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French Open Day 11: Sabalenka Falls to 17-year-old Andreeva after Paolini Stuns Rybakina

Russian teenager Mirra Andreeva claimed the biggest win of her career in a bizarre contest against an off-colour Aryna Sabalenka to reach the semi-finals of the French Open.

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Second seed Sabalenka was visibly uncomfortable, constantly hunching over and pointing to her stomach throughout her first grand slam defeat this year.

She continued to struggle and weighed up retiring from the match, approaching the umpires chair a number of times before retreating back.

Andreeva, ranked 38th in the world and unseeded at Roland Garros, eventually wrapped up a 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 win.

The 17-year-old is the youngest Grand Slam semi-finalist since Martina Hingis at the US Open in 1997.

“Honestly I was really nervous before the match, I knew she’d have an advantage,” said Andreeva, who had lost both her previous meetings with the Belarusian in straight sets.

“Me and my coach (former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez) had a plan today but again I didn’t remember anything. I just try to play as I feel.”

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After exchanging breaks early in the opening set, it became clear that Sabalenka was struggling.

The two-time Australian Open champion was not only growing increasingly frustrated with her performance but was gesturing to her team that she was not feeling well and eventually called on the doctor.

With Andreeva serving for the match at 5-3 the Belarusian picked up and took the set to a tie-break, battling through to steal the opener.

Sabalenka looked completely out-of-sorts for much of the second set with her footwork becoming increasingly lacklustre.

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While the 17-year-old struggled on serve, she found a way to manage her emotions and the peculiar state of her opponent to land an audacious lob to send her through to the semi-finals for the first time.

The young Russian had at times struggled to adjust and understand her opponent, who kept switching between wayward swings and pinpoint accuracy.

For a young star playing her first quarter-final at this level, the 17-year-old handled the occasion more or less perfectly and will move into the top 30 for the first time on Monday.

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An even more unusual match had come several hours earlier, with Italian Jasmine Paolini ousting an error-strewn Elena Rybakina 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in a contest that saw 12 breaks of serve.

The 28-year-old was also competing in her first major quarter-final following an impressive season which has seen her win her maiden WTA 1000 title in Dubai in February.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said a beaming Paolini, who wrapped up the win after over two windy hours on court.

“It was a really tough match. I was a bit too emotional in the second set,” she said.

“I just tried to stay there every point, to forget what happened in the second set. I managed to come back and I just accept that and fight again. Thank you guys, thank you very much for cheering for me.”

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With compatriot Jannik Sinner also in the last four, it is the first time in the Open era that two Italians have reached this stage of both the men’s and women’s singles.

The 15th seed raced out the blocks and leapt to an early break, eventually hitting just one unforced error in a set she dominated.

The Kazakh fourth seed played a truly remarkable match, hitting 48 unforced errors but somehow getting within just a few points of winning.

Having dropped her first set of this year’s French Open, the former Wimbledon Champion started to find more consistency with her strokes and halted some Italian momentum to level things up.

The blustery weather hampered both players’ strokes, with the error count growing and back-to-back breaks of serve teeing up a strange finale.

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The tenacious Italian however held her nerve and with Rybakina’s backhand landing long, the 28-year-old’s smile grew as she took in the Phillipe-Chatrier crowd she’d managed to win over.

She faces Mirra Andreeva in the semi-finals who beat the Italian in straight sets just over a month ago in Madrid.

Author

  • Sam France

    Sam France is an avid tennis watcher and player, frequently found passionately raving about the WTA. A journalist with a passion for all things sport, culture, and politics, Sam is a committed Radio 4 listener. A big WSL fan, Sam is still searching for a Guro Reiten autograph. @SamFrance28