PARIS (AP) — When one last forehand from defending champion Iga Swiatek landed wide in the French Open quarterfinals, Maria Sakkari crouched on Court Philippe Chatrier and bowed her head, relishing the moment.
Sakkari is still two wins away from lifting the trophy, but Wednesday’s victory means she’s already in new territory — just like the other three women left in the draw.
Sakkari ended Swiatek’s 11-match and 22-set winning streaks at Roland Garros by beating her 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday to guarantee that there will be a first-time Grand Slam champion when the tournament ends.
On Thursday, the 17th-seeded Sakkari plays unseeded Barbora Krejcikova in the semifinals, and No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova faces unseeded Tamara Zidansek. All four are making their Slam semifinal debuts.
“We are four very good players,” Sakkari said. “Players that can win a title, for sure.”
Krejcikova advanced Wednesday by eliminating 17-year-old Coco Gauff 7-6 (6), 6-3.
This is only the second time in the professional era that there has been four first-time semifinalists at any major tournament, according to the WTA. It also happened at the 1978 Australian Open.
Sakkari, who can become Greece’s first Grand Slam singles champion, and Krejcikova, who is from the Czech Republic, are both 25. Each has won only one tour-level title.
Sakkari lost her first seven third-round Slam matches, which raised some doubts. Those doubts have since been erased.
“I thought about it a lot of times — that maybe that was my ceiling, and I could not get any higher in the rankings, playing better in tournaments,” Sakkari said. “But this year I proved [to] myself that I’m actually playing really good.”