Roland Garros: Iga Swiatek Shocks No. 1 Seed Simona Halep

PARIS/STARNBERG, October 4 ,2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)

Sunday, during the first match of the day on Court Philippe-Chatrier, 19-year-old Polish prospect Iga Swiatek produced one of her best career-performance so far, easing past No. 1 seed Simona Halep 6-1, 6-2 in just 68 minutes, which ended her 17-match winning streak.

With Halep’s loss, there will be a first-time major finalist in the top half of the women’s draw. 

“I felt like I was playing perfectly and I was so focused the whole match that even I am surprised that I can do that,” Swiatek said during her on-court interview after her win.

On her way to success, Swiatek did not allow the 2018 Roland Garros champion a single break point during the whole encounter, dominating play from the baseline with incredible shot-making and the help of 30 winners in total.

Despite hitting just two unforced errors in the first set, Halep could not get close to tightening the proceedings, as Swiatek always had one better answer coming from her racket.

“I did not lose the match, Iga won it. She took the match away from me,” Halep admitted following her loss. Congrats to her, I must learn for the next as she did from last year. I wish her all the best in the reminder of the tournament.”

The 19-year-old Polish teen has yet to drop a set in the whole tournament, losing just 16 games in total  the fewest amount amongst all players still in the tournament. She joins Agnieszka Radwanska as the second Polish female player in a major singles quarterfinal in the Open Era.

Last year, Swiatek won just a single game against Halep in the fourth-round of Roland Garros, managing to take brutal revenge this time. “I remembered that last year she beat me but lost against Amanda Anisimova in the next round. I thought we could do the same thing this year but just change the names around,” she said.

Right now I’m more experienced, I can handle the pressure. So I feel like I grown up to play a match like that and to win it. So everything went well. I did everything that my coach told me about tactics. So it was kind of like perfect match for me,” she continued.

In her first major quarterfinal, Swiatek will oppose another unseeded player in Martina Trevisan, who continued her fairytale run from qualifying to the quarterfinal-round following her straight-set win over No.5 seed Kiki Bertens, 6-4, 6-4. It is the first Top 10 win for Trevisan.

Thanks to her run, Trevisan will make her Top 100 debut at the age of 26, sitting on a career-high of No. 83 in the live-rankings.

“I played very good today,” Trevisan said, in her post-match press conference. I think also today, the key of the match is to come on court and be aggressive on the court to do my play.

“But I think the important thing is always my mentality, because match after match I got more confidence,” the Italian added. So when I enter on the court, I enter to win the match without fail.”

Trevisan also had a couple of good words left for her upcoming opponent Swiatek. “It will be a very difficult match because Swiatek is also a young player,” said Trevisan. “She beat Halep today. I didn’t see the match, but I think she played very goodSo for the moment I’ll enjoy this moment, this win of today, and from tomorrow I will think about my quarterfinal.”

Nadal remains untroubled in Paris

Rafael Nadal had almost no struggle in his 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 win over American qualifier Sebastian Korda. With his win, Nadal improved his record to 97-2 at Roland Garros. 

I’m in [the] quarter-finals without losing a set and having very positive scores,” Nadal said. “I can’t complain at all, so [I’m] happy for that.”

Korda, the son of 1992 French Open runner-up Petr Korda, could barely have been happier despite his loss, since he grew up idolizing Nadal and called his fourth-round match against the 19-time major champion as the “best moment of his life.”

“It was definitely the best moment of my life. It was super awesome,” Korda said. “After the match I asked him for a signed shirt when we were tapping rackets. I don’t know if anyone’s ever asked him for an autograph after a match, but that was definitely the coolest moment of my life and one I’ll never forget.” 

In his 100th match at Roland Garros, Nadal will face reigning Next-Gen ATP champion Jannik Sinner, who upset No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 on Court Suzanne-Lenglen. 

Nadal said of Sinner: “He’s playing better and better and better. It will be a big challenge. It will be the first time playing against him on the tour. I practice with him a couple of times, he has an amazing potential, he move the hand very quick and he’s able to produce amazing shots.”

The 19-year-old Italian dictated many if not most of the rallies in his maiden appearance in the second week of a major, hitting 39 winners compared to just 20 from his opponent. 

During the course of the first set, Zverev asked for medical treatment. After the match, it was reported the 23-year-old struggled with a cold and was suffering from a fever the previous day. 

“I’m completely sick. I can’t really breathe, as you can hear by my voice. I had fever, you know, as well. Yeah, I’m not in the best physical state, I would say. I think that had a little bit of an effect on the match today,” Zverev admitted during his press conference.

Sinner, who has only lost one set (12-1) so far, is the first player since Nadal in 2005 to reach the quarterfinal stage at Roland Garros in his main draw debut. His win over Zverev was his third Top 10 win this season.

Thiem survives big scare

Reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem was forced to go the distance against French wild card Hugo Gaston before he won a tight five-set victory. Thiem prevailed 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3 in three hours and 32 minutes.

At 6-4, 6-4, 4-4 (AD-40), Thiem had a chance of setting up a match-serving service game on break point, but sent a forehand put-away long to prolong the match. It turned out that he would eventually extend the match for more than two hours.

After this particular crucial point, Gaston more and more enervated Thiem with his spectacular drop shot and lob combo. 

To everyone’s surprise, Gaston was able to win the next two sets and force a decisive fifth set. The French crowd, which even cheered during Thiem’s only double fault, went into paroxysms of delight. Thiem was seemingly helpless. He did not find any key to break Gaston’s rhythm and started becoming extremely error-prone, producing 30 unforced errors in the third and fourth sets.

Down the road, Thiem’s experience – as often the case – eventually prevailed. But Gaston did not effectively leave the court feeling like a loser afterwards. Instead, he gained lots of fans with his incredible playing style and performance. Thiem improved to 10-0 against French players in Grand Slams.

“I couldn’t find the right answer to [the drop shots],” Thiem said. “In the fifth set I found some new energy. I think I was playing very good again, but it was a great fight until the end and I’m very lucky I made it through today.”

The two-time Roland Garros runner-up will next play Rome finalist and close friend Diego Schwartzman, who eased past world No. 46 Lorenzo Sonego 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 in just under two hours. The No. 13 seed Schwartzman has not dropped a single set in Paris so far (12-0).

“Against Diego there will be some long rallies,” Thiem said. “He likes these conditions; it’s a little slower and not so high bounce. It will be very difficult.”