Roland Garros

Rybakina eliminates Williams to reach first Grand Slam quarter-final

Elena Rybakina, who is appearing at the French Open for the second time, advanced to the quarter-finals after sweeping past the three-time champion Serena Williams.
Elena Rybakina, who is appearing at the French Open for the second time, advanced to the quarter-finals after sweeping past the three-time champion Serena Williams. © Pierre Rene-Worms/RFI

Elena Rybakina dispatched three-time champion Serena Williams from the French Open on Sunday with an impressive 6-3, 7-5 victory on centre court.

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Rybakina was playing in the last 16 for the first time but the 21st seed belied her inexperience with some clean hitting.

The 21-year-old from Kazakhstan also benefited from Williams’ munificence.

Serving to level at 4-4 in the first set, Williams threw in a host of errors to give her opponent a chance to serve for the first set. She took it on her fourth set point.

Rybakina then continued her roll by breaking the 23-time Grand Slam champion at the start of the second set. But the 39-year-old American retrieved the deficit immediately and held to lead 2-1.

Fortune

However, at 3-3 the veteran cracked and lost her serve. But so did the tyro. And it was all square at 4-4.

At 5-5 a first double fault from Williams brought up three break points for Rybakina and she clinched it when a Williams backhand slumped into the net.

Leading 6-5 and with glory beckoning, Rybakina served her fourth ace and benefited from two unforced errors on her way to two match points.

Another blunder from the Williams forehand ended her interest in the 2021 competition.

Emotion

"I'm very happy with my match," an emotional Rybakina told on-court interviewer Cedric Pioline. 

"I was nervous at the end but I'm very happy with the way I was able to manage my thoughts."

Rybakina will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova after the 31st seed came from a set down against the15th seed Victoria Azarenka to triumph 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

Pavlyuchenkova last graced the last eight in 2011 when she was in her late teens.

Tamara Zidansek became the first woman from Slovenia to reach a Grand Slam singles quarter-final after a straight sets win over Sorana Cirstea.

Zidansek beat the Romanian 7-6, 6-1 on Court Suzanne Lenglen and will play the 33rd seed Paula Bardosa after she beat the 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 to reach her first major quarter-final.

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