The French Open is guaranteed a new champion. The top 16 seeds in the competition have faltered and four unexpected semi-finalists remain –– all of whom have reached unfamiliar territory.
Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova faces Slovenia’s Tamara Tamara Zidanšek in the first of the semis, before 17th seed Maria Sakkari takes on world number 33 Barbora Krejčíková straight after on Court Phillipe-Chatrier.
Ranked 18th in the world, Sakkari is the highest seeded player left in the draw and played the match of her life against defending champion Iga Świątek to get to this stage.
The Polish star hadn’t dropped a set in 11 matches at Roland-Garros before yesterday, but was outclassed in all departments by the powerful Greek player, who executed an intelligent game-plan which targeted Świątek’s forehand.
Sakkari also showed effortless footwork throughout and won 83 percent of points on her first serve as she knocked out this year’s title favourite in straight sets 6-4 6-4.
The 25-year-old, who turned professional in 2015, has shown promise in recent years and beaten almost every player inside the world’s top 10, including Serena Williams, Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka.
While the Greek star has showcased her ability on occasion, it’s consistency which has let her down in recent times. These wins over esteemed opposition suggest Sakkari could be a top 10 player, yet, so far she has just a single WTA title to her name.
At this year’s Roland-Garros, however, everything has clicked into place. Wins over 14th seed Elise Mertens, former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and then, of course, her fine victory over Świątek, have all come in succession.
Her semi-final opponent has shown similar brilliance in her run thus far. Krejčíková knocked out fifth seed Elina Svitolina in straight sets, before beating American’s Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff.
The Czech player had never reached beyond the second-round of a Slam prior to this event, but has shown an impressive mental resilience and ability to cope with the pressure points.
Against Gauff, the 25-year-old was down a break early and faced five set points as the young teenager dominated the early exchanges. Remarkably, though, Krejčíková saved them all and won a thrilling tie-break 8-6.
The young US prodigy was shell shocked at this point, but the unseeded Czech demonstrated an impressive ability to up the tempo and take advantage. Racing into a 5-0 second set lead, Gauff could not recover and Krejčíková powered through to a maiden Slam semi-final.
Like Sakkari, she has just one WTA title to her name, but this came this year at the Internationaux de Strasbourg, beating Sorana Mihaela Cîrstea in the final.
An outstanding doubles player, Krejčíková won the women’s doubles at Wimbledon and at Roland-Garros back in 2018 as her and partner Kateřina Siniaková became the number one ranked doubles pairing in the world.
The duo have made the semi-finals of Roland-Garros once again meaning Krejčíková will not have a rest day, should she reach the singles final.
Like the other semi, this is a tough match-up to call. The Czech has a strong mindset and has been in formidable form all year, yet Sakkari’s victory over Świątek makes her favourite for this one.
Should the Greek power hitter serve as well as she did yesterday, then a first Grand Slam final beckons.