Day 13 Diary: Solana Sierra breaks new tierra

Argentinian junior is first Grand Slam girls' finalist since the year 2000

Solana Sierra, demi-finale, simple filles, Roland-Garros  2022©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT
 - Chris Oddo

Paris has been a happy hunting ground for Argentinian women in recent years.

In 2020 it was Nadia Podoroska who became the first Argentinian woman to reach the Roland-Garros semi-finals since 2004. On Friday on Court 14 it was Solana Sierra’s turn to make a bit of history for the storied tennis nation. 

The 17-year-old from Mar del Plata powered past Nikola Bartunkova 7-5, 6-0 to become the first Argentinian to reach a girls' singles final at a Grand Slam since Maria Emilia Salerni in 2000. 

She was brutally efficient on return, winning 18 of 22 second-serve return points to run away from the No.13 seed.

“I'm feeling so good, I'm super happy,” she told reporters. "It's unreal to think that I'm in a final of a Grand Slam.” 

Sierra is unseeded this year in Paris, but she put some important Grand Slam experience under her belt when she reached the US Open girls' singles semi-finals last year. 

“The US Open I think it helped, because in the other semi-final I was really nervous and here I was a little bit less nervous and I played better,” she said. "I'm super happy for all the work that I did and it's paying off now."

Sierra will face Lucie Havlickova of the Czech Republic in the girls’ final on Saturday in Paris. 

Debru one step from crazy dream

For French players, to win a title on home soil has always been the ultimate goal. No different for Gabriel Debru, a wiry 17-year-old that has surged to life this year at Roland-Garros.

The 16-year-old reached the second round of the men's qualifying event and then confidently moved to the juniors where he has now become the 26th French player to reach the boys' singles final. He defeated Croatia's Dino Prizmic, 6-1, 0-6, 6-3, on Court 14.

"It's crazy if I win Roland-Garros because it's a dream since I was five years old," he said.

Debru is hoping that his success this week in Paris is just the beginning.

"I'm very happy to be playing the final even if it's only the junior final," he said. "I hope that one day I'll be also playing a final with the ATP Tour. I'll try to give everything for the final."

Gabriel Debru, demi-finales, simple garçons, Roland-Garros 2022©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Up next for the Frenchman is Gilles Arnaud Bailly of Belgium, the 16-year-old who saved three match points in the round of 16 to defeat top-seeded Bruno Kuzuhara.

Bailly rallied past Poland's Martyn Pawelski on Friday, 1-6, 6-1, 6-2.

He's aware he'll be facing a French crowd as well as his opponent in the final. It's a challenge he's eager to tackle.

"Playing a French guy with the French crowd, hopefully there will be a lot of people," he said. "They will not cheer for me, I know that, but, yeah, it's going to be crazy experience and I'm looking forward to play it."

Gilles Arnaud Bailly, Roland Garros 2022, boys' singles semi-finals© Andre Ferreira/FFT

Diede the Great closing in on history 

Dutchwoman Diede de Groot has won everything there is to win in the sport, but the 25-year-old still burns to improve. 

After Friday's 6-0, 6-0 semi-final triumph over South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane, the 13-time Grand Slam champion says she is still fuelled by the hunger to compete. 

“I think what really helps me is that I still really enjoy competing,” she told “I think competing makes it worth getting up early and going back to the training court even though you’ve been there just a few hours before. 

“Also just really trying to find new things to improve on, whether that’s outside the court like diet, mental, physical – anything – and on the court trying to learn a slice backhand, which is not a strong point of mine, but those kind of things. Just trying to keep improving yourself so that there is an actual goal to work towards, so I think that really helps me.” 

De Groot, who will face Japan’s Yui Kamiji in a rematch of last year's women’s wheelchair singles final here, is bidding to become the third player in history to win six consecutive Grand Slam titles this weekend in Paris.

She says she takes inspiration from her compatriot Esther Vergeer, the all-time leader in women’s wheelchair singles Grand Slam titles with 21. 

“Esther Vergeer was a tennis player who did such amazing things, and I think before my own career started I admired her for winning so many titles,” De Groot said. “I think now that I’m doing it myself I’m definitely not aiming for the goals that she has achieved. But I am definitely looking at her, like, ‘How did she do it for such a long time?’ and my perspective has definitely changed looking at her and trying to see how she did it.”

Diede de Groot, Roland Garros 2022, wheelchair semi-finals© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Guga in the house

One of the most iconic Roland-Garros champions in history was in the stands of Court Philippe-Chatrier on Friday.

Brazilian legend Guga Kuerten, 1997, 2000 and 2001 champion, is the lowest-ranked men's singles champion in tournament history. He won his maiden title in 1997 while ranked No.66 in the world.

Past champ Ivanovic visits Chatrier

2008 champion Ana Ivanovic has also made the trek to Paris.

The former World No.1 was inside Court Philippe-Chatrier for Friday's first men's semi-final, with her husband Bastien Schweinsteiger, the German former football international, who was supporting his compatriot Alexander Zverev in his semi-final against Rafael Nadal.

The retired Ivanovic, who also reached the final at Roland-Garros in 2007, owns a 37-11 lifetime record on the terre battue in Paris.

Taking cues from the top guns

After defeating her compatriot and doubles partner to reach the girls' singles final on Friday, Czech Lucie Havlickova talked about taking inspiration from her fellow Czechs on the WTA tour.

"There's not just one person I take inspiration from, but I like Petra [Kvitova] a lot," said the 17-year-old, who defeated Sara Bejlek on Friday to become the ninth Czech woman to reach the girls' singles final in Paris. "I know her [personally]. We practice sometimes. So I really like her game. She's playing aggressive, which is also my game."

Havlickova also cited last year's champion Barbora Krejcikova as an influence.

"Barbora Krejcikova has a lot of drop shots and variability in her game, so that's something I would like to do some day," she said. "So, yeah, all of them are amazing. I mean, they're the top players."

Lucie Havlickova, demi-finale, simple filles, Roland-Garros 2022©André Ferreira / FFT

'Iga plays different than any other woman'

No.9 seed Havlickova also said she is blown away by the talent on display in the women's singles draw this fortnight.

"I mean, it's amazing," she said of the level of this year's women's singles finalists. "Iga is playing now incredible. That's amazing what she's doing. Coco is just a year older than me and, wow, I have no words because they're so good and, yeah, I wish both of them luck."

When asked what she can learn from watching Swiatek and Gauff, the Czech was quick to answer.

"I have to learn from them everything because they're better than me in every level," she said. "But Coco is playing fast, good serve and no mistakes at all. And Iga is playing everything. She's playing differently than every other woman player and it's amazing, so I can learn anything from them, actually."

Lucie Havlickova, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Filles, 1/2 Finale, Andre Ferreira / FFT

Fast hands, Mats

Former champion Mats Wilander has been hitting out of the park with his on- court interviews during the Roland-Garros fortnight.

And on Friday, during Rafael Nadal's semi-final with Alexander Zverev on Court Philippe-Chatrier, he also showed that he still has fast hands - and grace under pressure.

Shot of the day

Stat of the day