Mirra Andreeva, Jasmine Paolini pull off French Open quarterfinal stunners

League: Tennis

Posted on: 05 Jun, 2024 at 07:00 PM

Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Teenager Mirra Andreeva stunned No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 to advance to her first career Grand Slam semifinal at the French Open on Wednesday.

The 17-year-old Russian becomes the youngest woman to play in a Grand Slam semfinal since Martina Hingis, who was 16 when she reached the final four in both Paris and at the U.S. Open in 1997.

In a Thursday semifinal at Roland Garros, Andreeva will square off against No. 12 seed Jasmine Paolini, who pulled off a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 upset of No. 4 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan on Wednesday. Paolini, at age 28, was playing in her first quarterfinal of a Grand Slam.

"It's an unbelievable feeling. It was a really tough match," Paolini said. "I think I was too emotional in the second set, but then I said to myself, 'OK, she's a great champion so it can happen.' Just fight, try to keep it there, try to hit every ball and it worked. I'm here."

Paolini needed just over two hours to win the day's first match.

The Italian jumped out to a blazing start in the first set, breaking Rybakina's serve twice and surrendering just one point on hers as she won three games at love. Rybakina was forced to defend nine break points in the first set alone, and she committed 16 unforced errors in the frame to just one for Paolini.

In the second set, the tide shifted as Rybakina -- the 2022 Wimbledon winner -- stole away three of Paolini's service games as she converted three of seven breaks.

Paolini said she knew heading into the decider that she had to put the second set behind her.

"I just tried to stay there every point, and to forget what happened in the second set, because it can happen -- it's tennis, so it's normal," she said. "I managed to come back and to stay focused, I just accepted it and fought again."

The tension seemed to get to both players in the third set, which opened with four straight service breaks. Serving tied at 4-4, Rybakina couldn't hold on, giving Paolini the path to the win.

Rybakina said she has been dealing with allergy and sleep issues but gave the credit to Paolini.

"I'm not, of course, really happy with the performance, but it is what it is," she said. "It's tennis. Not every day you can play good.

"She played really well. She started much better. She was moving good. I started a bit slow, and she was aggressive from the first ball. Then I was just trying to find my game ... but in the end, it's not the greatest day in the office."

It wasn't the greatest day, either for an ailing Sabalenka, who needed a first-set medical timeout in the match, which lasted two hours, 29 minutes.

Sabalenka, from Belarus, won the Australian Open and hadn't lost a set in a 2024 Grand Slam match until meeting Andreeva.

This match, too, was littered with service breaks. Sabalenka converted all six of her break chances, while Andreeva took eight of 14.

After winning the tiebreaker in the first set, Sabalenka lost both the second and third sets on her own serve. Andreeva conceded that the nerves got to her as she was about to complete the improbable win.

"I forgot the score at the end," she said. "I just tried to stay focused. In my second match point, I imagined I was trying to save break point. I tried to play brave and I managed to win."

--Field Level Media