Tennis·ROUNDUP

Nadal advances to semis for record-extending 14th time, will take on Djokovic

Rafael Nadal dropped a set for the first time at this year's French Open but ultimately advanced to the semifinals for a record-extending 14th time.

Maria Sakkari defeats reigning champ Iga Swiatek

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates a point during his Mens Singles quarter-final match against Diego Schwartzman of Argentina during Day Eleven of the 2021 French Open at Roland Garros on Wednesday. (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal's French Open set streak is over. His pursuit of a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title — including 14 at Roland Garros — remains very much intact.

Nadal shrugged off dropping a set in Paris for the first time in two years and regained control Wednesday, whipping violent forehands punctuated with first pumps and yells of "Vamos!" en route to a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory over 10th-seeded Diego Schwartzman to reach the semifinals at the clay-court major tournament.

After taking the last nine games against Schwartzman, No. 3 seed Nadal's semifinal foe will be No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who got past Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in a night match delayed for more than 20 minutes in the fourth set while the stadium was cleared out because of a COVID-19 curfew.

The other men's semifinal will be No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. No. 6 Alexander Zverev.

Nadal, who turned 35 last week, is now 105-2 for his career at Roland Garros.

He is just two wins from eclipsing the men's mark for most total Grand Slam singles championships that he currently shares with Roger Federer.

In addition to his 13 trophies at Roland Garros — four in a row from 2005-08, five in a row from 2010-14 and another four in a row so far since 2017 — the Spanish left-hander won four titles at the U.S. Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the Australian Open.

Sakkari advances to semis

Maria Sakkari ended defending champion Iga Swiatek's 11-match and 22-set winning streaks at the French Open on Wednesday and reached the semifinals of a major tournament for the first time.

The 17th-seeded Sakkari used strong and steady baseline play to eliminate Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 at Court Philippe Chatrier in the quarterfinals and ensure that the clay-court tournament will end with a new Grand Slam champion.

"I couldn't have done it without my team and their support and I just want to thank them and we still have a long way to go, of course," Sakkari said, "but we made a huge step today."

All four women remaining in the field are making their Slam semifinal debuts.

On Thursday, Sakkari plays unseeded Barbora Krejcikova, and No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova faces unseeded Tamara Zidansek.

Sakkari, who is from Greece, and Krejcikova, who is from the Czech Republic, are both 25. Each has won only one tour-level title. Neither had been past the fourth round at a major until now.

And both dealt with early deficits Wednesday.

WATCH | Sakkari advances to French Open semis:

Maria Sakkari upsets defending champ Iga Swiatek in French Open quarters

Sports

4 days ago
2:44
17th seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece beat defending champion Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-4, 6-4 to advance to her first career Grand Slam semifinal. 2:44

Swiatek, a 20-year-old from Poland who has looked untouchable on clay, jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but then Sakkari took over, collecting eight of 10 games. When Sakkari smacked a backhand winner down the line to close a 15-stroke point that claimed that set, she leaned over and punched the air with her right fist.

That ended Swiatek's set streak at Roland Garros, which dated to the beginning of last year's tournament, when she dropped only 28 games in all. She'd only lost 20 games this year through four matches.

Krejcikova defeats Gauff

Unseeded Barbora Krejcikova reached her first Grand Slam semifinal by coming back from an early deficit and beating 17-year-old Coco Gauff 7-6 (6), 6-3 at the French Open on Wednesday.

Gauff led 3-0 at the outset, then 5-3, and held a total of five set points in the opener, but failed to convert any.

Krejcikova took advantage, grabbing that set by taking the last four points of the tiebreaker. She then reeled off 15 consecutive points during one stretch en route to a 5-0 edge in the second set.

Closing out the most important victory of her singles career was not easy, though: Krejcikova needed six match points to do it, raising her arms overhead when she finally won when Gauff sent a forehand wide.

Krejcikova is a 25-year-old from the Czech Republic who has won two Grand Slam doubles titles but is playing in only her fifth major tournament in singles and only once before made it as far as the fourth round. She is currently ranked a career-high 33rd and on a 10-match winning streak in singles.

She ended the nine-match run of the 24th-seeded Gauff, who is based in Florida and was the youngest French Open quarterfinalist since 2006. Gauff's 41 unforced errors included seven double-faults — and after one, she mangled her racket frame by whacking it three times against the ground.

On Thursday, Krejcikova will face either defending champion Iga Swiatek of Poland or No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, who were scheduled to play in the last women's quarterfinal match. The other semifinal is No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia against unseeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia.

Nadal, Djokovic in quarters 

The men's quarter-finals later Wednesday were 13-time champion Rafael Nadal vs. Diego Schwartzman, and Novak Djokovic vs. Matteo Berrettini.

Gauff vs. Krejickova began in the late morning with the temperature in the low low 20s Celsius, a blue sky and no wind.

After the number of fans in the 15,000-seat main stadium was capped at 1,000 for each of the first 10 days of the tournament because of COVID-19 restrictions, that limit was raised to 5,000 on Wednesday. And those in attendance were loudly pulling for Gauff, who burst onto the scene at Wimbledon two years ago by reaching the fourth round.

Cries of "Allez, Coco!" ("Let's go, Coco!") greeted her winners. Loud clapping of encouragement preceded her service games.

And Gauff treated those supporters to a terrific start, taking that 3-0 lead after a dozen minutes, thanks in part to winning the first three points that lasted at least 10 strokes and two of Krejcikova's eight double-faults.

The contrast was striking when Krejcikova broke back on her way to pulling even at 3-all, when only a smattering of polite applause was heard.

Gauff served for the opening set at 5-3 and was a point from taking it but pushed a backhand long. That was followed by a double-fault and a netted backhand, allowing Krejcikova to break.

Gauff had another two set points while up 6-5 and returning, but on the first she missed a backhand, and on the second, Krejcikova produced a backhand winner.

Another two chances for Gauff to grab that set arrived in the tiebreaker when the American led 6-4. Again, Krejcikova was up to the task, erasing both by whipping a pair of cross-court forehand winners, then using another winner off that wing to take that set.

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