Serena Williams’s hopes for that record-tying 24th Grand Slam will have to wait another month. Today in Paris at the French Open, the all-time great was eliminated by a steady and sharp Elena Rybakina 6-3, 7-5.
Serena took the court against the 21-year-old as the only Top 20 player and only former French semifinalist in her half. While Rybakina had never before played in a Slam fourth round. But the youngster wasn’t in awe and broke early. He powerful groundstrokes and serve kept Serena off balance in the firth.
Rybakina was able to break Serena five times overall, but the second set was tighter. Serena pulled back from breaks however could never forge a lead against the lanky Kazakh No. 3.
Serving 4-5, 30-all in the second, Rybakina cooled won the game at 15. Then broke at love before serving it out. Rybakina finished winning the last three games and 12 of the last 14 points for the biggest win of her career.
“I’m so happy with the match today,” Rybakina said. “Of course when I went on court I didn’t expect anything. I just had a set plan, which we discussed with my coach. I just tried to follow it. It worked out today.
“It’s difficult to expect anything, because you watch on TV and it’s completely different when you come on court and you feel the power and everything.
“I knew that the serve was going to be difficult for me to return. She’s powerful, but I was ready.”
The 3-time champ had some chances in the second.
“It was definitely close,” said Serena. “There is literally a point here, a point there, that could change the whole course of the match. I’m not winning those points. That literally could just change everything.”
At 39, Serena wasn’t ready to discuss if this would be her final French Open.
“Yeah, I’m definitely not thinking about it at all,” said the three-time champion with a grin when asked if this may have been her last match on Parisian clay. “I’m definitely thinking just about other things but not about that.”
In the quarters, Rybakina will now meet her good friend and doubles partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who upset another multi-Slam winner Victoria Azarenka 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 taking the last five games of the match. The 29-year-old Russian is into her first French quarterfinal in 10 years.
“Tough to remember what I felt 10 years ago,” Pavyuchenkova said after reaching her 7th career Slam quarterfinal. “I’d say completely different. I’m very happy also now. I think I feel a little different. I feel like more mature. It’s a good moment, I’m enjoying it, but I’ve got work to do next matches.
Spaniard Paula Badosa continued her strong clay season toppling former finalist Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. Badosa has won her last nine and improved to 17-2 this clay season and is into her first Slam quarterfinal.
” I wanted to do a good clay court season,” Badosa said. “I was feeling good. I was working hard. I think my game suits quite good on clay. I was wanting it so, so much. I was working hard for it. It’s coming. I didn’t expect doing all these results. I was expecting doing it quite good, but not like this.
“I think when you’re in these rounds, of course the racquet is important, how you play, it’s very important. I think it’s a little bit more important how you manage all the nerves in the important moments. I think when you’re here, the mental thing, it’s a little bit the key.”
Badosa will now be the big favorite on Tuesday in the quarters against the 85th-ranked Tamara Zidansek who reached her first career Slam quarter after beating veteran Sorana Cirstea 7-6(4), 6-1. The 23-year-old Zidansek becomes the first player from Slovenia to make a Slam quarter.
“I’m getting a lot of messages that everyone is watching,” said Zidansek. “It means a lot to me that I’m able to get across to the message to young people and everyone in Slovenia that we can do it. We’re a small country, we don’t have that many players, but we have good players.”
With Serena and Vondrousova out of the draw, the bottom half see two players make their first Slam semifinal with the winner into their first Slam title match.
Tomorrow, the last former French champion in the draw is in action as Iga Swiatek takes on 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk under the lights at night.
During the day, former finalist Sloane Stephens meets the red-hot Barbora Krejcikova, Coco Gauff battles Ons Jabeur and former finalist Sofia Kenin collides with Maria Sakkari.
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