Andreeva shocks ailing Sabalenka at French Open

Tokyo, 6 June, /AJMEDIA/

Mirra Andreeva became the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist for 27 years with a shock win over Aryna Sabalenka on Wednesday at the French Open, after fourth seed Elena Rybakina was knocked out by Italy’s Jasmine Paolini.

Andreeva, aged just 17 and 29 days, fought back from a set down against Australian Open champion Sabalenka, who appeared to be hampered by illness, to win 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-4 and set up a last-four meeting with Italy’s Jasmine Paolini.

The Russian is the youngest woman to reach the last four at a Slam event since Martina Hingis at the 1997 US Open, and the youngest at Roland Garros since Hingis, also that year.

“Me and my coach, we had a plan today but again I didn’t remember anything. I just try to play as I feel,” said Andreeva.

Sabalenka called for multiple medical time-outs as she complained of not feeling well and Andreeva, playing in her maiden Slam quarter-final, eventually took advantage with a composed display.

The world number 38 completed a memorable win in style after almost two-and-a-half hours with a brilliant lobbed winner, delighting the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd.

“I was also a little surprised as you guys cheered for me, I didn’t expect that so thank you very much for cheering me today,” she told the spectators.

Sabalenka had been targeting a seventh straight Slam semi-final and had won 11 consecutive matches at the majors following her second Melbourne title earlier this year.

Andreeva will play 12th seed Paolini for a spot in the final on Thursday after her own surprise 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory over former Wimbledon champion Rybakina.

Paolini made just one unforced error in a dominant opening set, but her level dropped after breaking to lead 4-3 in the second, allowing Rybakina to force a decider.

But she edged a topsy-turvy third set which featured five breaks of serve to secure a deserved victory, as a wayward Rybakina exited the tournament in a blaze of 48 unforced errors.

The 28-year-old Paolini, who was playing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, continued a brilliant week for Italian tennis after Jannik Sinner also made his maiden French Open semifinal and took the men’s world number one ranking.

It is the first time Italy have had semi-finalists in both the men’s and women’s singles at a Slam event in the Open era.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Paolini, who had never got past the French Open second round and had only won four Grand Slam matches in her career before this year.

Tournament favorite Iga Swiatek plays U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff in Thursday’s other women’s semifinal.

Novak Djokovic had been due to face Casper Ruud in a repeat of last year’s final, but the 24-time Grand Slam champion’s title defence was abruptly ended by a knee injury he suffered during his dramatic last-16 victory over Francisco Cerundolo.

Media reports suggested Djokovic was set to undergo surgery, which would put his participation at Wimbledon and the Paris Olympics in doubt.

Sinner will usurp Djokovic as world number one next week and the Italian goes up against Carlos Alcaraz in Friday’s men’s semifinals.

The remaining quarterfinal on Wednesday sees Alexander Zverev play Alex de Minaur in the night session, after Djokovic’s withdrawal handed Casper Ruud a walkover into the last four.

German fourth seed Zverev will be targeting a fourth straight Roland Garros semi-final after making the last eight for the sixth time in seven years.

He needed five sets to beat Tallon Griekspoor in the third round, before fighting back to defeat Holger Rune in another decider in a last-16 tie which finished at 1:40 am local time — the second-latest finish in French Open history.

“I’ve played a total of eight-and-a-half hours over the last three days so I need to recover,” said Zverev.

Zverev is playing under the shadow of an ongoing trial in Berlin over allegations of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Australian De Minaur, seeded 11th, had never even got past the second round in Paris before this year, winning just three of 10 matches.

There will be a first-time French Open men’s champion for the first time since 2016 on Sunday, with Ruud the only man left in the draw who has previously reached the final.

© 2024 AFP

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