Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Sakkari stuns defending champ; Nadal, Djokovic to meet

Maria Sakkari ousted defending champion Iga Swiatek today in the
French Open quarterfinals. Sakkari reached the final of the inaugural
Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., three years ago.
2019 photo by Paul Bauman
   Not only will the French Open women's singles draw produce a first-time Grand Slam champion for the sixth consecutive year, it will have two first-time major finalists. 
   Both oddities were assured when No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari, 25, of Greece ousted No. 8 seed and defending champion Iga Swiatek, 20, of Poland 6-4, 6-4 today in Paris. 
   "I don't want to get too excited because I don't have a day off tomorrow," said Sakkari, the runner-up in the inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., in 2018. "I still have to play, stay focused. But it's a big achievement, for sure. I'm enjoying, as I said on court, my tennis and myself.
   "I have people around me saying it was going to come. You know, they were right. I was impatient, telling them, 'When and when and when?' It actually came this week, so I'm happy about it."
   Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal, 35, and Novak Djokovic, 34, are scheduled to renew their storied rivarly on Friday at about 9 a.m. PDT (Tennis Channel) in a rematch of last year's French Open final, which the Spaniard won 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.
   Sakkari, the highest remaining seed, is set to meet unseeded Barbora Krejcikova, also 25, of the Czech Republic on Thursday at 6 a.m. (Tennis Channel). Krejcikova (pronounced Kray-chee-ko-va) saved five set points in the first set of her 7-6 (6), 6-3 victory over 17-year-old Coco Gauff of Delray Beach, Fla. 
   Krejcikova is 2-0 (1-0 on clay) against Sakkari. 
   The coronavirus pandemic changed Krejcikova's perspective.
   "Just seeing that there are also other things in the world that actually are happening, are just tougher and more difficult than just me playing tennis and losing, or me just playing tennis," said Krejcikova, ranked No. 33 in singles and No. 7 (formerly No. 1) in doubles. "I go and I play tennis, and I lose, but there are actually people that are losing their lives. I just felt more like, 'Well, just relax because you are healthy. Just appreciate this and enjoy the game.'"
   Krejcikova also is set to play in the women's doubles semifinals with countrywoman Katerina Siniakova on Friday. They won Roland Garros in 2018.
   In Thursday's first semifinal at 6 a.m. (Tennis Channel), No. 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 29, of Russia is slated to play unseeded Tamara Zidansek, 23, of Slovenia for the first time. Pavlyuchenkova (pronounced Pav-loo-chen-ko-va) played for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis at 15 in 2006.
   The third-seeded Nadal subdued 10th-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, and the top-seeded Djokovic held off ninth-seeded Matteo Berrettini of Italy 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5.
   Djokovic is 29-28 overall against Nadal, who leads 19-7 on clay with a five-match winning streak and 3-0 in French Open finals.
   Nadal has won Roland Garros 13 times, the most by anyone in a Grand Slam tournament. Djokovic earned his only French Open crown five years ago over Andy Murray.
   If Nadal claims his fifth French Open championship in a row (for the second time), he will break the record of 20 Grand Slam men's singles titles he shares with Roger Federer.
   In Friday's first men's semifinal at 6 a.m. (Tennis Channel), No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 22, of Greece is set to play No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev, 24, of Germany. Tsitsipas leads the head-to-head series 5-2 (1-0 on clay), but Zverev won the last meeting 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the Acapulco final on a hardcourt in March.
   Last November, Zverev denied domestic abuse allegations.
   ATP TourSam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, defeated qualifier Altug Celikbilek of Turkey 6-4, 6-1 in the first round of the Mercedes Cup on grass in Stuttgart, Germany.
   Querrey, now based in Las Vegas, had been 0-3 since early February. He has plunged from a career-high No. 11 in February 2018 to No. 67.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Sacramento, Calif., natives Jenson Brooksby and Sam Riffice reached the quarterfinals of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open on hardcourts.
   Brooksby, 20, dismantled Jason Kubler of Australia 6-3, 6-1 to improve to 21-2 in Challengers since turning pro in December.
   Riffice, a 22-year-old wild card playing in his adopted hometown, dispatched Roberto Cid Subervi of the Dominican Republic 6-2, 6-2 to reach his first Challenger singles quarterfinal.
   Riffice also advanced to the doubles quarterfinals with former University of Florida teammate Oliver Crawford, 22, of Spartanburg, S.C. The wild cards topped second-seeded Dennis Novikov of San Jose, Calif., and Goncalo Oliveira of Portugal 6-2, 4-6 [10-4] in the opening round.
   Last month as a junior at Florida, Riffice helped the Gators win their first NCAA men's team title and added the singles crown.
   In the first round of doubles on red clay in the €66,640 ($81,157) Bratislava (Slovakia) Open, Malek Jaziri of Tunisia and Blaz Rola of Slovenia eliminated Max Schnur of New York and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands 6-3, 7-5.

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