Roland Garros: Late Night In Paris Leaves Nadal Smiling

WASHINGTON, October 7, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

In his 100th career French Open match, Rafael Nadal won for the 98th time on the red clay of Roland Garros and reached his 13th semifinal with a 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1 victory over 19-year-old Italian upstart Jannik Sinner. By the time the final point was played two hours and 49 minutes after the first serve of the quarterfinal match, the clock struck 1:26 a.m.

Thank goodness for the lights at the refurbished crown jewel of Stade Roland Garros that enabled the latest finish in French Open history. In fact, the lights helped to ensure that all five matches that were on Tuesday’s order of play got completed, both with the roof closed – as it was at the start of the day – and open, which it was by the end of the day.

“Thank you very much for staying late under these tough conditions out here tonight,” Nadal said during an on-court interview. He appeared tired but still managed a smile and endeared the few hundred fans who remained by speaking a few words in French. “Sinner is a very young talent. … It was tough at the end of the first set to break him back at 6-5. He was hitting the ball very hard. It was difficult for me to pull him out of position. …

I’m very, very happy to be in the semifinals again here at Roland Garros.”

Sinner, the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion, showed great poise and determination in hanging in with the King of Clay during the early going. However, Nadal, who has been in tremendous form during the Paris fortnight, came on strong as the match grew older.

Nadal hit 37 winners and 33 unforced errors. He broke sinner six times in eight tries and saved six of the eight break points he faced. Sinner finished with 31 winners and committed 44 unforced errors. Nadal outpointed Sinner 106-84.

With his latest triumph, Nadal has not lost a set en route to his 13th semifinal in 16 French Open appearances dating back to 2005. He’s dropped just 34 games in 15 sets stretched over five matches in this year’s tournament. He’ll have Wednesday and Thursday to rest before meeting No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman in the semifinal round on Friday.

Cinderella run continues for Swiatek

Teen queen Iga Swiatek, the darling 19-year-old rising star from Warsaw, Poland, continued her dazzling run at this year’s French Open by reaching the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 159 Martina Trevisan, ending the Italian qualifier’s dream week at Roland Garros. After securing her quarterfinal win, Swiatek gave her signature two thumbs up as she acknowledged the crowd and saluted them with a big smile on her face.

Playing in just her second French Open main draw, the 54th-ranked Swiatek became the first Polish woman in the Open Earl to advance to the Roland Garros semifinals and just the second after 1939 runner-up Jadwiga Jedrzejowska.

“I was pretty nervous,” Swiatek admitted during her virtual press conference. “I knew that my opponent also can be nervous because it was her first match on Philippe Chatrier. I remember last year when I played my first match on Philippe Chatrier. It was kind of horrible (smiling).”

That first match on Chatrier Swiatek was referring to was a 6-1, 6-0 fourth-round drubbing given her by Simona Halep in 2019. However, just two days after knocking off the World No. 2 Halep 6-1, 6-2 in 68 minutes, Swiatek was nearly as remarkable in punching her ticket for the semifinals with her triumph over Trevisan.

“I knew I’m not going to play as perfect as with Simona,” Swiatek said. “On my level, it’s impossible to keep that level of consistency. I just knew I’m going to make some mistakes at the beginning because of the conditions. I just stayed really down-to-earth and really positive.”

Swiatek hit 20 winners against 19 unforced errors, saved seven of nine break points she faced while converting six break points chances. She outpointed Trevisan 64-45.

Despite the loss, Trevisan was upbeat during her videoconference. “I’m sad for the match, but it’s an incredible two weeks for me,” she said. “So, today, I close a very important chapter of my life. Tomorrow other chapters will begin. I’m just happy.”

Meanwhile, Swiatek is still alive in doubles with partner Nicole Melichar, and has a quarterfinal match on Wednesday. “I need to rest and play doubles well,” she said. “I’m just going to not think about singles for one day.”

Schwartzman wins grueling but entertaining five-setter

Diminutive Diego Schwartzman reached his first French Open and Grand Slam singles semifinal with a much-deserved and earned 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over reigning US Open champion and two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem in five hours and eight minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier Tuesday evening that was characterized by plenty of long slides and extended rallies.

The quarterfinal match between the sometimes doubles partners, No. 12 seed Schwartzman and No. 3 seed Thiem, was both grueling and entertaining – and each was able to share in and appreciate a good handshake and smile as well as a pat on the shoulder for a job well done. If it’s possible to be both shaky and solid over the course of more than five hours, Schwartzman’s your man and he’s in the semifinals against 12-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal.

Schwartzman, who was playing his fourth major quarterfinal, earned his 20th victory of the year by wearing down Thiem, appearing in his second straight five-set match after beating Hugo Gaston in a five-hour fourth-round battle on Sunday.

There were 378 points played during the match with Schwartzman winning 197 points to Thiem’s 179. Schwartzman finished with 47 winners and 62 unforced errors, while Thiem recorded 65 winners and committed 81 unforced errors.

“Dominic is one of the best players right now in the world, winning the last grand slam, two times final here,”Schwartzman said after the match. “We are friends, I have a lot of respect for him and that’s why this match is very, very important for me, not to play a good match, winning after five hours, winning on Philippe Chatrier first time. I’ve played a few times five sets here and I never win. This is the third time I’ve played five sets here and I think at the end, I deserved to win.”

Podoroska’s power and touch beats Svitolina 

Nadia Podoroska is a 23-year-old from Argentina with Ukrainian ancestry, who until this Paris fortnight had never won a Grand Slam main draw match. Now, thanks to her comprehensive 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina from Ukraine, Podoroska has reached the semifinals of the French Open. Ranked No. 131, she’s the first qualifier in the Open Era to ascend to the Roland Garros final four.

Throughout the duration of the 79-minute quarterfinal match, Podoroska played beautifully and with power and touch. She hit 30 winners and drew 22 unforced errors from Svitolina, who lost for just the second time this season on clay after winning a French Open tune-up in Strasbourg two weeks ago. Podoroska also converted eight of 13 break-point chances. Despite being broken five times and committing 30 unforced errors, Podoroska kept the pressure on her opponent throughout the match. Her forehand commanded the match and her clay-court skills served her well.

Coming into the third Grand Slam of the year, the 23-year-old Podoroska had never before won a main draw match at a major, never beaten a Top 50 player or even put together back-to-back victories on the WTA Tour.

Now, after eight straight wins – which began with three during the qualifying draw – Podoroska has become just the third qualifier to reach a Grand Slam semifinal and the first this century. She will face No. 54 Iga Swiatek in Thursday’s semifinal round.

“It’s difficult for me to speak after the match, but thanks everyone for your support,” said Podoroska during an on-court interview. “I’m very, very happy.

“I try to play every kind of shot. We did a good job with my coaches during quarantine. I’ve been training a lot with all of my team and I think that’s why I’m here today.”

During her videoconference afterward, Svitolina said: “It was a tough match for me today. Lots of things were not going my way. I wish I could handle the match a little bit different. But to be fair, she really played a great match. With the conditions, it was not easy for me to change something.

“There were many things that let me down today. I was maybe focusing too much on negative things. In the end [I] completely dropped my level. I gave her an opportunity to play really good tennis.”

Unexpected run to quarterfinals for Collins

American Danielle Collins won a gripping, rain-delayed round of 16 match over No. 30 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, to advance to her second Grand Slam quarterfinal. The 57th-ranked Collins was coasting at 6-4, 3-0 when Jabeur turned the match around in the second set and forced a decider.

Jabeur, who was attempting to reach her second Grand Slam quarterfinal this season, committed just one double fault during the entire match but it cost her. It came at 30-all serving at 4-5 in the final set. Collins capitalized on it and won on her first match-point opportunity to set up an all-American quarterfinal against Sofia Kenin on Wednesday.

“I felt like I was in the driver’s seat up until 6-4, 3-0,” Collins said during an on-court interview after her win. “She’s tricky. She served really well. She hit drop shots on shots I wasn’t really expecting and I just tried to dig it out. It broke my rhythm, I lost my way a little bit, lost some of the shots I was hitting earlier. I just needed to stay positive.”

Collins finished with 25 winners and hit 29 unforced errors. She struggled with her serve, hitting eight double faults and Jabeur broke her five times. Meanwhile, Jabeur hit 42 winners and committed 30 unforced errors.

During her videoconference afterward, Collins gave credit to Nicolas Almagro, who has been coaching her during the French Open. She said he has impacted her mentality. “We have been focusing a lot on my mental strength on the court and using that as a weapon. So, that’s probably the biggest thing.”

Passer des coups

• Defending champions and No. 8 seeds Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, both of Germany, advanced to the men’s doubles semifinal round with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 13 seeds Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski, both from Great Britain. They will face No. 9 seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic from Croatia, who advanced over unseeded Nick Monroe and Tommy Paul, both of the United States, 6-4, 6-4.

• The women’s doubles quarterfinals began on Tuesday and No. 2 seeds and defending champions Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic from France defeated unseeded Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine and Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus, 6-2, 7-5 to reach the semifinal round. They were joined by No. 4 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, both of the Czech Republic, who beat the No. 9 American pair of Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

By the numbers

Nadia Podoroska of Argentina is into the semifinals at Roland Garros in her main draw debut. This is just her second main draw at a Grand Slam and her first since the 2016 US Open. Her win-loss record across all levels this season is a remarkable 43-6.

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