Sakkari makes it a double celebration for Greece

In a historic day for her nation, 17th seed matches Tsitsipas's run to the last four at Roland-Garros

Maria Sakkari, Roland-Garros 2021 quarter-finals©️ Nicolas Gouhier/FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

A new name is assured on the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen following swashbuckling Greek Maria Sakkari’s latest giant-slaying breakthrough.

On a warm Wednesday in Paris, the 25-year-old was unflappable through 91 minutes as she dethroned defending champion Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final.

It continued an extraordinary Roland-Garros for Greece as the 17th seed matched good friend Stefanos Tsitsipas’s charge to the last four in the men’s singles.

“It's a big achievement, for sure. I'm enjoying… my tennis and myself. I have people around me telling me it was going to come. You know, they were right,” Sakkari said.

“Maybe I was the one who was telling them, I was impatient, telling them, ‘When and when and when?’ It actually came this week, so I'm happy about it.”

The draw was already blown wide apart as both women remained the only two ranked in the top 30.

Sakkari was coming off her first victory over a top 10 player at a major – against last year’s finalist Sofia Kenin – but Swiatek had won 22 straight sets in Paris and was a heavy favourite to defend her first major as the only top-16 seed in the quarter-finals.

That winning streak of sets was promptly broken on Court Philippe-Chatrier as Sakkari saved a break point on a bold, kicking second serve and secured the opener on a heavy backhand.

Swiatek had been running hot, having landed in Paris on the back of a title run in Rome and set the bar high in her fourth-round dismissal of free-swinging Marta Kostyuk.

Against Sakkari, though, the strain was painted across her panicked face from early on as she struggled to know which balls to pull the trigger on, and which to redirect.

“Obviously I didn't play my best tennis, that's for sure,” Swiatek said. “But Maria did a good job with playing at my forehand, which wasn't working pretty well today… This year I had more pressure on me, but also I did good because I think quarter-final is a good job.

“I'm showing consistency. Obviously I know I can play better than today. Everybody has seen that. I know I can play heavier balls and everything, but days like that happen.

“I didn't have a day like that last year. Basically that's why I won, but the most important thing right now is to take lessons of it, not let it happen next time.”

The Greek had clear momentum as she reeled off 15 of 21 points to 2-0 before Swiatek immediately called for a medical timeout to have a hip complaint treated.

The pause did not perturb a relaxed Sakkari. She scoffed down a banana, chatted to the chair umpire, stretched and fist-pumped as she shot a grin to her team.

Swiatek returned with her upper right leg strapped but was completely out of sorts, unable to find her strike zone and seven games later, Sakkari’s moment of truth had arrived.

Maria Sakkari, Iga Swiatek, women's singles, 1/4 F© Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Two match points vanished as the Greek served for a semi-final berth, but she showed tremendous poise and aggression – on a second serve down the T – to spring the upset.

Having snapped one 10-match winning streak, Sakkari will attempt to do it again when she meets unseeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova next.

The chance of a Grand Slam champion from Greece – let alone two in Paris – has become a distinct possibility.

Sakkari admitted she “made a huge step”, but “still had a long way to go” to fulfill that dream, while the night before Tsitsipas said “my ego tells me I want more”.

Regardless of what transpires in the next four days, both have already delivered the sport a further boost back home.

“Well, now for sure it exists. Now it's probably the biggest sport these days,” Sakkari said. “Football is over. Basketball is over. So tennis is in the spotlight… It's very exciting times for Greek tennis.”