Day 12 Diary: Next wave of Czech women is here

Three girls from the storied tennis nation are through to the juniors semi-finals in Paris

Sara Bejlek, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Filles, 1/4 de Finale, Clement Mahoudeau / FFT
 - Chris Oddo

The Roland-Garros girls’ singles draw is a Czech jam once again.

Three players from the storied tennis nation advanced to the semi-finals on Thursday in Paris - No.9 seed Lucie Havlickova, No.10 seed Sara Bejlek and No.13 seed Nikola Bartunkova

Last year’s girls' singles champion – Linda Noskova - also hailed from the Czech Republic. 

Havlickova knocked off Canada’s Annabelle Xu on Court 6, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-1, and will face Bejlek, her doubles partner, in the semis. 

The pair also cruised into the girls’ doubles semis with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Petra Marcinko and Johanne Christine Svendsen. 

“We know each other really good, so that’s going to be interesting, our matches are interesting every time, so I hope it won’t change anything about our doubles,” Havlickova said of facing Bejlek for a spot in the final.

Bejlek defeated No.14 seed Mirra Andreeva 6-4, 6-1, while Bartunkova defeated Slovakia’s Nikola Daubnerova, 6-3, 6-0. 

Bartunkova will face Argentina’s Solana Sierra in the other semi-final. She's in the doubles semis as well, alongside Switzerland's Celine Naef.

Havlickova and her Czech mates are thrilled to be making an impact on the draw, no matter who comes out on top. 

“It’s great that there are three Czech players into the semi-finals,” Havlickova said with a smile. “It’s a big success for us. 

“Yeah, I guess Czech girls are really good, and we’re doing something right. I hope it won’t just stay in the juniors and we will go to the WTA tour as powerful as we are here and we will do something like Petra Kvitova.”

Sara Bejlek, Lucie Havlickova, Roland-Garros 2022, Double Filles, 1/4 de Finale, Clement Mahoudeau / FFT

Billie Jean the clay Queen

After Iga Swiatek's dominant victory over Daria Kasatkina on Thursday in Paris, it was time to celebrate the Golden anniversary of Billie Jean King's 1972 women's singles title at Roland-Garros on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

King, who completed the career Grand Slam with her title in Paris, will also receive the Legion d’Honneur from French President Emmanuel Macron at Élysée Palace on Friday.

"I want to thank you for everything that you've done for women's tennis and for women," said Martina Navratilova in a tribute video honouring the legend. "50 years, and we're still here!"

"You are really the start of the tennis, for women who fight for everything," said 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone. "We will be grateful forever."

"Billie Jean has been so special, so important in the tennis family," said Argentinian great Gabriela Sabatini. "I think that the words that I could say would not be enough for everything she has done. We are all grateful to have her all these years, as a part of tennis."

The transcendent athlete, activist and pioneer will be honoured for her fight for women's sport, gender equality and the rights of LGBTQ people in sport.

Iga salutes BJK

Swiatek took part in the on-court ceremony to honour King, sharing the moment - and the camera - with the Hall of Fame legend.

After her semi-final win over Kasatkina, the Pole spoke in a reverent tone about the impact King has had on women's sport.

"It's amazing that she is still on these tournaments and she's showing us how involved she is, because that's the person who basically made women's tennis more equal to men's tennis," Swiatek said. ""I know everybody is saying that, but that's the truth. Without her, tennis wouldn't be the same."

Swiatek treaded carefully around the legend, making sure she didn't step on any toes.

"It's really nice that I could be a part of the celebration, but I didn't actually know what to do exactly. I didn't want to, you know, spoil her moment," added the humble 21-year-old.

Billie Jean King, Amelie Mauresmo, Iga Swiatek, Gilles Moretton, Roland Garros 2022© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Rafa ready to rumble

Thirteen-time champion Rafael Nadal took to the practice courts ahead of Friday's semi-final with Alexander Zverev, the Spaniard enjoying his last day as a 35-year-old with some hard work on the clay.

"I had a good victory with a good level of energy in the quarter-finals," Nadal told "But now another big challenge is coming."

Belgium's Bailly full of surprises in Paris

Belgium’s Gilles Arnaud Bailly’s run to the semi-finals of the boys’ singles draw has been a pleasant surprise.

The 16-year-old saved three match points to knock out top-seeded Bruno Kuzuhara on Wednesday in Paris. A day later he put together a strong, focused effort to hold off Switzerland’s Dylan Dietrich, 6-3, 7-5.

“It feels incredible,” he said on Thursday after the win. “It’s like a dream come true to play here and to play the semi-final – it’s unreal.” 

Is Bailly surprised with his performance so far in Paris? 

Gilles Arnaud Bailly, Roland Garros 2022, boys' singles quarter-finals© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

“Yeah, you can say that," he told "I felt I was playing really good, because I won two Grade-1 tournaments and I felt pretty good on clay coming in here. Of course it’s a surprise, but here in the juniors everyone can win over everybody. The level is so close, it depends on a few points.” 

The smooth-striking Belgian works extremely hard on his mental game, and it shows in his tennis. He credits Brian Lomax, his mental coach, with helping him get the most from his game. 

“80 per cent of the matches will depend on the mental,” he said. “When I started working with my mental coach it’s such a difference, I feel so much more calm on the court and enjoy it so much more - it makes such a difference.”

Gilles Arnaud Bailly, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Garcons, 1/4 de Finale, Loic Wacziak / FFT

Mixed in the family

Playing mixed was a way of life for Ena Shibahara during her formative years.

Japan's Shibahara, who claimed the Roland-Garros mixed doubles title with Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands, has her family to thank for her origins in the discipline.

The 24-year-old threw it back to her early days as a mixed doubles extra during family outings when she was a child after she and Koolhof defeated Ulrikke Eikeri and Joran Vliegen, 7-6(5), 6-2 for their first Grand Slam title on Thursday.

"It's very special," she said. "I grew up with a family of five and we all kind of played tennis together, I'm the youngest, so I would always be trying to fight for the spot to be the fourth player. That is basically how I started my tennis. So it was very special for me to win this title in mixed doubles."

Wesley Koolhof, Ena Shibahara, Roland-Garros 2022©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Hard work pays off for 'emotional' Fernandez

Argentina's Gustavo Fernandez ousted two-time defending champion Alfie Hewett with a breathtaking performance on Thursday to reach the men's wheelchair singles final. The No.3 seed's 6-1, 6-1 triumph left him feeling extremely emotional.

"It's been a while since I'm in a Grand Slam final," said Fernandez, who is through to his first major final since Wimbledon 2019.

"I was very emotional because I worked really, really hard. I don't know that people really understand how much I work every day to try to be in these kind of matches and these kind of situation and try to perform like that.

"So when you actually do that and perform, it's a kind of happiness that I can't explain. So, I was really, really happy. I'm still, I'm enjoying that for the moment, and I want to get that in my body and then get my mind in the Saturday match."

Fernandez will face Japanese legend and seven-time Roland-Garros champion Shingo Kunieda in a rematch of the 2018 final.

Kunieda defeated 16-year-old Tokito Oda on Thursday, 6-2, 6-1.

Gustavo Fernandez, Roland-Garros 2022, Tennis Fauteuil Simple Messieurs, 1/2 Finale, Philippe Montigny / FFT

Shot of the day

Stat of the Day