Day 12 diary: Sakkari leaves Paris with head held high

Take a look back at storylines you might have missed around the grounds in Paris.

Maria Sakkari, Roland Garros 2021, semi-final© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Precious pieces of history have been made on Thursday.

It’s difficult to keep track of it all when each match is so engrossing. So here are a few moments that could have passed you by…

Sakkari bemoans ‘rookie mistake’

Coming so close to the ultimate goal is incredibly tough to take and to speak about.

Maria Sakkari, falling to Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 in a riveting rollercoaster semi-final, was very gracious during her media duties, but was also disappointed that she let sight of the finish line knock her concentration.

“Yeah, I have to be deadly honest: I got stressed, starting thinking that I'm a point away from being in the final. I guess it's a rookie mistake,” said the Greek, turning her defeat into a positive.

“Good thing is that if I give myself a chance again to be in that position, then I know that I don't have to do it again. Just got a little bit stressed, got a little bit more passive on my game, especially in the big points. I think it's human emotions, but I think I'll learn from it.”

The 25-year-old spoke of her “pride” to claim a first Grand Slam semi-final and is urging herself to look forward despite the pain.

“Today's loss hurts a lot because I was so close. I was just one point away. But what can you do?” continued Sakkari, who had match point at 5-3 in the decider.

“There are lots of positives and some negatives. I just have to embrace it and just move forward and see how am I going to do it the next time.”

Zidansek belongs on the ‘big stage’

This has been a monumental fortnight for Tamara Zidansek.

Prior to Paris, the 23-year-old hadn’t ventured beyond the second round of a major; she’s now the first Slovenian to reach a Grand Slam semi-final and will debut in the top 50 on Monday.

“I think we all dream of making it big at Grand Slams. I played juniors Grand Slam first round and I was like completely overwhelmed,” admitted Zidansek after a 7-5, 6-3 loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

“It took me a few years to kind of get used to the big tournaments. The fact that I managed to play this well, got this far, just shows me that I can play at the big stage. 

“I'm really happy with that, so I'm going to try to take that and just build from this, try to even work more. I'm looking forward to the next tournaments."

The team spirit in the Zidansek camp is next level. So how will they toast a memorable breakout?

“Well, my coach said that he is going to do a party at his house. He has a big house. So, yeah, that's how we're going to celebrate.”

What is Stef’s cheat meal?

To be in the world’s elite crop of players and be focusing in on the latter stages of a Grand Slam requires serious dedication.

Treats and fast food have to be limited. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas, facing Alexander Zverev in Friday’s semi-final, gave a magnificent answer in our latest Fans 2 Players feature video. 

The No.5 seed was pitched this question by Paul from London: “What is your ideal menu?”

Tsitsipas, vying for his maiden major final, gave his three-course selection:

“So, Paul, I’m a big enthusiast and fan of Japanese food. I also like Greek, but Italian, for me, with all the pasta selections, makes it a great meal,” revealed the 22-year-old.

“So I would probably go for a starter of something like octopus, with some vegetables and tomatoes. Something light to start.

“Then, I would go for lasagna. I really like lasagna and rigatoni. Some pasta selection lets say.

“I haven’t eaten dessert recently. I skip dessert. I’m on a sugar deprivation diet. If I had to have a ‘cheat meal’ of whatever, I would probably go for our Greek mosaiko. It’s a heavy dessert, chocolatey. It will hit you strong.”

Sharapova salutes countrywoman

2012 and 2014 champion on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Maria Sharapova was watching the first women’s semi-final with a keen eye.

The Russian was quick to congratulate her compatriot Pavlyuchenkova, tweeting a screenshot from her TV screen. 

Pavlyuchenkova is bidding to become the fourth Russian woman to lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen after Sharapova, Anastasia Myskina (2004) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009).

Ice-cool Bublik

Just prior to his doubles semi-final triumph Alexander Bublik was already cracking the jokes.

Asked by umpire James Keothavong which coloured box he wanted for his towel, the Kazakhstani retorted, “I’m not sweating in doubles, I don’t care.”

Maybe not in the first set, but the 23-year-old jetted all over the court, connecting with some wild hot shots to help book a final ticket alongside countryman Andrey Golubev.

Djoker to ‘joker’

Wearing the Denver Nuggets jersey of Nikola Jokic, world No.1 Novak Djokovic took to the practice courts in Paris in tribute to his fellow Serbian.

Jokic has been named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), prompting Djokovic to post on Instagram: “Congrats to the ‘Joker,’ love you brother,” the top seed beating his chest for added measure.

The 2016 Roland-Garros champion will hope Jokic’s accolade can inspire him to victory over perennial rival Rafael Nadal in Friday’s second semi-final.

Krejcikova honours legend watching over her

Taking to the mic after her marathon semi-final triumph, Krejcikova thanked those dearest to her, including former mentor and 1998 Wimbledon winner Jana Novotna who died in 2017.

"Jana Novotna from upstairs, she's just really looking after me, I really miss her and I really want to thank her for... just because of her I'm here, it's really important for me to say this out loud."

Simply classy from Krejcikova.

Shot of the day