Nadal braces for Djokovic at French Open as Sakkari ends Swiatek title defence - GulfToday

Nadal braces for Djokovic at French Open as Sakkari ends Swiatek title defence

Maria Sakkari

Maria Sakkari plays a shot against Iga Swiatek during their French Open quarter-final match on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse

Rafael Nadal reached the French Open semi-finals for the 14th time on Wednesday, setting up a potential blockbuster against Novak Djokovic, while Maria Sakkari stunned defending champion Iga Swiatek.

Nadal, chasing a 14th title in Paris and record-setting 21st Grand Slam, defeated Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, shrugging off seeing his winning run of 36 consecutive sets at the tournament come to an end.

The world number three will be playing in his 35th Grand Slam semi-final where his opponent will be Djokovic should the top seed defeat Italian ninth seed Matteo Berrettini later Wednesday.

The 35-year-old Nadal improved his French Open record to 105 wins and two losses as he advanced to his 35th Grand Slam semi-final.

Schwartzman has now been defeated by Nadal in 11 of their 12 meetings, including in the 2020 semi-finals in Paris.

Djokovic, the 2016 champion and an 18-time Grand Slam title winner, can become only the third man in history to win all four majors twice should he lift the trophy on Sunday. He will be into a 40th Grand Slam semi-final if he beats Berrettini.

However, the Italian will be fresher than Djokovic having been given a walkover into the last eight when Roger Federer withdrew from the tournament.

By contrast, Djokovic had to come from two sets down in the fourth round to defeat Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti.

Sakkari stunned Swiatek to become the first Greek woman to reach a Grand Slam semi-final.

World number 18 Sakkari triumphed 6-4, 6-4 over the Polish eighth seed and will face 33rd-ranked Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic for a place in the final.

Thursday’s other semi-final sees Russian 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova tackle unseeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia.

For the first time in the Open era, the French Open semi-finals will feature four women who have never previously got this far at the Slams.

“I am speechless. It is a dream coming true. It’s a very nice feeling and I could not have done it without my team and their support,” said the 25-year-old Sakkari.

“We have a long way to go but we made a huge step today.”

Swiatek had gone into the match on the back of 22 consecutive sets won at the French Open but her challenge was curtailed by a right thigh injury which required taping during a medical timeout early in the second set. Her defeat means that Justine Henin remains the last player to defend the women’s title in Paris in 2007.

Greece will have two players in the semi-finals this year after Stefanos Tsitsipas made it to the last four on Tuesday.

“This year I had more pressure on me, but also I did good because I think quarter-final is a good job,” said Swiatek.

“I’m showing consistency but days like this happen. I didn’t have a day like that last year.”

Krejcikova knocked out American 17-year-old Coco Gauff 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 after saving five set points in the opener and then needing six match points to finish the job.

Gauff, the 24th seed and the youngest quarter-finalist at a major in 15 years, was undone by seven double faults and 41 unforced errors.

“I never really imagined I’d be standing here one day on this court, especially in singles, and being able to win,” said Krejcikova, who had been so paralysed by fear before her last 16 victory over Sloane Stephens that she locked herself in a stadium office and wept.

Krejcikova, now on a 10-match winning streak, is having a busy week. She is also in the semi-finals of the women’s doubles.

Meanwhile, the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions in France from Wednesday and a later curfew from 11pm meant a rise in the number of spectators at Roland Garros.

The final evening session of the tournament will have fans for the first time with 5,000 able to watch the Djokovic-Berrettini quarter-final.


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