next server)
Swiatek returns to the court after a lengthy medical timeout with strapping to her right thigh. Sakkari gives it an early workout with a whipped forehand cross court which Swiatek has no chance of chasing down, injury or no injury. It’s the only point the Greek manages this game, as a punched forehand down the line gets her on the board this set.
Swiatek* 4-6, 0-2 Sakkari (*denotes next server)
Sakkari full of confidence now and her serve is firing. It’s now 14 of the last 20 points she has taken, scrub that and make that 15 of the last 21. She holds to 15. She has a brief mop down of the towel and then bounces back to her end. Swiatek, meanwhile, heads over to the umpire asking to see the trainer or doctor. Not clear what the issue is.
Swiatek 4-6, 0-1 Sakkari* (*denotes next server)
Odd rally from both women as they exchange ‘moon’ balls which the commentator adds ‘took him back to the 70s’. Swiatek’s forehand has gone missing, and her service game too. SAKKARI BREAKS.
Swiatek* 4-6 Sakkari (*denotes next server)
Oooer. Swiatek is hurting after that last game and takes her anger out on a second serve which she whips straight past Sakkari. The Greek’s momentum takes a temporary dip as a double fault allows Swiatek to move 15-30, but Sakkari is staying with the Pole shot-for-shot and drawing the errors from the defending champions’s forehand wing. An ace out wide, only her second of the match, turns the game in her favour, but Swiatek keeps knocking and brings up break point.
Sakkari sends down a gutsy second serve which Swiatek can’t control for deuce, and then sends down a timely first serve for set point. The Greek is scampering all over the baseline, pushing Swiatek side-to-side and working the space before unleashing a winning forehand to bring up the opening set. It ends Swiatek’s run of 22 consecutive sets in Paris at the same time. SAKKARI TAKES OPENING SET.
Swiatek* 4-5 Sakkari (*denotes next server)
Opening now for Sakkari at 0-30 but indecision takes over during her shot selection and she meekly strikes a forehand into the middle. Not to worry, she’s on the frontfoot during the next point, mobbing up a defensive reply and unleashes another fist pump with two break points to her name. She only needs one as Swiatek can’t handle a deep reply and hits into the tramlines. Sakkari will come out after the sit down serving for the opening set. SAKKARI BREAKS.
Swiatek 4-4 Sakkari* (*denotes next server)
Sakkari has a great response to that love-hold from Swiatek – one of her own. Still on serve in the opening set but neither player seemingly into their stride as yet.
Swiatek 4-3 Sakkari* (*denotes next server)
There’s a brief hold up in play as a spectator is attended to on court, likely the hot conditions have taken their toll. It was anything but a distraction for Swiatek. She holds to love for the first time.
Swiatek* 3-3 Sakkari (*denotes next server)
Great play from Sakkari, pushing Swiatek deep to the corner again before disguising a well-executed drop shot for two game points. She takes it on the first with a drilled backhand cross-court that has Swiatek scrambling to reach.
Swiatek 3-2 Sakkari* (*denotes next server)
First baseline duel ends in Sakkari’s favour as Swiatek just pushes one forehand long for 15-30. A first double from the Pole hands her rival two break points, she saves the first with a cracking forehand down the line and then outlasts Sakkari from the baseline during the next lengthy rally for deuce.
But wow. Sakkari unleashes a sublime forehand cross-court at some speed and acute angle to bring up another break point. A solid first serve saves the danger for Swiatek and she brings up game with a fizzing forehand that beats a net-rushing Sakkari.
Swiatek* 2-2 Sakkari (*denotes next server)
Error count creeping up for both players as Swiatek edges to 15-30 and then another break point when Sakkari tamely bats a backhand into the middle.
The Greek pulls out a timely big first serve out wide and backs it up with another deep serve that Swiatek can’t control. The defending champion is all over a short ball during the next rally, swiping home a forehand winner at pace. A brilliant first serve down the T saves a break point before Sakkari mixes things up, pushing Swiatek into the corner and then mobbing up with a drop shot. Swiatek won’t go away, punishing anything short to hang around this game. But Sakkari digs deep to keep her rival at bay. A great hold.
Swiatek 2-1 Sakkari* (*denotes next server)
Punishing serve-volley from Swiatek moves the Pole to 30-15 but a loose forehand brings Sakkari back. It’s a stuttering start from both players, neither finding their rhythm as Swiatek overshoots a forehand to hand her Greek rival a first break point opening. Swiatek uncharacteristically strikes long on another groundstroke, and Sakkari is on the board this set. SAKKARI BREAKS.
Swiatek* 2-0 Sakkari (*denotes next server)
Nervy start from Sakkari, a first double handing Swiatek an early look of a break at 15-40. She misses the next first serve, gets a decent second serve in, but then lets fly with a forehand. SWIATEK BREAKS.
Swiatek 1-0 *Sakkari (*denotes next server)
The defending champion opens proceedings and races to 30-0 before dragging a couple of groundstrokes into the tramlines. Sakkari strikes long on the next two first serves to provide a straight-forward start for Swiatek.
Sakkari a dangerous opponent
Swiatek has won 22 consecutive sets in Paris, but Sakkari will not be a push over. The Greek overcame 14th seed Elise Martens in a highly-competitive third round clash that lasted eight minutes short of three hours. And she recovered to dispatch last year’s finalist Sofia Kenin in straight sets for her first win over a top 10 player.
Gauff falls but will Swiatek sustain march?
Morning all and welcome to coverage of the fourth and final quarter-final where defending champion Iga Swiatek takes on Greece’s Maria Sakkari.
We know who awaits the victor in the semi-finals after Barbora Krejcikova ended the hopes of 17-year-old Coco Gauff in today’s other last-eight clash.
Krejcikova managed to save a massive five set points in the first set to beat Gauff 7-6, 6-3 and reach a first grand slam semi-final.
The Czech was back at world No 114 at the back end of last year, and is now two matches from winning a first major.
Krejcikova will be able to sit back, relax and wait on her last-four opponent, although she might be keen to avoid the in-form Swiatek.
The 2019 champion continues to grow her fanbase. Having left Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday evening with another win in the bank, only to check her social media account to see a certain Andy Murray singing her praises. To which Swiatek replied asking if Murray was available as a hitting partner ahead of Wimbledon so he could pass on some grass-court tips.
It could become something of a tradition, given Swiatek, now on a run of 11 straight wins in Paris, spent pre-Roland Garros hitting balls with 13-times French Open champion Rafa Nadal.
“It wasn’t a surprise because I had to prepare, write [down] some small topics, not to have awkward silence,” Swiatek said of the session.
“But Rafa is really, really great. He’s a really nice guy. Even though I am pretty introverted, it was really fun for me. Obviously I got to feel his forehand, which was great, and his topspin. That was a whole new experience for me. It gave me a lot of positive energy. It was really a huge inspiration for me.”
We’re expecting the players on court shortly, so stay with us for game-by-game updates.