Swiatek, Gauff Sprint Their Way Into Roland-Garros Quarterfinals

Iga Swiatek (photo: Jürgen Hasenkopf)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, June 2, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

The older Iga Swiatek gets the better she plays – and, sometimes, quicker, too. On Sunday morning, under cool and blustery conditions at the French Open in Paris, the just-turned 23-year-old three-time Roland-Garros champion won the shortest match of her career – 40 minutes.

It started at about 11 a.m., just eight hours after men’s defending champion Novak Djokovic finished his four and one-half hour, five set marathon against Lorenzo Musetti that ended at 3:06 a.m. Sunday in the latest finish in tournament history.

Indeed, Iga’s Bakery was open for business on Court Philippe-Chatrier, as she served a double-bagel 6-0, 6-0 thrashing on poor, unsuspecting Anastasia Potapova of Russia, the 41st-ranked player on the WTA Tour, but someone who used to master Swiatek when they were juniors.

The first set passed by in 19 minutes as Swiatek won 24 of 30 points, which included seven of her 13 winners and just one unforced error. She won 24 of 28 second-set points. Potapova mustered just three return points during the entire match. Swiatek won on points 48-10 without facing any game points against her.

“I was just really focused and, in the zone,” said Swiatek, who won her 16th straight match on clay, in her on-court interview.  “It went pretty quickly, pretty weird.”

With her fourth-round victory secured, her 18th straight win at Roland-Garros, Swiatek advanced to the quarterfinals against fifth seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who ended the surprising run of 125th-ranked Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic, 6-4, 6-2, in an hour and 20 minutes – or, twice as long as the Polish superstar’s match lasted. Vondrousova, a 2019 Roland-Garros finalist, converted four of seven break points and outpointed Danilova 64-46.

Now, following her dazzling display against Potapova, Swiatek seems poised to win her third straight Roland-Garros title.

“I’m just proud of myself and the work that I’ve put [in] to be in this place,” she expressed in her post-match news conference after her latest Paris triumph.

“Everything changed because I’m just older, and I play better.”

The subject of Djokovic’s early-morning finish came up in Swiatek’s news conference. She said that late finishes don’t just end when the match ends because there’s still other obligations the player has. The bottom line, according to the World No. 1 Swiatek, is they aren’t healthy.

“It’s not like we’re going to fall asleep one hour after the match,” Swiatek said. “Usually it takes us, like, four hours to even chill, and you need to do recovery, media. It’s not like the work ends when the match point. I was always one of the players that said that we should start a little bit earlier. Also, I don’t know if the fans (who) are watching these matches if they have to go to work next day.”

World No. 3 Coco Gauff of the United States, who sprinted into the quarterfinal round with a one-hour, 6-1, 6-2 victory over No. 51 Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy, said she thinks the matter of late finishes needs to be addressed.

“It’s a complicated thing,” said Gauff, who is through to her fourth straight Roland-Garros quarterfinal. “But I definitely think for the health and safety of the players it would be in the sport’s best interest to try to avoid those matches finishing, or starting, after a certain time.”

Gauff, who rolled to her 29th victory of the season and has now beaten Cocciaretto in each of their three meetings, hit 19 winners and outpointed her opponent 54-30. Gauff faces No. 8 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who dispatched No. 72 Clara Tauson of Denmark, 6-4, 6-4, in the quarterfinal round.

Jabeur needed an hour and 35 minutes – longest of the four women’s fourth-round matches Sunday – to move into the last eight at Roland-Garros for the second straight year. She hit twice as many winners as Tauson, 28-14, and outpointed her opponent 81-70. Eight of Jabeur’s 10 wins have come on clay this season.

“It’s going to be definitely a difficult match. She’s such a fighter on the court,” Jabeur said of her upcoming quarterfinal against Gauff. “I hope I can play good and I can play my game because I know I can bother her as well. But it’s going to be definitely a great fight between us.”

Tsitsipas, Alcaraz win to set up quarterfinal rematch

Ninth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece defeated unseeded Italian Matteo Arnaldi, ranked 35th, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-2, in three hours and 11 minutes on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to set up a quarterfinal rematch with No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz, who dropped only seven games in defeating No. 21 Felix Auger-Aliassime, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1.

After his win, Tsitsipas shared his enthusiasm about the crowd.

“Now me and the crowd are on this, so it felt amazing,” said Tsitsipas, who after losing the opening set saved a set point at 5-4 down in the next set and broke back for 5-all. “I felt there was power within me to turn this game around.”

Soon, Tsitsipas gained control of the match and closed out his 28th victory of the season by winning three consecutive sets.

“I had to push today. It was one of the craziest comebacks I have had,” Tsitsipas said after winning his 17th clay-court match of 2024 and booking his place in his fourth Roland-Garros quarterfinal. “The momentum seemed to be going his way the entire match. It was very frustrating on my end because I thought I was trying my best, trying to make him move, but nothing really seemed to be working.

“The spirit is the reason I managed to comeback today. Even at 3-5 in the second set I felt that I could comeback. That there was power in me to turn this match around and I think the game at 5-4 when I broke him was the biggest pleasure I experienced in tennis for a long time because I felt there was a chance.”

What about playing Alcaraz?

“He has said in the past that he likes to play against me,” said Tsitsipas, who is through to his eighth major quarterfinal in search of his first Grand Slam title. “I hope he likes it a little bit less.”

Later, Tsitsipas returned to play doubles with his younger brother Petros and they won their first-round match against Denys Molchanov of Ukraine and John-Patrick Smith of Australia, 7-6 (9), 6-4.

Meanwhile, the World No. 3 Alcaraz of Spain made quick work of his Canadian foe, Auger-Aliassime, winning in straight sets in two hours and 20 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier to close out the day session. Alcaraz picked up his 22nd win of the season and drew even in his career head-to-head at 3-3 with Auger-Aliassime, who was slowed by a groin injury from the middle of the second set.

The 21-year-old Alcaraz outpointed Auger-Aliassime 95-68 to advance to his third Paris quarterfinal and eighth major quarterfinal overall. He extended the 27-year streak of Spaniards in the event’s quarterfinals.

“I am really happy with my performance today,” said Alcaraz, who hit 34 winners and took advantage of 39 unforced errors by Auger-Aliassime. “I think I played a really high level of tennis. Really focused, no ups and downs in the match. That is something I am working on.

“I am really happy with everything, my serve, my movement, my shots. I know that Felix is a great player and playing great tennis. The head-to-head he was up and I was looking forward to being equal with him. I am really happy to get the win in the end.” 

Dimitrov beats Hurkacz, has now reached quarters at all Grand Slams

No. 10 seed Grigor Dimitrov has now reached the last eight at all four Grand Slam tournaments following his  7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over good friend, No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz from Poland, in an all-Top 10 battle on Court Suzanne-Lenglen that lasted two hours and 51 minutes.

The victory advanced the 33-year-old Bulgarian to Tuesday’s quarterfinals against No. 2 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy, who recovered from a shaky start to beat No. 79 Corentin Moutet, the last Frenchman in the draw, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, in two hours and 41 minutes in the featured night session match on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Despite a heavy fall in the third set by Dimitrov that happened after he dove after a deep volley — and required medical treatment — Dimitrov improved to 6-0 lifetime against Hurkacz and kept the popular Polish star from reaching his first quarterfinal in Paris.

Dimitrov withstood 20 aces and 48 winners from Hurkacz. He countered with 38 winners and benefitted from 43 unforced by his opponent.

“It’s very hard to play against such a good friend. I’ve known him for quite a few years,” said Dimitrov, relieved but happy, during his on-court interview. “We practice a lot and we’ve had quite a few moments together. I knew it was going to be a difficult match, but I knew also that I had to fight a lot.

“I always wanted to get to that second week. Roland-Garros was the only Slam where I felt that I could not get that extra step. But today, 15 years later, I made it, so I’m very happy with that.”

Sinner remained undefeated in Grand Slams this season (11-0) but he dropped his first set of the Parisian fortnight as he was pushed to four sets by the crowd favorite Moutet.

“It was very tough for me. I think he played very, very well in the first set,” Sinner said in his on-court interview. “I had some chances, but he played much better than me, so I had to adjust a little bit. He had an amazing run here at Roland-Garros. The atmosphere as always was amazing.

“He plays differently to most of my opponents, so it was tough for me. He is also a lefty. You don’t play so many times against left-handers, so I’m happy to be in the next round.”

With his victory, Sinner advanced to the seventh Grand Slam quarterfinal of his career, the most by an Italian man in Open Era.

Around Roland-Garros

Thanks to a Sunday without rain at Stade Roland-Garros, the men’s and women’s doubles draws and mixed doubles draw had a chance to start getting caught up. They dominated play on the outer courts. Among the highlights:

Last year’s Roland-Garros men’s finalists and this year’s Monte-Carlo champions, Belgians Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen, reached the third round after defeating John Peers of Australia and Roman Safiullin of Russia, 6-4, 6-4, in 82 minutes.

Women’s No. 1 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan and Elise Mertens of Belgium were upset in the second round by Emma Navarro of the United States and Diana Shnaider of Russia, 6-2, 6-4, in an hour and 27 minutes. The American/Russian pair outpointed their opponents 69-56.

In mixed doubles, No. 2 seeds Laura Siegemund of Germany and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France defeated French pair Alizé Cornet and Nicolas Mahut, 6-1, 6-3, in 55 minutes.

Sunday’s Roland-Garros results

Monday’s Roland-Garros order of play 

By the numbers

Iga Swiatek has won her last 20 matches against opponents ranked outside the Top 20.

“Quotable …”

“Obviously I don’t want to complain too much about it because we are very blessed and privileged to be playing for a lot of money. There are people working real jobs under worse conditions for less money and just trying to get by. It’s just tough for me knowing where some of my family come from and where things are, and I think about the people hearing this. Yes, if I was a person working, I would be upset to hear, you know, players complain.”

— No. 3 Coco Gauff of the United States, during her post-match news conference, addresses the matter of late-night finishes after the Novak Djokovic-Lorenzo Musetti match, which began after 10:30 p.m. Saturday night and didn’t end until 3:06 a.m. Sunday.

“Unfortunately, in the last couple of days I started feeling not well, eating not well. Last night I did not get an hour of sleep. It’s very tough to be honest. Especially when you want to play good, you have to try to keep everything inside. But unfortunately, if you keep it inside it doesn’t go away, it just keeps growing. The stress inside my body kept growing and unfortunately today was the day when it exploded.”

Anastasia Potapova, in her post-match news conference, attributing her one-sided loss to Iga Swiatek to the constant rain delays over the last several days, which drained her of her energy.

“I think especially when you play on a clay-court here, you have to paint [a picture with your tennis]. You need to have finesse and also be able to read the court a little bit. Clay courts are always very tricky, you never know what kind of conditions you are going to get.

“I like my chances, I like when I can use my body a lot and chase balls around the court. Use my slice, use my variety. At the same time, when the ball is there to be hit, I try to make the most out of it.”

Grigor Dimitrov, in his on-court interview after defeating Hubert Hurkacz, describing his aesthetically-pleasing style of play.