Sakkari Downs Swiatek, New Grand Slam Champion Confirmed

Maria Sakkari (photo: Jürgen Hasenkopf)

PARIS, June 9, 2021 (by Alessandro Boroch)

Twenty-five-year-old Maria Sakkari continued to make history in Paris following a remarkable straight-set victory over French Open defending champion Iga Swiatek on Wednesday. It ended the 20-year-old Swiatek’s 22-set winning streak at the clay-court major.

Sakkari, the most successful Greek woman in the Open Era at Roland Garros, stunned Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 in 95 minutes. With her win, Greece will have two semi-finalists in the mix with Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas on the men’s side.

” I’m speechless. It’s a dream come true. It’s a really nice feeling and I couldn’t have done it without my team and their support. I just want to thank them, we still have a long way to go, but we’ve taken a step forward today,” said Sakkari, who was overcome with emotions after her victory.

The 17th seed Sakkari produced 26 winners and showed a dominant performance on serve, winning 29 of 35 points on her first serve (83 per-cent).

Down 4-6, 0-2, Swiatek went for an off-court medical timeout and returned with her right upper leg heavily taped.

Sakkari’s upset opened the path for a first-time Grand Slam champion, with all four semi-finalists reaching that plateau for the first time.

Krejcikova extends winning streak

Earlier, former doubles World No. 1 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic extended her winning streak to 10 with a straight-set victory over 17-year-old Coco Gauff of the United States.

Krejcikova advanced to her first singles Grand Slam semifinal at Roland Garros with a 7-6(6), 6-3 win over Gauff after saving five set points in the opening set, then converting her only set point in the tie-break.

“I never really wanted to be a doubles specialist,” she said. “Everybody just put a label on me. But we won our first two Grand Slams when I was 22. I felt like I don’t want to be a doubles specialist when I was 22. I want to play singles. I want to work hard, improve my game. I want to play the top players actually in singles.”

After narrowly failing to move over the finish line in the first set, Gauff completely lost her rhythm in the second set by showing obvious signs of nerves, which led to her trailing by a 0-5 deficit. However, simply giving up and admitting defeat was never an option for the young American. She went on to win three of the last four games by striking a pair of impressive backhand winners, before eventually being defeated and leaving Court Phillipe-Chatrier under great applause.

“I’m obviously disappointed that I wasn’t able to close out the first set,” Gauff said in her post-match press conference. “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.”

Krejcikova, who has already ascended to a new career-high ranking of No. 23 in the live rankings, is also still in the race for the doubles title at Roland Garros. She’s attempting to become the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to win both titles in the same French Open.

Nadal showing first signs of flaws

World No. 3 Rafael Nadal continued his quest for a 14th French Open title in Paris and 21st major title overall with a hard-contested 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory over ninth seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina that lasted two hours and 45 minutes.

Just as three years ago in 2018, Schwartzman has once again ended an incredible set winning streak of Nadal at Roland Garros.

The defending champion Roland Garros champion has now twice narrowly failed to overcome a 40-year-old record by eleven-time major champion Björn Borg, who went on a run of 41 consecutive sets won at the French Open between 1979 and 1981.

During the second and third set, the 35-year-old Mallorcan struggled to produce enough depth on return as Schwartzman won sixty-five and seventy-two per-cent of his service points, respectively, in both sets. In the end, winning the third set made the difference for Nadal as Schwartzman was playing him into form, finishing on a run of twenty-five of the last thirty points, also not hitting a single unforced error on his forehand side.

The No. 3 seed Nadal awaits the winner of the final quarterfinal between World No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia and No. 9 seed Matteo Berrettini from Italy.