Roland Garros: Sakkari stuns Swiatek, sets up Krejcikova semi

  • Matt Trollope

Maria Sakkari produced the upset of Roland Garros 2021, ousting defending champion Iga Swiatek to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.

The Greek ended Swiatek's 22-set winning streak at the tournament, as well as the Pole's 10-match winning streak, in winning 6-4 6-4.

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She will next face Barbora Krejcikova, whose incredible Roland Garros fortnight continued thanks to her quarterfinal victory over Coco Gauff on Wednesday.

And, notably, it means there are four first-time major semifinalists vying for the title in Paris, after Tuesday's quarterfinal victories for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Tamara Zidansek.

"I'm speechless. It's a dream come true. It's a very nice feeling," Sakkari said on court.

"I couldn't have done it without my team and their support. We still have a long way to go, of course, but we made a big step today."

Krejcikova saved five set points in a dramatic 73-minute opening set at Court Philippe Chatrier before storming to a 5-0 lead in the second, eventually winning 7-6(6) 6-3.

Krejcikova led 5-1, 40-0 before a wobble during which Gauff saved five match points.

But she ultimately closed out victory on her sixth, backing up her earlier wins over world No.6 Elina Svitolina and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

"I actually never really imagined that I'm gonna be standing here one day, and just playing on this court, especially singles, and just being able to win. Already for me this is something I've never dreamed of," said Krejcikova, a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion.

"I think I didn't really have a good start to the clay season. Then actually, coming to Strasbourg, I was really relieved, and just enjoying the game, and I won the title, so it was really nice.

"And now I'm here, I'm in the semifinals."

The result extends Krejcikova's winning streak to 10 matches, while ending the American teenager's streak at nine.

Stat of the day

In Sakkari, Krejcikova, Pavlyuchenkova and Zidansek, there are four first-time major semifinalists into the last four for the first time in the Open Era at Roland Garros.

The last time it happened at any of the four majors was at Australian Open 1978, when Australians Chris O’Neil, Diane Evers and Christine Matison, and American Betsy Nagelsen, progressed to the semifinals, and O’Neill was ultimately crowned champion.

This is the only other time it has occurred in the Open Era.

Sakkari continues brilliant run

In the fourth round, Sakkari routed last year's Roland Garros finalist Sofia Kenin to set up a meeting with the 2020 champion.

Swiatek started strongly in building a 2-0, 30-15 lead but the tide turned, with Sakkari winning eight of the next 10 games to completely take control of the match.

Swiatek, appearing quite subdued on court, ended the opening set with more than double the number of unforced errors to winners (15-7) – and lost her first set at Roland Garros since 2019.

Trailing 6-4 2-0, Swiatek called for the trainer and departed the court for a medical time out, returning with her right thigh wrapped

Her movement lacked its usual explosiveness and she soon found herself down 4-6, 1-3, 15-40.

At this juncture, the defending champion played a forehand winner up the line and threw her hands in the air in mock celebration as the crowd cheered. She followed that with three more winners to hold for 2-3. 

Was this a turning point?

Sakkari ensured it wasn’t. She held at love for a 4-2 lead and continued to serve brilliantly two games later, acing Swiatek out wide for 5-3 – at which point her first-serve winning percentage for the set stood at 93.

With another big serve on match point, she forced a return error from Swiatek to complete a famous victory.

Krejcikova survives Gauff test

In the first set, Gauff commanded proceedings, racing to a 3-0 lead thanks to several winners, especially off her backhand wing.

Krejcikova worked her way into the match and levelled scores, but Gauff responded by forging ahead 5-3, 40-30 to arrive at her first set point. 

Krejcikova saved that, and two more that Gauff earned in the 12th game. In the subsequent tiebreak, which was a tense affair, Gauff moved ahead 6-4 to take her set-point total to five.

But Krejcikova saved them all, the majority with winners.

And Gauff's spirit was broken.

"I think it was really important (to win that first set). I was all the time down. But I just told myself to just go for every ball and just play, and just enjoy. And you're gonna see. Then I just made it somehow," Krejcikova said. 

"Second set I started really well, and then it got a little bit tight. But again, I was just enjoying, and I think I was just playing a really great match.

"She's incredible, she's 17 years old. When I was 17 years old, I played ITFs, like I played 15K's (smiling). It's amazing.

"I wish her all the best. I even told her at the net that she's really good, and just keep going. Her time's gonna come."

Tweet of the day

Quotes of the day

“It actually came to my mind. I can say that. Why not? But I was just there. I'm like: ‘you got to be aggressive, you just got to go, you got to play, you are still up. Just go for your shots. If you're going to stay aggressive, it's not going to slip’. That's what I was telling myself.”
- Barbora Krejcikova, when asked if she was worried the match could slip away when Gauff saved five match points.

“I have people around me telling it was going to come. You know, they were right. Maybe I was impatient, telling them, When and when and when? It actually came this week, so I'm happy about it.”
- Maria Sakkari

“Maria did a good job with playing at my forehand, which wasn't working pretty well today. I struggled with picking the right place where to play. I couldn't play some shots that usually give me points. My balls weren't, like, really deep and heavy. Basically that's my biggest weapon, so it was really hard to play without that. Also I think past couple weeks hit me kind of yesterday. I just didn't have good days, I couldn't do like physical recovery well because I was stressed. Days like that happen, and it's normal.”
- Iga Swiatek

“I'm obviously disappointed that I wasn't able to close out the first set. To be honest, it's in the past, it already happened. After the match, my hitting partner told me this match will probably make me a champion in the future. I really do believe that.”
- Coco Gauff