French Open 2023 results: Elina Svitolina & Aryna Sablenka reach quarter-finals

In the absence of a handshake, Russian player Kasatkina gave a thumbs-up to Ukraine’s Svitolina at the end of the match
Dates: 28 May-11 June Venue: Roland Garros, Paris
Coverage: Live text and radio commentaries of selected matches across BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, the BBC Sport website and app

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina says she “feels 17 again” after reaching the French Open quarter-finals in her first Grand Slam since becoming a mother.

The former world number three beat Russian ninth seed Daria Kasatkina 6-4 7-6 (7-5) to reach the last eight.

“I don’t have the pressure I used to have,” Svitolina, a Wimbledon and US Open semi-finalist in 2019, said.

She will play second seed Aryna Sabalenka after the Belarusian beat American Sloane Stephens.

Australian Open champion Sabalenka again opted out of an open news conference after beating Stephens 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

Svitolina had daughter Skai with French player Gael Monfils in October and is playing in only her sixth tour-level tournament since returning to tennis in April.

She is on an eight-match winning streak having claimed the title in Strasbourg in the build-up to Roland Garros.

The 28-year-old admitted she “didn’t dream” this scenario would happen when she was giving birth less than a year ago.

“Of course, personally I put kind of pressure on myself because I want to win a Grand Slam. This is the ultimate goal for me,” she said.

“But definitely not the pressure from outside. I feel almost like I’m 17 again coming on the tour fresh. I’m not defending any [ranking] points.”

The Ukrainian’s run also comes in her first appearance at a major since Russia invaded her country in February 2022.

Svitolina did not shake hands with Kasatkina, but said she acknowledged the 26-year-old Russian at the end of the match because she has been “brave” to criticise her nation’s actions.

Kasatkina gave Svitolina a thumbs-up at the end of the match, with Svitolina saying of her opponent: “I’m really thankful for her position that she took. She’s really brave person to say it publicly, not so many players did.”

Having played four Russian opponents since her comeback and not shaking hands with any of them, Svitolina says “everything will be the same” against Sabalenka.

Sabalenka into French Open quarters for first time

Aryna Sabalenka
Sabalenka won her first major title at the Australian Open in January

With organisers coming under fire after all six night matches of this year’s tournament were selected from the men’s draw, the first women’s night session looked like it could have been over in less than an hour as Sabalenka raced to a 5-0 lead over Stephens inside 17 minutes.

However, the unseeded American got back on level terms after winning five games in a row and held serve to force a tie-breaker, which she led 4-2 before a frustrated Sabalenka hit back.

Former US Open champion Stephens, who reached the 2018 final on the Paris clay, fought back from a break down in the second set to level the scores at 4-4, but the world number two broke back instantly to serve for the set.

Sabalenka then served out to love to claim victory and secure a spot in the last eight at Roland Garros for the first time.

“Thank you everyone for the support and the atmosphere,” Sabalenka said in her on-court interview.

“I didn’t expect that much people watching our match and it was amazing atmosphere. It was really amazing playing in front you.”

Sabalenka again opted out of an open news conference, having done the same on Friday after saying she did not “feel safe” during Wednesday’s post-match duties.

She was challenged by a Ukrainian reporter over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – which has been supported by Belarus – after her opening two matches in Paris.

Earlier on Sunday, Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkovaa runner-up at the 2021 French Open, fought back from a set down to beat Belgian 28th seed Elise Mertens 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-3.

Pavlyuchenkova, who has slipped to 333rd in the world rankings after a knee injury kept her out for five months last year, will play Karolina Muchova in the quarter-finals.

The Czech, who had never gone further than the third round at Roland Garros, claimed a 6-4 6-3 victory over Russian lucky loser Elina Avanesyan on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

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2023-06-04 20:51:25
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