Schwartzman grinds down Thiem in five-hour battle to reach semis
Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman outlasted Dominic Thiem in a brutal claycourt war of attrition to prevail 7-6(1) 5-7 6-7(6) 7-6(5) 6-2 and reach his first Grand Slam semi-final at the French Open on Tuesday.
Schwartzman had never beaten a top-five player at a Grand Slam and had lost his three previous quarter-finals, including one at the French, but the 28-year-old was relentless in his pursuit of victory.
Both players appeared to be running on empty at times as they slugged out endless rallies from the baseline for five hours and eight minutes on a windy Court Philippe Chatrier.
Third seed Thiem, the U.S. Open champion, saved a set point in the third before moving two sets to one ahead and when Schwartzman saw three more set points disappear at 5-4 in the fourth, the third one after a sensational running forehand winner by Thiem, it appeared he was going to fall short again.
But the 12th seed showed incredible resilience to come back from 3-1 down in the tiebreak and drag it into a final set.
Schwartzman looked the fresher player in the decider and Thiem, who was bidding to reach a fifth successive French Open semi-final, began to look ragged as he dropped serve to love in the sixth game with a netted backhand.
After so many momentum shifts in a gruelling contest featuring 19 breaks of serve, a Thiem comeback was still on the cards but Schwartzman was rock solid in the closing straight, sealing arguably the biggest win of his career when Thiem dumped a weary-looking dropshot into the net.
“Dominic is one of the best players in the world right now, two times in the final here and winning the last Grand Slam,” Schwartzman said on court.
“We are friends and I have a lot of respect for him. But this match was important for me. This was the third five-setter I’ve played here and this is the first one I’ve won.
“I think tonight I deserved it.”
Schwartzman will have to recover quickly as 12-times French Open champion Rafa Nadal could be waiting in the semi-final if he overcomes Italian teenager Jannik Sinner.
If that is the case he will go in with confidence having beaten the Spaniard on his way to the final of the Rome Masters in the build-up to Roland Garros.
Second seed Nadal’s clash with Sinner was still to be played after a women’s quarter-final on Tuesday.
Podoroska becomes first female qualifier in French Open semi-finals
Argentine Nadia Podoroska became the first qualifier to reach the French Open semi-finals in the women’s singles draw when she downed Ukrainian third seed Elina Svitolina 6-2 6-4 on Tuesday.
The world number 131, on her second appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam, emulates Belgium’s Filip Dewulf, the only qualifier in either of the singles draws since tennis turned professional in 1968 to make it to the last four at Roland Garros, in 1997.
“It’s a little bit difficult for me to speak after the match, thank you everybody for your support, I’m very very happy,” Podoroska said on court Philippe Chatrier.
“We did a very good job with my coaches during quarantine. That’s why I’m here today.”
Svitolina, one of the pre-tournament favourites after winning the Strasbourg International last month, was on the back foot throughout, failing at the last-eight stage for the third time at the claycourt Grand Slam.
Podoroska next faces either Polish teenager Iga Swiatek or another qualifier, Italian Martina Trevisan.
Should Trevisan prevail in her quarter-final, it would ensure a qualifier plays in the final of a Grand Slam for the first time in the Open era.
Since 1968, only Alexandra Stevenson at Wimbledon in 1999 and Christine Dorey at the 1978 Australian Open had made it to the semi-finals at a major prior to Podoroska. Both of them failed to go one step further.
Coming into Tuesday’s match, the 23-year-old Podoroska had won seven matches in a row at Roland Garros, and she kept that momentum going against Svitolina.
The Ukrainian broke her serve in the first game, but then Podoroska turned on the engine and bagged five games in a row to move to 5-1.
Having converted all of her four break points while Svitolina converted only two of six, Podoroska found herself one set up after 37 minutes.
Perfectly mixing power and a gentle touch with drop shots, Podoroska proved too skilful for Svitolina, who looked nothing like the player who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year.
Six consecutive games went against serve in the second set until Podoroska held for 5-4 before wrapping it up on Svitolina’s serve on her second match point with a forehand winner.
Collins ends Jabeur’s historic run to reach French Open quarter-finals
Unseeded Danielle Collins battled past Tunisian Ons Jabeur 6-4 4-6 6-4 on Tuesday to reach the French Open quarter-finals for the first time in her career.
World number 57 Collins raised her level after the opening nine games of the first set went with serve, when the American broke to edge ahead in the contest as Jabeur made an unforced error from the back of the court.
The big-hitting 26-year-old then raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set, showing the craftiness more commonly associated with her opponent to pull off a superb drop shot in the second game as Jabeur appeared to wilt on Court Philippe Chatrier.
But the Tunisian, who became the first Arab woman to reach the Roland Garros last 16 by beating eighth seed Aryna Sabalenka, regained focus to win the next five games in a row before dragging the match into a deciding set.
In complete contrast to the opener, both players traded breaks freely at the start of the decider before Collins came back from 0-40 to hold for 3-2 and staved off a late comeback attempt to seal the win.
“I felt I was in the driver’s seat until 6-4 3-0… she’s tricky, served really well and hit some drop shots I wasn’t expecting,” Collins said.
“I had to try and dig it out. It broke my rhythm. I lost my way there a little bit, lost some of the shots I’d been hitting earlier and I needed to try and stay positive.”
Collins, who was without a coach at the U.S. Open where she lost her opener, said she was reaping the rewards of working with Spaniard Nicolas Almagro.
“Nico and I started working with each other last week, it’s all new,” added Collins, who beat 2016 winner Garbine Muguruza in the third round.
“… Luckily I found someone with an incredible career… It’s a special treat to be able to work with him.”
She takes on Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin next, after the fourth-seeded American beat Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro 2-6 6-2 6-1 in their last 16 encounter on Monday.
French Open order of play on Wednesday
Order of play on the main showcourts on the 11th day of the French Open on Wednesday (play begins at 0900 GMT, prefix number denotes seeding):
Court Philippe Chatrier
7-Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) v Laura Siegemund (Germany)
Danielle Collins (U.S.) v 4-Sofia Kenin (U.S.)
13-Andrey Rublev (Russia) v 5-Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece)
1-Novak Djokovic (Serbia) v 17-Pablo Carreno Busta (Spain)
French prosecutors open French Open match-fixing investigation
French prosecutors on Tuesday said they had opened an investigation into alleged match-fixing in a women’s doubles match at the French Open.
The prosecutors’ office said the investigation into “fraud in an organised group” and “active and passive corruption”, was related to a doubles match between Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Mari and Russian Yana Sizikova and American Madison Brengle.
The Romanians won the match before being knocked out in the third round.
When asked about the case, the French Open organisers referred Reuters to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), which said it was aware of the investigation but declined to comment.
The investigation, which was opened on Oct. 1, is being handled by the French police’s Central Service of Races and Games (SSCJ).
Alexei Selivanenko, vice president of the Russian tennis federation, had told the Championat.com news website on Sunday: “As long as there are no official documents, it is too early to comment on anything. Tennis has a zero-tolerance policy for cases of this kind.”
The Russian tennis federation had no additional comment on Tuesday. Brengle and the Romanian pair, and their respective tennis federations, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The long shutdown in global sport due to the novel coronavirus meant players were unable to earn money, potentially heightening the risk of corruption.
The TIU was set up in 2008 to tackle the threat of corruption in the game and has the power to issue life bans for serious offences.
Alerts flagged up to the TIU increased in the first quarter of 2020, but these cases rarely involve the ATP or WTA Tour events or Grand Slams. Most TIU convictions concern players plying their trade in the lowest rungs of professional tennis.
The TIU said it had received 38 match alerts between January and March this year, compared with 21 in the same period in 2019.
In its most high-profile case, the TIU in 2018 suspended Argentine tennis player Nicolas Kicker for six years – three years of it suspended – and fined him $25,000 for match-fixing and other offences. The player had been ranked 78th in the world less than a year before his suspension.