Day 11 Diary: Kamiji setting sights on 'Diede the Great'

Japanese wheelchair star is focused on getting the better of her long-time rival in Paris this week

Yui Kamiji, Roland-Garros 2022, Tennis Fauteuil Simple Dames, 1/4 de Finale, Philippe Montigny / FFT
 - Chris Oddo

This week in Paris, Japan's Yui Kamiji is in the running to win her ninth Grand Slam title, and fifth at Roland-Garros.

The 28-year-old opened her account in the women's wheelchair singles draw on Wednesday with a hard-fought victory over her compatriot Momoko Ohtani, 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-2.

The No.2 seed says she was a bit more nervous than usual on Wednesday.

“It’s always difficult to play Grand Slams, it’s such a big tournament, and I’m really honoured to play here," Kamiji said. "My friends are here today, so I was a little bit nervous but a little bit encouraged, they pushed me to up my level, so it’s a great experience.

"I love France, and Paris, and the people here – so I really want to win.” 

Kamiji is hoping to stand in the way of Diede de Groot, the Dutchwoman who is bidding for her sixth consecutive Grand Slam title this week. De Groot defeated Kamiji in straight sets in last year's final.

Yui Kamiji, Roland Garros 2022, wheelchair© Philippe Montigny/FFT

“Of course she is a good player, she is always good on clay courts, hard courts, grass courts – everything – but I will try to find a way," Kamiji said. "She does many things on the court and off the court and I really respect her, but I want to win this year.” 

After Wednesday's victory and a 20-minute chat with Japanese press, Kamiji told that her calendar was booked for the rest of the day. She was planning to do some scouting on the 13-time Slam champion.

“I think I need to watch her movement and tactics and everything, because she is also improving every time," said Kamiji of her rival. "I haven’t seen her play since Australia this year so first of all I am going to watch her match today then I will think about it."

Yui Kamiji & Diede de Groot / Roland-Garros 2021©Jean-Charles Caslot / FFT

Top Czech junior following Kvitova's lead

No.1 seed Petra Marcinko was riding high in Paris, having produced 20 wins in 24 matches at the ITF level after claiming the Australian Open girls' title earlier this year.

But the Croatian was sent packing on Wednesday as Nikola Bartunkova of the Czech Republic played streamlined, aggressive tennis to earn a momentous 7-6(5), 7-5 triumph.

The 13th-seeded Czech was in attack mode from start to finish as she sealed her victory over Marcinko in one hour and 46 minutes.

Nikola Bartunkova, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Filles, 2eme Tour, Clement Mahoudeau / FFT

“When we started I had some nerves, but when I was playing ball after ball I wasn’t too nervous. I think I played very well against Petra, so I’m happy," the 16-year-old told

“I think I was active, I was inside the court, I was aggressive more than Petra, so I was a lot of the time making volleys, and I think that was good.” 

Bartunkova, one of three Czechs to reach the last eight in the girls' singles draw, takes her cues from two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova.

Her flat strokes and sweeping net game certainly do inspire comparisons.

“For me Petra Kvitova is my favourite player, she was my favourite since I was 10 years old," she said. "She is very kind and she plays so good.” 

Nikola Bartunkova, Roland Garros 2022, girls singles© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Started from the bottom now we're here

Daria Kasatkina has been through many ups and downs with her coach Carlos Martinez, the Spaniard who is also known for working with 2009 Roland-Garros champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Now that the 25-year-old has broken new ground in Paris, reaching her first major semi-final with her 6-4, 7-6(5) win over Veronika Kudermetova, the No.20 seed took time to reflect on her rewarding journey with the Spanish coach.

"I'm really thankful to Carlos because, yeah, we started to work together when I was on the bottom of the ocean, let's say," she said. "It was tough. It was tough. First year maybe more was super tough until I get to some level last year."

On a tour where players changes coaches with head-spinning frequency, Kasatkina's ace up her sleeve is her steady, consistent relationship with Martinez.

"I'm thankful for his patience with me because I'm not easy person as well, on the court and off the court. He is always finding the ways. It's unbelievable how he can adjust the way of working and the way of talking as well, compared to how I feel," she explained.

The best fighter, ever?

Kasatkina has never made any secrets about the fact that she is a die-hard fan of Rafael Nadal, and has been ever since she was a kid.

That explains why the 20th seed was doubly happy in her press conference, after reaching her maiden Grand Slam semi-final.

She told reporters that she went to sleep last night with Nadal leading by a set and 3-0 over Novak Djokovic in their quarter-final, and added that she was glad she was sleeping and didn't have to suffer through the remainder of the epic four-hour and 12-minute contest.

"I'm really happy for Rafa because I can not imagine how tough was the circumstances of everything," Kasatkina said. "I mean, he's saying that can be his last match at Roland-Garros and I cannot imagine how can you go on the match with this feeling. So another time he shows like how strong he is mentally."

Kasatkina was asked if she could choose one part of Rafa to incorporate into her own game, what would it be?

Not surprisingly, she chose the Spaniard's mental toughness.

"It's so typical to say this, because it's so obvious that he's the best fighter in the history of sport maybe," Kasatkina said. "You can have the best backhand, forehand, serve, forever, but if you cannot fight, you can not win. So I think the fighting spirit is the most important."

Act your age, Iga

Poland's Iga Swiatek turned 21 on Monday in Paris, but she's clearly got more important things to worry about than how old she is.

The Polish tour de force is focused on her jaw-dropping winning streak, which hit 33 with her 6-3, 6-2 victory over Jessica Pegula in quarter-final action on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Wednesday.

So we'll excuse her for temporarily forgetting how old she is. If only we all could be so lucky...

Shot of the day

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Stat of the day