Tennis: Holder Swiatek final big name to fall in French Open, Krejcikova ends Gauff’s run

Barbora Krejcikova saved five set points as she recovered from a slow start. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) - Defending champion Iga Swiatek was knocked out in the quarter-finals of the French Open when she suffered a 6-4, 6-4 defeat against Greek Maria Sakkari on Wednesday (June 9).

The world No. 18 from Greece will face unseeded Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic for a place in the final, after seeing off the 20-year-old Pole, who had won her 22 previous sets at Roland Garros and took an off-court medical timeout at 0-2 in the second set.

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

For only the second time in the Open era, there are four first-time Grand Slam semi-finalists in women's singles, after the 1978 Australian Open.

Furthermore, for just the fifth time in Roland Garros history, a player seeded outside the top 10 will lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen on Saturday.

Sakkari is the second Greek in the semi-finals of the singles at this year's French Open after Stefanos Tsitsipas made the men's last four on Tuesday.

"I am speechless. 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," said the 25-year-old.

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

"I enjoyed myself and sat down and said to myself it is an important match but to enjoy it. I had to enjoy it."

Earlier, Krejcikova reached the semi-finals on her fifth appearance in a Grand Slam main draw as she beat a nervy Coco Gauff 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.

The 33rd-ranked Czech saved five set points as she recovered from a slow start and benefited from her 17-year-old opponent's lack of composure to book a meeting with 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, 25, 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."

Misfiring Gauff

Gauff, who geared up for the tournament with her second WTA title at the Emilia Romagna Open in Parma, raced to a 3-0 lead with some aggressive service returns.

But Krejcikova, on a nine-match winning streak on clay on the main tour after winning the Strasbourg title before Roland Garros, broke back for 2-3 as Gauff started to misfire.

Gauff took advantage of a dip in her opponent's first serve percentage to move 5-3 up and serve for the set, only to then lose her composure and drop serve for the second time after wasting a set point.

Krejcikova was again in difficulty on her serve in the 12th game but she saved two more set points to force a tiebreak, in which nerves played a central part with Krejcikova seeing off another couple of set points.

The Czech was less wasteful, hitting a forehand winner on her first set point to take control of the contest.

She won 10 points in a row as she opened a 4-0 lead in the second set. Krejcikova's nerves got to her too. as she wasted three match points at 5-1 and allowed Gauff to pull a break back.

Gauff saved another match point with a service winner in the next game. Krejcikova buried a forehand into the net on the next one, but she ended it on her sixth opportunity when her opponent sent a woeful shot wide.

In the later match, Swiatek had carved a break for 2-0 in the first set before Sakkari quickly levelled, breaking again for a 5-4 lead.

The Greek confidently pocketed the opener, ending the champion's run of 22 straight sets won here.

When Swiatek slipped 0-2 down in the second set, the Pole left the court for a medical timeout, returning with her right thigh tightly strapped.

She had to battle to avoid going a double break down in the fifth game but eventually succumbed in the 10th. Sakkari reaped the reward for her all-out attacking game with five aces and 26 winners.

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