Swiatek targets last eight as shadow of war darkens French Open mood

Impressive journey: the Polish Iga Swiatek

Impressive journey: the Polish Iga Swiatek

Two-time champion Iga Swiatek is targeting a place in the French Open quarter-finals on Monday as the war in Ukraine casts a shadow over the Grand Slam showpiece.

Swiatek, a contender to become the first woman since Justine Henin in 2007 to win back-to-back titles in Paris, made it through the fourth round with ease.

Four of the 22-year-old’s six sets have been ‘bagels’ where an opponent fails to win a single game.

The unfortunate Wang Xinyu was doubled by the Pole in the last 32 minutes, losing in just 51 minutes.

Swiatek takes on Lesia Tsurenko and will once again be the overwhelming favorite after easily beating the 34-year-old in their two previous encounters, including the first round at Roland Garros last year for the loss of just two games.

But Tsurenko hasn’t dropped a set so far and reached the last 16 by knocking out two former Slam champions in Barbora Krejcikova and Bianca Andreescu.

“The next game is the biggest challenge on the circuit right now. She’s the world number one,” Tsurenko said.

If the 66th-ranked Tsurenko scores a surprise win, she will join compatriot Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals.

It would be the first time that two Ukrainians reached the quarter-finals of the same Grand Slam.

The war in Ukraine has been a constant issue in the tournament since world number two Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus beat Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in the opening weekend.

Kostyuk was booed for refusing to shake hands with Sabalenka in protest against the war in which Belarus is a close ally of Russia.

Sabalenka refused to keep her media commitments, saying she did not “feel unsafe” after facing a barrage of questions about her stance on the war and her ties to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

On Tuesday, Sabalenka faces Svitolina for a spot in the semifinals.

Svitolina has already said that she will maintain the position of all Ukrainian players by refusing to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents.

She exchanged a hearty thumbs up with Daria Kasatkina after beating the Russian in the fourth round on Sunday.

– Jaber through –

However, Kasatkina said on Monday she was stunned to be laughed at by the crowd, insisting she was “just respectful of my opponent’s position of not shaking hands”.

A win for Swiatek on Monday would give her a potential round of 16 clash with Coco Gauff, the American teenager she defeated in the 2022 final.

Gauff, the sixth seed, faced Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, the 100th-seeded Slovak who is in week two of a Grand Slam for the first time.

Tunisia’s seventh-seeded Ons Jabeur reached the quarter-finals for the first time with a 6-3, 6-1 rout of Bernarda Pera, breaking the American’s serve eight times.

Jabeur, a Wimbledon and US Open runner-up last year, will meet Brazilian 14th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia or Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo for a place in the semis.

Casper Ruud, fourth in the standings, second to Rafael Nadal a year ago, takes on in-form Chilean Nicolas Jarry for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Jarry finished 2022 ranked 152nd in the world, but reached a career high of 35 in Paris.

He will also be boosted by his victory over Ruud en route to the Geneva clay title on the eve of Roland-Garros.

If Ruud is successful, he could face world number six Holger Rune in a repeat of their moody quarter-final last year.

Rune accused Ruud of ‘disrespect’ while the Norwegian told his Danish rival to ‘grow up’.

Rune takes on Francisco Cerundolo from Argentina who is in the fourth round of a Slam for the first time.

Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka takes on Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

Nishioka, seeded 27, is in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for a second straight major following his breakthrough in Australia.

Until this year, he had never passed the second round at Roland Garros.

Two-time semi-finalist Alexander Zverev takes on Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in the night session. Dimitrov, 32, has never made the last quarter in Paris.


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