Andreeva sets up Paolini clash on a day of upsets at French Open

Russian teenager Mirra Andreeva beat Aryna Sabalenka 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4 while Elena Rybakina lost to Italian surprise package Jasmine Paolini

By Reuters

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram


Russia's Mirra Andreeva celebrates after winning her quarterfinal match against Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka. — Reuters
Russia's Mirra Andreeva celebrates after winning her quarterfinal match against Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka. — Reuters

Published: Wed 5 Jun 2024, 9:49 PM

Second seed Aryna Sabalenka was sent crashing out of the French Open after a shock 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4 quarterfinal loss to Russian teenager Mirra Andreeva on Wednesday after being hampered by illness throughout the contest.

Having won her last two meetings with Andreeva comfortably, Belarusian Sabalenka wasted little time getting to work as the Australian Open champion cranked up her big shots to go ahead 3-1 before her serve came undone in the opening set.

A suddenly out-of-sorts Sabalenka called the trainer out and had medication for illness after the 17-year-old Andreeva surged to a 5-3 lead and sensed a real opportunity to cause a massive upset on the biggest stage.

But Sabalenka regrouped to force a tiebreak where the 2023 semifinalist seized the advantage with a stunning drop shot on set-point, but appeared to struggle physically again at the start of the next set.

She got a time violation for taking too long between games as she crouched to her knees to recover at one point, and looked agitated at 4-2 down, eventually allowing her Russian opponent to take the match into a decider.

After an exchange of breaks, the pair were locked in a high-quality battle that thrilled fans on Court Philippe Chatrier but Andreeva held her own and broke Sabalenka in the final game to complete a memorable victory on her second match point.

Andreeva's reward is a semifinal clash with Italian surprise package Jasmine Paolini who staved off a fightback from fourth seed Elena Rybakina to seal a stunning 6-2 4-6 6-4 win on Wednesday and advance to the French Open semis for the first time.

"It's an unbeatable feeling. It was a tough match," said Paolini, who become the fourth Italian woman after Francesca Schiavone, Sara Errani and Martina Trevisan to make the Roland Garros semifinals in the Open era.

"I was too emotional in the second set. I said to myself 'it's okay she's a great champion. It can happen. Just fight and try to hit every ball'."

Playing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, the 28-year-old Paolini got off to a confident start by winning the opening two games and forced her opponent to work hard to hold serve, before breaking again en route to taking the first set.

A sublime backhand winner gave Paolini another break in the third game of the next set but 2022 Wimbledon champion Rybakina responded with one of her own and slowly came to grips with the Italian's power and precision.

Russian-born Kazakh Rybakina exchanged breaks with Paolini again but the 24-year-old held firm to level the contest at one set apiece and recovered after surrendering her serve at the start of the decider.

Paolini secured a hold to love to make it 4-4, playing at the level she showed early in the match and she took advantage of Rybakina's errors to close out a famous victory to huge cheers inside the main showcourt.

"It's my first time playing on this beautiful court. It's a pleasure. It's really a privilege," Paolini added.

"I'm happy I got the win in my first match here, because this is one of the best courts I think in tennis."

Meanwhile, Rybakina bemoaned an off day after the painful defeat.

"She played really well, she started much better, she was moving good, I started a bit slow and she was aggressive from the first ball," Rybakina told reporters.

"I was trying to fight through but it's not the greatest day in the office," she added.

Kazakh Rybakina, 24, had complained throughout the tournament about sleep badly and allergies.

"I think in the end my legs were not there. No matter which conditions, if it's slow or fast, I should have been moving better," she said. "I'm not really happy with the performance but it is what it is, it's tennis."

The former Wimbledon champion will now turn her attention to the grasscourt season and the Olympic Games in Paris.


More news from Sports