Paris: The curse of French Open defending champions continued as Iga Swiatek was knocked out 6-4, 6-4 by Greek Maria Sakkari in the French Open quarter-finals, leaving the women’s draw wide open on Wednesday.
The 20-year-old Pole, who took an off-court medical timeout early in the second set, was overwhelmed by Sakkari’s power and pace on court Philippe Chatrier with almost 5,000 spectators now allowed to attend.
World number nine Swiatek, bidding to become the first woman to retain her title since Justine Henin in 2007, got off to a confident start but lacked her usual poise against Sakkari, who dictated most of the points and was greatly helped by her opponent’s unforced errors.
Sakkari, the world number 18, will take on Czech Barbora Krejcikova for a place in Saturday’s final. Unseeded Krejcikova had earlier reached the semi-finals on her fifth appearance in a Grand Slam main draw as she beat a nervy Coco Gauff 7-6(6) 6-3.
Russian 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova faces unseeded Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in the other semi-final.
“I wouldn’t have done it without my team, their support. It’s still a long way to go but we made a huge step today,” Sakkari said on court after her compatriot Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the last four in men’s draw on Tuesday.
“I just really enjoyed today. Before the start of the match I spoke to myself and said ‘It’s an important match but just enjoy because this is one of the best stadiums in the world’.” Earlier, 33rd-ranked Krejcikova saved five set points as she recovered from a slow start and benefitted from her 17-year-old opponent’s lack of composure to book a meeting with either defending champion Iga Swiatek or Maria Sakkari.
It was the 25th-seeded Gauff’s first quarter-final at a major and after a promising start, the American appeared to crumble under pressure, making 41 unforced errors as she served seven double faults.
Krejcikova is looking to become the first player from the Czech Republic to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup since Hana Mandlikova in 1981.
Almost 5,000 spectators - up from 1,000 until then - were allowed on a sunkissed court Philippe Chatrier as COVID-19 measures started to ease on Wednesday.
“Thank you so much, it was amazing, we were more pumped. Thanks for cheering,” Krejcikova said on court.
“I had never dreamed of being here on this court, reaching the semi-finals. I was behind in the first set but decided to go for every ball and just enjoy myself.”