Mirra, Mirra On The Clay: Andreeva Is A Teen Phenom At Roland-Garros

Mirra Andreeva (photo: Roland-Garros video)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, June 6, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Seventeen-year-old Mirra Andreeva is gifted and mature beyond her years on a tennis court. World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, who hadn’t tasted a major loss this year after winning the Australian Open and garnering victories in her first four matches at Roland-Garros, learned the hard way against Andreeva, who was victorious in their quarterfinal tussle Wednesday afternoon.

Deep down, though, the 38th-ranked Andreeva is still a teenager with a huge heart she wears on her sleeve and complemented by a big smile on her face that everyone adores.

Andreeva’s match-winning shot, a delicate lob that sailed over a hapless Sabalenka and landed safely just inside the baseline, was a thing of beauty. It secured her 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 victory in two hours and 29 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier and advanced the Russian to face No. 12 seed Jasmine Paolini of Italy in today’s semifinal round.

“I really tried not to focus on the score, and when it was the second match point for me, I was trying to imagine I was saving a break point, so I was trying to play brave and I managed to win!” Andreeva said smiling, during her on-court interview with Mats Wilander.

Andreeva ended Sabalenka’s streak of 23 straight sets won at Grand Slams and ended her run of six straight Slam semifinals, too. In winning, Andreeva became the youngest Roland-Garros semifinalist  since Martina Hingis in 1997.

What a difference a year in Paris has made for the native of Krasnoyarsk, the second largest city in Siberian Russia, but who trains in Cannes, France. Last year, Andreeva qualified for the Roland-Garros main draw and reached the third round before losing to Coco Gauff. In this year’s run-up to the semifinals, she’s scored victories over Emina Bektas, Victoria Azarenka, Peyton Stearns, Varvara Gracheva and Sabalenka.

Along the way, Andreeva has charmed the Paris tennis crowds who have flocked to Stade Roland-Garros to see her perform and gained crowd support with each victory. “Honestly, I was really nervous before the [quarterfinal] match,” she added in her on-court interview. “I knew [Aryna] would have an advantage with the crowd. But, I’m a little surprised because you also cheered for me! I didn’t expect that. So thank you for cheering for me!”

Since hiring coach Conchita Martinez, who formerly coached Garbiñe Muguruza to her 2017 Wimbledon title and was a Wimbledon champion herself in 1994, Andreeva has reached the second week in three of her last four major appearances. Indeed, everything is looking up for one of the rising stars of women’s pro tennis.

“I always play the way I want to play. We have a plan with my coach for the match, but after, I forget everything, and when I play a match, I don’t have any thoughts in my head,” Andreeva said after defeating Sabalenka to reach her first major semifinal. “So maybe I would say that my strength could be that I just play how I want to play and I do whatever I want to do.”

When Andreeva was asked by Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim on her way off the court Wednesday to describe how she met the moment of victory against Sabalenka, her reply spoke volumes. She said: “I was very nervous before the match. It’s the first time for me playing on a big court — on Philippe-Chatrier — so I kind of expected the crowd would be cheering for her and she would have a little advantage, mental-wise and game-wise, because she beat me a month before when we played.

Indeed, Sabalenka did not face a break point in her 6-1, 6-4 win over Andreeva in the recent Madrid quarterfinals. She learned from the experience and improved upon the result this time.

”I just tried to focus on myself and play point by point, and to not think about the score. Just to think of revenge.”

Words of wisdom. Spoken like a true, fearless teenager.

Moving on: Zverev reaches fourth straight Roland-Garros semifinal

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev advanced to his fourth straight Roland-Garros semifinal with his 6-4 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory over 11th seed Alex de Minaur of Australia in Wednesday’s featured night session match on Court Philippe-Chatrier. It was the German’s eighth career triumph over de Minaur in 10 meetings and 11th straight victory this season.

De Minaur gave Zverev all he could handle, hitting 28 winners and converting three of eight break points. In the end, though, Zverev recovered after failing to serve out the match at 5-3 and broke the Australian in the next game – finishing match-point with a 21-shot rally – to put a wrap on the two-hour and 59-minute quarterfinal. It kept Zverev’s hopes of winning a first Grand Slam title alive.

Zverev hit 20 winners, made 48 unforced errors and outpointed de Minaur 104-96. De Minaur received tremendous applause as he walked off Court Philippe-Chatrier and into the Parisian night.

“I have a mindset that you have to work harder than everyone else to be the best player and I think the best players are all doing that,” Zverev said in his on-court interview with Alex Corretja, talking about his work ethic. “For me, I like to work to my limit and, if I do that, playing five sets is not that difficult. I have been doing that over many years now and I am happy it is paying off. I am happy to be in another semifinal, hopefully I can win one.”

On Friday, Zverev will face No. 7 seed Casper Ruud of Norway, who advanced by walkover after Novak Djokovic withdrew from the tournament with a torn medial meniscus on Tuesday. Their career series is tied 2-2. Ruud defeated Zverev, 6-3, 6-4, 6-0, in last year’s Roland-Garros semifinals and has won two straight from the German No. 1.

To reach the semifinal round, Zverev won back-to-back five-setters against Tallon Griekspoor and Holger Rune — spending a combined eight-plus hours on court — and began his French Open fortnight by defeating 14-time Roland-Garros champion Rafael Nadal in the opening round and former World No. 7 David Goffin in the second round.

Wednesday’s Roland-Garros results

Thursday’s Roland-Garros order of play

By the numbers

Alexander Zverev is only the 11th man in the Open Era to reach four consecutive Roland-Garros men’s singles semifinals.

 “Quotable …”

“It’s a very physical surface, and you play more tennis. Sometimes on hard court you hit fast for couple of balls and then [the point] is over, or if you serve good, it’s over. On this surface, there are some more key moments [that] you have to understand.”

Jannik Sinner, from his post-match news conference on Tuesday, discussing the differences between playing on clay versus hard courts.