French Open: Barbora Krejcikova, Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari revel in 1st-time QF glory

Coco Gauff and Barbora Krejcikova will play each other for a spot in the semi-finals of the 2021 French Open. The 24th seed American and the unseeded Czech stormed through their respective fourth-round matches to make it to the last eight of a Major for the first time in their career. 

In the first round-of-16 match of the day, Krejcikova took just 67 minutes to get past 2018 Roland Garros finalist Sloane Stephens, 6-2, 6-0. The American, who’d made her opponents look weaker in the opening three rounds, was unable to play freely. Stephens won merely 46% of her first-serve points as compared to Krejcikova who looked to be the epitome of confidence, winning 82% points off her first serves. Stephens did get three break point opportunities but couldn’t convert any. On the other hand, she was able to save only three of the eight break points she faced in the course of the match.

Krejcikova finished the match with 10 winners and 19 unforced errors. Stephens had nine winners and nearly three times as many unforced errors, at 26.

Krejcikova’s quarter-final opponent, Gauff, meanwhile, needed just 53 minutes to get past an equally overwhelmed Jabeur 6-3, 6-1. The Tunisian, the 25th seed, started off slowly and looked to be under pressure even as Gauff played unmindful of any concerns whatsoever.

Jabeur went down an early break across both sets and never recovered entirely from that slump. The latter parts of the opening set did see a fightback from her but it was a little too late as Gauff never surrendered her early lead. In the second set, as her frustrations grew, her shot-making turned more erratic and it helped Gauff widen the gulf between her opponent and herself.

Gauff didn’t face a single break point and broke Jabeur four times. She hit 15 winners and had just nine unforced errors. Jabeur did have 18 winners but was undone by 21 unforced errors.

French Open: Maria Sakkari’s the sixth QF debutant in Paris

Maria Sakkari ousted the fourth-seeded Sofia Kenin in their fourth-round match to make it to her first Major quarter-final. The 17th-seeded Greek took 68 minutes and overcame a brief hurdle in the finishing moments of the second set to claim a 6-1, 6-3 victory.

The higher-ranked player struggled with the occasion’s momentousness while Sakkari remained unfazed by the ask. Kenin’s sole game in the first set came courtesy of a break in the fifth game and Sakkari retaliation for the loss of her serve after going up a double break was immediate – in the form of a third break of serve. This was followed by her serving out the set.

Kenin was broken in the opening game of the second set but was able to staunch the bleeding by winning her first service game of the match in the third game. However, her serves kept letting her down and she surrendered a second break to Sakkari in the fifth game. Trying to serve to remain in the match in the seventh game, the 2020 Australian Open champion staved off a match point to force Sakkari to serve out the match in the following game. Sakkari’s own serve came under pressure and she was broken back. However, Kenin’s heroics came to an end as two unforced errors allowed Sakkari to take the win.

Sakkari could play either Marta Kostyuk or defending champion Iga Swiatek in the quarter-final in Paris. The eighth-seeded Swiatek is the highest seed left in the draw of the 2021 French Open.