Rafael Nadal overcomes valiant Diego Schwartzman to reach French Open semi-finals
In the women's draw, defending champion Swiatek is eliminated by Sakkari
Rafael Nadal came through an enthralling battle with Diego Schwartzman to book his place in the French Open semi-finals on Wednesday and keep alive his bid for a record-extending 14th title in Paris.
Nadal, the defending Roland Garros champion, has so often had it all his own way at the clay court Grand Slam, but for two of the four sets, the Spanish third seed was dragged into a battle by his Argentine opponent.
Ultimately, though, Nadal's brilliance and relentlessness broke down Schwartzman's resilience and the 20-time Grand Slam winner recorded a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory inside a lively Court Philippe Chatrier.
"Diego is an amazing player with so much talent and I respect him a lot, it was a very difficult match," said Nadal, whose Roland Garros record now stands at 105 wins against just two losses. "To play in front of the fans again at my favourite tournament is extremely special."
It looked set to be another routine outing for Nadal when he moved into a 4-2 lead in the opening set, but in a small sign of things to come, Schwartzman broke straight back.
Yet, in classic Nadal style, he reclaimed the advantage in the next game before comfortably serving out the set.
Schwartzman was in no mood to roll over, though, and the 10th seed took control of the second set by claiming a 3-0 lead, and even after Nadal got back on serve at 3-3, the Argentine struck again with his first and only set point in the 10th game.
Nothing could separate the two players for much of the third set, until, at 4-4, Schwartzman wavered and Nadal pounced to take the all-important break before serving it out.
That proved to be the tipping point as the fight went out of Schwartzman and Nadal stepped into overdrive to race away with the match.
Sakkari sends Swiatek packing
In the women's draw, the French Open will crown a new Grand Slam singles champion after Maria Sakkari knocked out defending champion Iga Swiatek at the quarter-final stage.
No 17 seed Sakkari overcame a nervy start to defeat Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 and set up a semi-final showdown with Czech Republic's Barbora Krejcikova, who had earlier overcome her own slow start to defeat American teen sensation Cori Gauff 7-6, 6-3.
The other semi-final will be contested by 32nd-ranked Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Tamara Zidansek, the world No 85 from Slovenia. Both matches will be played on Thursday.
Based on rankings, Sakkari is arguably now the favourite for the title and the Greek proved her credentials with a fine performance to eliminate Swiatek, who had been so impressive in her previous four matches but appeared hampered by a leg injury.
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 No 9 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.
"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.
"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'."
Despite taking a 2-0 lead, Swiatek found herself under constant pressure, and Sakkari broke back before stealing her serve again for 5-4 after forcing the Pole to misfire.
The Greek saved a break point in the 10th game before sealing the set with a superb backhand winner to end Swiatek's 22-set winning streak in Paris.
Swiatek took a comfort break but her problems did not go away as she dropped serve in the first game of the second set. Sakkari followed on serve to lead 2-0 and Swiatek called the trainer on court with an apparent leg problem before taking an off-court medical time out.
She returned with a strap on her right thigh and held serve, but Sakkari stayed solid on her own service games.
Serving for the match at 5-4 Sakkari went 40-0 ahead and after Swiatek saved two match points, she bowed on the third when her forehand sailed wide.
Published: June 9, 2021 08:51 PM