The 2020 French Open has swung wildly between the predictable and the absurd but the tournament has a semi-final it deserves on Thursday between the only slam champions left in a shredded women’s draw, Sofia Kenin and Petra Kvitova.
Both looked the part on Wednesday, Kvitova giving the unseeded Laura Siegemund neither time nor space in winning the first quarter-final, 6-3, 6-3, in an hour and 20 minutes, while Kenin, the fifth American in five years to reach the semi-finals, outlasted her wounded compatriot Danielle Collins to win 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.
The smattering of fans watching in Court Philippe Chatrier were not sympathetic when Siegemund first received a time violation for slow serving, then attempted to interrupt the winning rhythm of her opponent by taking a medical timeout that looked spurious. “I had a really hard time with my back,” the veteran German protested later. As for the slow play, which she did not agree with, she said: “I’ve got so many time violations in my life, it is nothing for me.”
Kvitova was upbeat about her performance and looked forward with renewed enthusiasm to what should be a tough assignment against Kenin, who is back to the form that won her the Australian Open. Kvitova, the first player 30 or over to reach the semi-finals since Serena Williams and Sam Stosur four years ago, said: “I’m pretty proud of everything I did today.”
The free-hitting left-hander has not gone this deep at Roland Garros since 2012, when Maria Sharapova denied her a place in the final and went on to win the title. Kvitova had won the first of her two Wimbledon championships the previous summer and was in the form of her life. When Naomi Osaka beat her in the final in Melbourne last year, it seemed those glory days had passed. Kvitova does not see it that way.
“I’m still the same clay player I was before and I’m still mentally tough. I played indoor, outdoor, sun, wind, rain, whatever happens. I’m really happy that, even after eight years, I can be in the semi-final again of a grand slam after [losing] last year in the final in Australia. I’m really glad that in the last couple of years I improved my results in the grand slams. I hope this journey is not ended yet.”
Addressing the many months she lost to the game after being attacked in her home in 2016, she said: “To be in the semi-final after everything I have been through this one probably means more [than the last one in Paris].” There will be plenty of fans pulling for one of the most popular players in the game.
The second quarter-final ended tamely. Kenin bagelled Collins to finish a high-grade workout in which she hit through the court with sustained power and accuracy, with 38 clean winners to 22 by Collins, whose serve collapsed, Eight double faults over the course of two hours did not help Collins – nor did the unexpected flaring of an old abdominal injury. Collins, who has also had to deal with rheumatoid arthritis for a year, arrived in the quarters on the back of an impressive 140 winners in four matches. Collins said: “It’s a serious injury that I have had before and it was clearly holding me back, especially with my movement and serve. It was very painful. I was praying for a miracle at the end there. I gave it all that I had.”
The Polish teenager Iga Swiatek plays the unseeded Argentinian Nadia Podoroska in the other semi-final on Thursday. Swiatek and Kvitova are the only players yet to drop a set in the tournament and theirs would be a memorable final on Saturday, a snapshot of the past and the future against the most aesthetically pleasing backdrop in tennis.