Sabatini: Haddad Maia deserves to be here

 - Dan Imhoff

Former world No.3 hails South America's next great women's hope

Beatriz Haddad Maia, Roland-Garros 2023, fourth round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Expectations are high when a 15-year-old South American reaches a breakout Grand Slam semi-final in Paris. That moment came for Gabriela Sabatini in Paris in 1985 and while the Argentine finally realised her potential, winning the US Open five years later, Roland-Garros ultimately eluded her grasp.

Now Sabatini is looking to Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is due to face seventh seed Ons Jabeur in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Five times a semi-finalist on the terre battue, the former world No.3 has high hopes 14th seed Haddad Maia could surpass her deepest runs in Paris and put South American women’s tennis firmly back on the map.

“So happy. I’m so excited to see her make it this far,” Sabatini told rolandgarros.com. “She's a great player, I really like her. I've been following her the last couple of years.

“I'm very happy for her and Latin America. She really deserves to be there.

“She's been working very hard. I like her mentality on the court, how she analyses all the time. She's very focused, she has very good concentration and she's very stable.”

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A different journey

Unlike Sabatini, Haddad Maia was never the teen prodigy and she took a far more arduous route to reach her second week at a major for the first time.

Before Roland-Garros this year, the 27-year-old had never passed a Grand Slam second round, but after three hours and 51 minutes – the longest women’s match of the season – the Brazilian out-duelled Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-5 for her first major quarter-final.

She is the first Brazilian women since Maria Bueno in 1968 to reach the quarter-finals and will look to go one better when she meets Jabeur.

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

While Sabatini never made it to a title match in Paris, she believes her fellow South American has not yet reached her peak and has the potential to push deeper than she herself managed in the French capital.

“Most definitely there is room for improvement,” she said. “She has a great, tall physique and [is] left-handed, she has a good serve. When I saw her I said 'you should come more to the net' because she has a game that she could finish points there.”

Haddad's Maia's Grand Slam quarter-final moment of truth arrives on Wednesday.