Diary day 10: Gaby, Sloane clap back

Sabatini and Stephens took a stand for women's tennis on Tuesday.

Gabriela Sabatini press conference Roland Garros 2019©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

There is so much strength and depth in today’s women’s game, with lots of young talent emerging, and lots of experienced players trying to hold them off.

There are rising forces like Naomi Osaka, winning back-to-back Grand Slams and becoming an overnight global superstar.

There are mothers, like Serena Williams, coming back from maternity leave and making two major finals.

You’ve got charisma in Sloane Stephens, social activism in Madison Keys, all-court craftiness in Ashleigh Barty, inspiration and humility in Petra Kvitova, authenticity in Simona Halep… the list is so long, and simply unquantifiable.

So it’s astonishing to see that female players, past and present, still find themselves forced to defend the women’s game from public misconceptions.

Tuesday was a day where Argentinean legend Gabriela Sabatini – in Paris to receive the receive the Philippe-Chatrier Award at the ITF World Champions Dinner – and former US Open champion Stephens both spoke out so eloquently in support of women’s tennis.

When a reporter started a press conference by telling Sabatini that “women’s tennis is not living its best moment’, the 1990 US Open winner said: “I don't see it that way. The level of tennis on women's is very good these days.

“I see so many new athletes coming out. Physically, they are much more stronger. And I see some of them that I really like the way they play, and their charisma. Yeah, I mean, I don't see that, really.”

Stephens, following her loss to Johanna Konta in the quarter-finals, was asked if she felt “a bit more cross” for exiting the tournament given the names still alive in the draw.

“No. When you look at the draw, the eight people that are still in the tournament, there is a reason why they're still in the tournament,” said Stephens.

“There's always opportunities in every single tournament to go further. Am I upset that I wasn't able to do that? Of course. But I wouldn't downplay any of the other eight people, because they're all great players.

“That question, I think, is not great because that kind of puts the other players down, which is, in this situation, in the last eight of a Grand Slam, is nowhere near where they should be put.”

Well said, from both!

Quotes of the day

 “47 years ago today, I captured my first (and only) Roland-Garros singles title, and completed my career Grand Slam in singles. Winning this title in 1972 was a big goal, and I owe the win to Chrissie Evert, who practiced with me in FL. Thank you, Chris!”

- Billie Jean King on Twitter on Tuesday.

“I am speechless and not many matches make me speechless. The way Konta played that match, not giving Sloane a chance, thinking maybe she could come back... Jo Konta, I take my hat off to you. I have never seen her play that kind of tennis. The thing I am most impressed with is the mental toughness. There was always this stigma around Konta – get her in an annoying situation and it’s hard for her to close matches out. But she would have beaten anybody, the way she played in this match.”

- Chris Evert, on Eurosport, reveals how much she is in awe of Johanna Konta.

“Like against any player, there is always a chance. Otherwise nobody will be in the stadium to watch because everybody already knows the result in advance. And I think sport does that to you, that every match needs to be played before it's decided. And that's exactly what everybody believes by facing Rafa.

"They know it's going to be tough. But you just never know. He might have a problem. He might be sick. You never know. You might be playing great or for some reason he's struggling. Maybe there's incredible wind, rain, 10 rain delays. You just don't know. That's why you need to put yourself in that position. For me to get to Rafa is not simple. It took five matches here for me to win to get there.

"That's why I'm very happy to play Rafa, because if you want to do or achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa, because he's that strong and he will be there. I knew that when I signed up for the clay that hopefully that's gonna happen. If I would have had a different mindset to avoid him, then I should not have played the clay. So I think by that mindset, I think it helped me to play so well so far this tournament.”

- Roger Federer is unfazed by the fact that he hasn’t defeated Rafael Nadal on clay since 2009.

Stats of the day

0 – sets lost by Marketa Vondrousova en route to the semi-finals here in Paris – her first appearance in the last four of a Grand Slam.  

5 – The five games Rafael Nadal dropped on Tuesday against seventh-seeded Kei Nishikori were the fewest number of games the Spaniard has dropped in any of his matches en route to this year’s semi-finals.

7 – Roger Federer reached his first Roland-Garros semi-final in seven years with victory over Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday.  

18 – In the second set of her win over Sloane Stephens, Johanna Konta won 18 successive points on her own serve.

36 – Konta is the first British woman in 36 years, since Jo Durie in 1983, to reach the semi-finals at Roland-Garros.

60 – The last time Grand Slam not to feature one of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals was Roland-Garros 2004, 60 slams ago (Source: Enrico Maria Riva).

Sportsmanship moments