French Open 2021: Defending champion Iga Swiatek holds off Marta Kostyuk, reaches quarters


Defending champion Iga Swiatek held off a fierce challenge from Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk to reach the French Open quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory on Monday (June 7).  The eighth-seeded Pole has now won 22 consecutive sets at Roland Garros going into her clash with Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari as she bids to become the first woman to retain the Roland Garros title since Justine Henin in 2007.

Against an 18-year-old opponent who threw everything at her, Swiatek kept her composure on an empty court Philippe Chatrier, with fans not allowed to attend due to Paris’s 9pm COVID-19 curfew. “There were so many differences (from a day match),” said Swiatek.

“It was hard for me to adapt. The light are really bright and I had to adjust, sometimes I was facing the lights when I had to smash, it was hard.”

Kostyuk, who had not dropped a set in powering through the first three rounds, piled on the pressure early on to put Swiatek on the back foot and earn a break for 2-1. An unfazed Swiatek, however, broke straight back before gaining the upper hand in the eighth game when Kostyuk’s attempted backhand down the line went wide.

The Pole served out to take the lead after a hugely competitive set in which she faced five break points. Swiatek capitalised on her opponent’s errors to break for a 2-1 lead in the second, only for Kostyuk to level at 2-2.

The decisive break for Swiatek came in the seventh game when Kostyuk netted a sliced forehand while attempting to retrieve a lob. Kostyuk bounced her racket in frustration after Swiatek earned a match point at 5-3, but the Pole squandered that chance.

Kostyuk went 30-0 up in the 10th game but Swiatek won four points in a row, wrapping it up with a superb lob at the end of a quick exchange at the net. “Her defence was crazy, it was hard for me to finish the points a few times,” said Swiatek. “She was getting everywhere, so big bravo to her, she has a bright future ahead of her.”

Maria Sakkari knocks out No. 4 seed Sofia Kenin

Greek Maria Sakkari bundled American fourth seed Sofia Kenin out of the French Open on Monday with a 6-1, 6-3 thrashing to reach her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final. Sakkari, 25, had lost her two previous fourth-round appearances in Grand Slams and came into Monday’s clash having lost twice in majors to 2020 Australian Open winner Kenin.

But the Greek, who won their last meeting in Abu Dhabi this year, raced into a 4-0 lead in the opening set as Kenin, the highest women`s seed left in the tournament, served two double faults in each of her two service games.

“I was stuck in the third round a lot of times, and that was an obstacle that I wanted to just kind of like break that curse and make it to the fourth round,” Sakkari told reporters. “Now I’m excited to be in the quarter-finals for the first time. I knew it was going to come. I didn’t know when. But I think that I`ve been playing very good tennis, especially this year.”

A wasteful Kenin, last year’s finalist at Roland Garros, managed to hold just two service games and cut a frustrated figure on Suzanne Lenglen court, constantly muttering to herself but failing to solve her problems.

She was the highest-seeded player surviving in the women’s draw after injured world number one Ash Barty’s retirement, second seed Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal due to mental health issues and third seed Aryna Sabalenka’s defeat.

But Kenin, who played with taping on her left thigh, failed to turn up, serving nine double faults and making 32 unforced errors – the last when she sent a shot long on the second match point.

“I’m obviously disappointed today. It`s definitely not the match that I wanted to play. I feel like nerves got the better of me,” Kenin told reporters.

Sakkari’s progress to the quarter-finals along with Stefanos Tsitsipas made it the first time a Greek woman and a Greek man have made the last eight at the same Major. The 17th seed will meet either Polish defending champion Iga Swiatek.

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Sagar Biswas

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