Maria Sakkari ended defending champion Iga Swiatek’s 11-match and 22-set winning streaks at the French Open on Wednesday and reached the semifinals of a major tournament for the first time.
The 17th-seeded Sakkari used strong and steady baseline play to eliminate Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 at Court Philippe Chatrier in the quarterfinals and ensure that the clay-court tournament will end with a new Grand Slam champion.
“I couldn’t have done it without my team and their support and I just want to thank them and we still have a long way to go, of course,” Sakkari said, “but we made a huge step today.”
All four women remaining in the field are making their Slam semifinal debuts.
On Thursday, Sakkari plays unseeded Barbora Krejcikova, and No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova faces unseeded Tamara Zidansek.
Krejcikova advanced earlier Wednesday by beating 17-year-old Coco Gauff 7-6 (6), 6-3.
Sakkari, who is from Greece, and Krejcikova, who is from the Czech Republic, are both 25. Each has won only one tour-level title. Neither had been past the fourth round at a major until now.
And both dealt with early deficits Wednesday.
Swiatek, a 20-year-old from Poland who has looked untouchable on clay, jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but then Sakkari took over, collecting eight of 10 games. When Sakkari smacked a backhand winner down the line to close a 15-stroke point that claimed that set, she leaned over and punched the air with her right fist.
That ended Swiatek’s set streak at Roland Garros, which dated to the beginning of last year’s tournament, when she dropped only 28 games in all. She’d only lost 20 games this year through four matches.
But Sakkari, who also beat 2020 French Open runner-up Sofia Kenin, used clean strokes — accumulating 26 winners, nine more than her opponent — and a strategy of serving to Swiatek’s forehand to gain control.
Down 2-0 in the second set, Swiatek took a medical timeout and left the court with a trainer, returning with her upper right leg taped up. During the break, Sakkari tried to stay warm by hopping and skipping side-to-side behind the baseline and did not lose a beat when play resumed.