Kasatkina Reaches An Important Milestone With Roland Garros Victory

Daria Kasatkina (photo: Roland Garros video)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, June 1, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Daria Kasatkina won an all-Russian quarterfinal to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal at the French Open Wednesday afternoon in Paris. She may have been nervous inside, but on the outside, she broke through an important barrier.

The No. 20 seed Kasatkina from Tolyatti, Russia, beat No. 29 seed and Moscow resident Veronika Kudermetova, 6-4, 7-6 (5), in just over two hours on Court Philippe-Chatrier. It was Kasatkina’s second career win against Kudermetova in two meetings.

The former World No. 10 broke new ground today after appearing in 26 majors and never advancing past the quarterfinal round. In her two previous major quarterfinals, Kasatkina lost to 2018 Roland Garros finalist Sloane Stephens and to Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon, also in 2018. Now, she’s 5-0 during the Paris fortnight and has yet to drop a set.

“You could see during my match I was nervous inside, especially the tie-break,” Kasatkina said in her on-court interview with Eurosport‘s Marion Bartoli after the victory. “The last few points were super tough, but I’m happy at the end that I won. It was an important win for me and I’m happy to be in the semifinals for the first time.”

Both Kasatkina and Kudermetova have enjoyed good seasons in 2022. Kasatkina reached the Rome final two weeks ago and Kudermetova has been a three-time finalist this season and won 20 matches. However, like she did against her opponent at St. Petersburg last year, Kasatkina mastered Kudermetova for the second time. She used a variety of ground strokes and smart placement of her shots to wrap up the win on her fifth match-point opportunity, capping a 26-shot rally with a nifty drop shot that Kudermetova netted.

Kasatkina finished with 16 winners to 25 unforced errors compared to Kudermetova’s 38 winners and 50 unforced errors. She converted five of 17 break-point opportunities and outpointed her opponent 86-79.

Later in her post-match press conference, Kasatkina spoke about what it meant to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal. “Everything happens for the first time and I’m really happy to be in the semis,” she said. “Dream coming true and everything is fine.”

Kasatkina’s next opponent will be World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek, who won Roland Garros two years ago and is the favorite to win this year’s title. Kasatkina and Swiatek will play in one semifinal on Thursday, while unseeded Maria Trevisan of Italy and No. 18 seed Coco Gauff of the United States play in the other one.

“Tomorrow is another mountain in front of me which I have to climb,” Kasatkina admitted. “Maybe, it’s even better that I don’t have much time to think about how good [it] is to be in the semifinals. So, I have another battle tomorrow.”

Swiatek: Getting old at 21 but still fresh

One of the few unforced errors that World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek made during her quarterfinal match against No. 11 seed Jessica Pegula was forgetting how old she was. It came when it was time to sign the camera lens after Swiatek picked up her 33rd consecutive victory, a rewarding 6-3, 6-2 win over the World No. 11 from the United States that lifted her into Thursday’s semifinal round. It was the second time Swiatek has beaten Pegula during the winning streak.

Swiatek, who turned 21 years-old on Tuesday, initially forgot how old she was and signed the camera lens: “Getting old but still fresh #22.” Immediately, she realized her mistake and rubbed out the 22 and changed it to 21. Soon, all was well and Swiatek laughed off her miscue.

During her one-hour and 29-minute match on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Swiatek adapted to the changing rhythm created by both the weather conditions – a warm, late-spring day that made the tennis balls fly all over the court – and by Pegula’s flat hitting. By the end, she had mastered both.

First, Swiatek won the four straight games, including consecutive breaks of Pegula’s serve, to wrap up the opening set. Then, she broke the American in the fourth game of the second set for a 3-1 lead and rode the advantage to another satisfying win. The outcome was never really in doubt.

Although Pegula saved three match points during the last game of their quarterfinal, Swiatek remained persistent and focused on the task of winning the match. The Polish star set up her fourth match-point opportunity with a quality forehand winner and put away the victory with a solid, 10th-shot backhand winner down the line that caught Pegula dead in her tracks.

Swiatek finished with 30 winners to 28 unforced errors. In comparison, Pegula managed just 16 winners coupled with 27 unforced errors. Swiatek converted five of her 11 break-point chances and was broken just once. She outpointed Pegula 74-55 to move into her third career major semifinal and second at Roland Garros. On Thursday, she will face No. 20 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia, whom she has defeated three times – all this year – and leads their career head-to-head 3-1.

During her on-court interview that followed her victory, Swiatek told Eurosport’s Alex Corretja: “You know, I guess flying really wasn’t a good option because [Jessica] was playing so low. I actually needed to be not flying, you know?

”Being low on my legs, I think, was the key. But it was really hard because sometimes she was changing the rhythm. I’m happy I was playing with the dynamics. I was able to push her back a little bit.”

Later, in an off-court conversation with Tennis Channel‘s Jon Wertheim, Swiatek mentioned she was satisfied with how she was able to remained focused throughout the match. “I was happy with that,” she replied.

It’s now been 105 days and counting since Swiatek lost a match. That happened back in February against Jelena Ostapenko at Dubai, in a second-round tussle. Since then, with 33 straight wins under her belt – the third-longest WTA winning streak this century – Swiatek has only dropped two sets. With another victory, Swiatek will match the 34-match winning streak set by Serena Williams set in 2013.

Cilic: A history-making victory for an aging warrior

Marin Cilic never gave up hope during his lengthy, five-set quarterfinal against World No. 7 and seventh seed Andrey Rublev. He saved his best for last and it was an historic victory for the 33-year-old Croatian.

Thursday evening on Court Philippe-Chatrier, the World No. 23 Cilic reached the semifinals of the French Open for the first time after winning the final eight points of a fifth-set super tie-break to beat Rublev, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2).

The aging warrior Cilic, a 2014 US Open champion, 2017 Wimbledon finalist and 2018 Australian Open finalist, raised his arms in celebration after Rublev hit a second-shot backhand into the net on the second match point. It ended a 66-minute fifth set and closed the book on the four-hour and 10-minute epic quarterfinal battle.

“It comes from being me,” Cilic told Eurosport’s Alex Corretja during his on-court interview. “I played that kind of tennis the whole match, and especially the fifth set was an incredible battle. It was an incredible feeling. Andrey played incredibly well. It was an incredible fair-play performance on the court.

“A lot of heart and one had to go down. Today was my day, but Andrey also played an incredible match.”

Cilic, who became just the fifth active player to reach the semifinals of all four majors, along with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, almost let the victory slip away in the final set. Rublev was serving at 4-5 (30-40) and saved a match point to level the set at 5-all. The momentum seemed to favor him. However, Cilic raised the level of his game when it mattered most. He gained a service hold that lasted eight minutes to push ahead 6-5, then came alive in the 10-point super tie-break. From 2-all, Cilic won eight straight points to wrap up the quarterfinal triumph.

Corretja asked Cilic whether he was more tired physically or emotionally by the end. Without hesitation, Cilic said, “More emotionally because Andrey plays a difficult game; serves big, hits big and you don’t have many chances. You have to really keep up with your level. … When you play this long, there are always going to be ups and downs. I kept my focus.”

The No. 20 seed Cilic ended the marathon victory with 33 aces, struck 88 winners, committed 71 unforced errors and outpointed Rublev 175-170. The Russian finished with 15 aces, and 35 winners to 31 unforced errors. Each player broke the other twice.

After arriving in Paris 4-4 on clay this season, Cilic has strung together five solid wins and will face the winner of Wednesday evening’s other quarterfinal match, World No. 8 and eighth seed Casper Ruud of Norway. Ruud beat 40th-ranked Holger Rune of Denmark, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

Ruud: Beats Rune in all-Scandinavian quarterfinal

Norway’s Casper Ruud extended his best Grand Slam run by reaching his first major semifinal in Wednesday’s featured night match on Court Philippe-Chatrier. It lasted three hours and 15 minutes and when it was done, the World No. 8 Ruud had defeated No. 40 Holger Rune of Denmark, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3. Ruud fired 13 aces and struck 55 winners to 24 unforced errors and won 20 of 31 net points. He broke Rune five times in 17 opportunities and outpointed his opponent 144-117. Rune countered with 54 winners but racked up 46 unforced errors.

“These are the matches you dream about playing and hopefully, of course, even the final, if it’s possible,” the eighth seed Ruud said during his on-court interview. “I have to be really focused and bring my ‘A’ game in the semifinal because Marin has played Garett all week and it’s going to be another tough match.”

With the victory, Ruud has now won 65 clay-court matches over the past three seasons – most on the ATP Tour – not to mention seven clay-court titles.

“A big day for Norwegian tennis,” Ruud added “because we have also a female player – Ulriike Eikeri – who made the final of mixed doubles today. She is even one step further than me. She will play for probably her biggest title of her life tomorrow so I wish her luck.”

Despite losing, Rune will rise to No. 28 in the new ATP Rankings next week, an increase of 12 spots. With a quarterfinal run in Paris after winning his first ATP Tour title in Munich last month, it’s been a profitable clay-court season for the Danish teenager.

Around Roland-Garros

Unseeded during French wild cards Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia, who won the 2016 French Open title as a team, advanced to the semifinal round with a 6-3, 6-3 quarterfinal victory over Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan, both of China. Next, they will face No. 14 seeds Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Americans Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula, seeded eighth, advanced to the other women’s doubles semifinal with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Greet Minnen of Belgium and Anna Bondar of Hungary. They will face another all-American team, unseeded Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend.

Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway and Joran Vliegen of Belgium defeated Nicole Melichar-Martinez of the United States and Kevin Krawietz of Germany, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 10-7, to reach the mixed doubles final. They will face Ena Shibahara of Japan and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands, who upset No. 3 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and John Peers of Australia 6-3, 6-4.

Wednesday’s French Open results

Thursday’s French Open order of play

By the numbers

With one more victory, Iga Swiatek will tie the record of 34 consecutive wins set by Serena Williams in 2013, which came between the Miami Open and Wimbledon and included five titles.

“Quotable …”

“I cannot compare what we are going to have tomorrow and what we had in February, March when we were [last] playing. So, it’s going to be a completely different match. I want to win a lot, she wants to win as well, and it’s going to be a good match.”

– No. 20 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia on what it means to face World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek in Thursday’s semifinal round.