Day 11 Diary: Iga the loyal Rafanatic

 - Chris Oddo

Take a spin around the grounds as we round up the odds and sods from an entertaining Day 11 in Paris.

Iga Swiatek, Roland Garros 2020, quarter-final© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Iga Swiatek is flying the flag for Poland as the first woman from her country to reach the semi-finals in Paris in the Open Era, but when it comes to her allegiance, we found out she also backs a certain Spaniard. Meanwhile, Stefanos Tsitsipas is just a schoolkid at heart. Check out what you might have missed on Day 11 of Roland-Garros.

Once a Rafa fan, always a Rafa fan

Iga Swiatek is the only player in Paris that is still alive in both singles and doubles after she paired up with Nicole Melichar to defeat Asia Muhammad and Jessica Pegula, 6-3 6-4 in women’s doubles quarter-final action on Wednesday.

Impressive, but a few intrepid scribes wanted to discuss more pressing matters - the cryptic mention of Rafael Nadal on court after her quarter-final victory over Martina Trevisan on Tuesday night.

Mystery solved: now we know who Swiatek is pulling for on the men’s side.

“Yeah, he's my favourite player,” she said. “He was the only player I watched when I was younger. So, yeah, I really like him. I just wish him the best and I hope he's gonna get another French Open this year.”

Skipping school

Yesterday a fan, today a star... There was a time when Stefanos Tsitsipas used to play hooky to watch tennis at Roland-Garros. The Greek reflected on his younger days and how he grew his love for the tournament after his quarter-final victory over Andrey Rublev on Wednesday.

"I used to skip classes at school, because Roland-Garros used to be during the summer," Tsitsipas told the crowd after his 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 victory over the Russian. "So I used to skip classes to come watch the matches on TV."  

He continued to speak about those precious moments in his post-match press conference, and said that he has fond memories of watching the longest match in Roland-Garros history, between Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement

“I remember watching Santoro,” said the 22-year-old. "What was that match, six hours' long? Santoro against Clement, I think. Yeah, my physio Jerome was part of it, which is great how we united. You know how small this world is.” 

The Greek said he also remembered watching classics involving Nicolas Mahut, Michael Llodra and, of course, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

Guarachi’s hard-earned breakthrough 

Five years ago Alexa Guarachi wondered if her career might be over when she underwent ACL surgery on her right knee. But the Chilean doubles world No.45 worked her way through gruelling rehab and returned to the sport by the end of 2016.

On Wednesday in Paris, she cracked a milestone that was four years in the making - a first Grand Slam semi-final with partner Desirae Krawczyk. Did she ever imagine herself as a Grand Slam semi-finalist when she first returned from surgery? 

“I didn't, and I honestly didn't even know that I would pursue doubles like this,” Guarachi said on Wednesday after she and Krawczyk defeated Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, 6-0, 6-4. “After I graduated college I really wanted to play singles and see how far I could go. And especially with the knee injury I felt like I don't know if I can come back, can I do this?”

Guarachi says she got an idea of how far she could go when she faced a pair of formidable Czechs at Wimbledon in 2018.

“I qualified for Wimbledon two years ago, and we lost first round against Siniakova and Krejcikova, and they ended up winning Wimbledon that year,” she said. “For me, that was a moment in my career where I thought, ‘Wow, I'm right there with the girls that can win the slams.”

Alexa Guarachi - Desirae Krawczyk, Roland-Garros 2020, 1/4 de finale©Cedric Lecocq / FFT

Musical chairs for Collins and her team 

Why was Danielle Collins asking her boyfriend and physio Tom Couch to move during her quarter-final with Sofia Kenin on Wednesday? Simple answer: as it turns out, he was distracting her. 

“I had my boyfriend move to a different spot because I was distracted by something in front of him,” she said. “I just wanted to be able to look at him from a different location. Sometimes too when I was serving the ball, I could see my team in the background, and I didn't like that.” 

Collins admitted that she’s a little finicky about where her team sits during her matches. 

“Actually during the Muguruza match they sat on the side of the court, and then I really didn't like when they were sitting behind the court when I was playing Jabeur. Yeah, it was just a mental thing, I guess," she added.

Danielle Collins, Roland-Garros 2020, quarts de finale©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Full of gratitude

Wednesday wasn’t Rublev’s day on court. The Russian squandered a 5-3 lead in the first set and ended up falling to Tsitsipas in straight sets, but the setback won’t keep Rublev from appreciating what he’s accomplished in Paris.

The 22-year-old rallied from two sets down to win his first career main draw match at Roland-Garros and took a nine-match winning streak on clay to the quarter-final.

“I can be only grateful for the last couple of weeks,” Rublev said. “All the matches that have been here, that I did one more quarter-final, especially being almost out of the tournament in the first round. I can be only grateful. Nothing much to say. There's so many things I need to work on, so many things that I need to improve. Now is a good time to do it and to be ready for the next season.” 

Inspired by Diego

It’s been an inspiring Roland-Garros fortnight for Argentinian fans. Diego Schwartzman won an epic quarter-final with Dominic Thiem to reach his first major semi-final.

Nadia Podoroska has come out of nowhere to become the first qualifier to ever reach the semi-finals of the women’s singles draw, and in the juniors two players have reached the quarter-finals of the boys’ singles draw. 

One of them, Juan Bautista Torres, credits a hit he had in Paris with Diego Schwartzman last week for inspiration. 

“I was training on Saturday with Diego and he is a big inspiration,” the 18-year-old told “We trained for about an hour and he missed only three balls in that time.” 

Meanwhile the French pipeline continues to produce. Four players - Oceane Babel, Elsa Jacquemot, Lilian Marmousez and Sean Cuenin - are still alive for the tricolor across the junior singles draws.