Swiatek into French Open semi-final as Haddad Maia makes history for Brazil

Thursday, Jun 08, 2023

PARIS: Iga Swiatek cruised past Coco Gauff on Wednesday to reach the French Open semi-finals where she will face Beatriz Haddad Maia, the first Brazilian woman to make the last four of a Grand Slam in 55 years.

World number one and defending champion Swiatek, chasing a third title at Roland Garros, brushed aside 19-year-old Gauff 6-4, 6-2 in a rematch of last year´s final. Swiatek improved her record in Paris to 26-2 after beating Gauff for the seventh time in as many meetings.

The 22-year-old from Poland is chasing a third French Open crown and attempting to become the first woman to successfully defend the title in Paris since Justine Henin in 2007. "It wasn´t easy, the first set was really tight. Coco was really using the conditions, so I was happy to be able to work on it and win this match," said Swiatek, who has yet to drop a set at the tournament.

World number 14 Haddad Maia defeated seventh-ranked Ons Jabeur 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1. The 27-year-old left-hander follows in the footsteps of seven-time major winner Maria Bueno who was the last Brazilian woman in the semi-finals of a major at the US Open 55 years ago.

Bueno, who passed away in 2018, made the last four in Paris in 1966 before the advent of the Open era. "Ons is not easy to play against, you have to be patient but I believed in my body and tried to keep my rhythm," said Haddad Maia.

Jabeur, the runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2022, was playing in her first quarter-final at Roland Garros while Haddad Maia had never got past the second round of a Grand Slam before this French Open. The Brazilian had saved a match point in the third round against Ekaterina Alexandrova and then defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo in a three-hour 51-minute marathon, the third longest women´s match ever played at the tournament.

She summoned all that fighting spirit in the second set against Jabeur, holding her nerve on a fourth set point. Haddad Maia then swept into a 3-0 lead in the decider, saved four break points to stretch to a 5-1 advantage and took the match after two and a half hours when Jabeur hit long.

"I had a day off after my fourth round match. My amazing team worked hard on my body," said the Brazilian. Thursday´s other semi-final will see Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka tackle unseeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic. "I think I rushed my way back on tour, but that´s because I wanted to be ready for the French Open," said Jabeur, whose build-up to Paris had been curtailed by a calf injury.

While anticipation grows over Friday´s men´s semi-final between Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic, attention on Wednesday is focused on who will join the two heavyweights in the last four. Twelve months ago, Casper Ruud came through against Holger Rune in a four-set quarter-final before the pair continued their battle in the locker room.

Rune, then just a precocious 19-year-old, accused his Norwegian rival of a "lack of respect". Ruud, who went on to finish runner-up to Rafael Nadal, responded by advising his Danish rival to "grow up". Fourth-ranked Ruud holds a 4-1 career edge over the world number six but Rune won their most recent clash on clay in the Rome semi-finals.

"Obviously there was drama last year and I hope we can make less drama this year," said Rune who needed almost four hours and five sets to defeat Francisco Cerundolo last time out. Ruud is the in-form clay court player with 85 wins on the surface since 2020.

The winner of that clash will face either German 22nd seed Alexander Zverev, playing in his ninth quarter-final at the majors, or unseeded Tomas Martin Etcheverry, the world number 49 from Argentina, appearing in his first. Last year, Zverev suffered season-ending ankle ligament damage in his semi-final against Nadal. The Olympic champion, a two-time semi-finalist in Paris, is in the quarter-finals for a fifth time in six years.