PARIS • Months after finishing her graduation exam, Polish teenager Iga Swiatek aced the biggest test of her tennis career.
She shocked top seed and 2018 champion Simona Halep 6-1, 6-2 at Roland Garros yesterday to set up a meeting with Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan after a day of upsets in Paris. Fellow 19-year-old Jannik Sinner also booked a Major quarter final berth for the first time by defeating sixth-seed and US Open finalist Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Swiatek, ranked No. 54 in the world, triumphed on the back of 30 winners and did not allow Halep a single break point.
“I am surprised I could do this,” she said after ending Halep’s career-best 17-match winning streak.
The world No. 2 had been the overwhelming favourite in the absence of last year’s champion Ashleigh Barty and US Open winner Naomi Osaka as well the injury-enforced withdrawal of 23-time Major winner Serena Williams.
It was a stunning turnaround for Swiatek, who won just one game against Halep at the same stage here last year, getting swept off court in just 45 minutes.
“Last year, I wasn’t experienced enough, it was my first match in a big stadium so I was a little stressed, but now I can handle the pressure,” said Swiatek, who will focus on tennis after finishing up high school during the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
She returned to Court Philippe-Chatrier to sweep through the opening set in just 23 minutes, firing 17 winners to Halep’s four. She tightened her grip, breaking in the first game of the second set with Halep having to fight off four break points in the third game to stay afloat.
Halep, 29, who won clay-court titles in Prague and Rome ahead of the French Open, saved five more break points in the fifth game, but a weary forehand drifted wide and her Polish opponent was 4-1 up with the cushion of a double break.
She took victory on a second match point, ending the tie in 68 minutes.
“I didn’t lose that match, Iga won it,” said the Romanian, who made just two unforced errors in the first set. “She was everywhere. I will have a chocolate and I will be better tomorrow.”
TOO GOOD ON THE DAY
I didn’t lose that match, Iga won it. She was everywhere. I will have a chocolate and I will be better tomorrow.
SIMONA HALEP, the world No. 2 on her fourth-round upset at Roland Garros by an opponent ranked 52 places below her and 10 years her junior.
- SELECTED RESULTS
MEN’S 4TH RD
Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Sebastian Korda (USA) 6-1 6-1 6-2, Jannik Sinner (Ita) bt Alexander Zverev (Ger) 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-3.
WOMEN’S 4TH RD
Danielle Collins (USA) bt Garbine Muguruza 7-5 2-6 6-4, Martina Trevisan (Ita) bt Kiki Bertens (Ned) 6-4 6-4, Elina Svitolina (Ukr) bt Caroline Garcia (Fra) 6-1 6-3, Nadia Podoroska (Arg) bt Barbora Krejcikova (Cze) 2-6 6-2 6-3.
Swiatek’s victory was quickly followed by another surprise when Trevisan registered a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens, a semi-finalist in 2016.
Trevisan, ranked No. 159, is the first qualifier to make the last eight since Yaroslava Shvedova in 2012 and had saved two match points in her third-round win over Greek 20th seed Maria Sakkari.
“I’m living in a dream,” said the Italian, whose other appearance in the main draw of a Major came at the Australian Open in January.
She will break into the top 100 following a run that will net her at least €283,500 (S$453,000) – more than tripling her earnings this year.
Once a promising junior player, reaching the semi-finals in the girls’ doubles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon over a decade ago, her career was put on hold a decade ago as she struggled with an eating disorder. She had to be “re-educated to eat” following years of suffering from anorexia after her father Claudio, a former footballer in Italy’s second division, was diagnosed with a degenerative disease.
“I know that I have done a great job right now until today,” the 26-year-old said of her road to recovery which saw her spend four years away from tennis. “The message is to focus on your dream and never give up on your life, on everything you want to do and you want to reach.”
The shocks mean that only four seeds remain in the women’s draw – third seed Elina Svitolina, fourth-seeded Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, seeded seventh, and Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, the 30th seed.
There was also a surprise in the men’s draw as Italian teenager Sinner became the first debutant to reach the French Open quarter-finals since Rafael Nadal in 2005.
He will face the 12-time champion after taking out a feverish Zverev. Last year’s NextGen champion dropped his first set of the tournament against the German but demonstrated his resolve to close out the win in four.
“I’m completely sick,” Zverev said. “I can’t really breathe, as you can hear by my voice. I had fever, you know, as well. It was 38 in the night or in the evening.”
Players are regularly tested for Covid-19 but Zverev declined to answer a question about the date of his last test.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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