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Mirra Andreeva, 17, shocks Aryna Sabalenka to reach first grand slam semi-final

COURT PHILIPPE CHATRIER — Mirra Andreeva became the youngest grand slam semi-finalist in 27 years as she beat world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 at the French Open.

Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion, battled stomach problems throughout and was twice given medication, as well as having her physio deliver several cans of Coca Cola to the court.

By beating the No 2 seed, Andreeva also became the youngest player to achieve that feat at Roland Garros since Monica Seles beat Steffi Graf in 1990.

And she admitted afterwards that she did not even realise she had won the match when her backhand lob landed well inside the baseline to seal victory.

“I even forgot what was the score,” Andreeva said.

“When it was the second match point for me I was trying to imagine that I was saving a break point so I tried to play brave.”

The 17-year-old record breaker will face No 12 seed Jasmine Paolini in Thursday’s semi-final, the biggest match of her short career so far.

Sabalenka had won every set of grand slam tennis she had played so far this year, and quickly jumped out to a 3-1 lead.

Her previous meetings with Andreeva, both in Madrid, had been distinctly one sided with the Russian teenager managing just nine games across the two matches – and it looked as though another one-sided encounter might be on the cards.

However, it quickly became apparent that Sabalenka was not 100 per as she dropped her serve, repeatedly doubling over in pain behind the baseline.

The doctor’s first appearance on the court came just seven games into the match, and Sabalenka took first dose of medication.

Conchita Martinez, the 1994 Wimbledon champion who has started coaching Andreeva, urged her young charge to “keep moving her” and the teenager did try, but Sabalenka’s raw power made her a tricky opponent, even wounded.

The Belarusian forced a tie-break and an untimely Andreeva double-fault, her fifth of the match in a nervy first set, handed Sabalenka and advantage she did not give up.

Fatigue was starting to hit Sabalenka though and when she gave up a break of serve to trail 4-2 in the second, she hammered a ball high into the Philippe Chatrier stands.

The two-time slam champion avoided caution for doing so, but was warned one game later for delaying Andreeva’s serve. In fairness she was doubled over at the back of the court in pain, but umpire Jaume Campistol showed no mercy.

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus reacts after missing a shot against Russia's Mirra Andreeva during their quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Sabalenka was clearly in discomfort throughout the match (Photo: AP)

It made no difference, and somehow a suffering Sabalenka broke back again, before taking more pills on board and the first of two cans of Coke that were delivered to the court by her team.

The forehand seemed to be troubling Sabalenka more than the backhand, taking away her great weapon and playing to Andreeva’s strength, and when the match was levelled at a set a piece, the Russian was certainly the favourite.

But there were nerves in evidence, and Sabalenka’s desperation to end points quickly made it hard for her younger opponent to find rhythm. Both played bad games to drop serve consecutively and you wondered who would be able to serve it out if the opportunity arose.

It was a question that never needed answering though. Sabalenka served to stay in it at 4-5, saving the first match point with a forehand that visibly hurt, but then was drawn into the net and Andreeva hit a running backhand lob worthy of her hero Andy Murray.

Murray probably would have known it was match point – but it didn’t take long for Andreeva to realise.

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