PARIS: Standing between world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and a second successive Roland Garros final is the tournament’s surprise factor – the left-handed 6-footer from the land of Samba and soccer, Beatriz Haddad Maia. She’s 27 and ranked 14.
Haddad Maia, fierce from the back of the court, rallied to score a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1 win in two hours and 29 minutes over the seventh-seeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur on the majestic Court Philipp-Chatrier.
Swiatek, the defending champion, defeated sixth-seeded American Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-2 in a rematch of last year’s final, the Pole improving her record against the teenager to 7-0 (14 straight sets). Haddad Maia is the first Brazilian woman to reach the French Open semifinals in the Open Era. The only other woman from Brazil to reach the last four of a Grand Slam in the Open Era is the seven-time major champion Maria Bueno, at the 1968 US Open.
The Brazilian, playing on Court Philippe-Chatrier for the first time, refused to be intimidated by the stage or the occasion. She took it all in her stride. “I think a tennis match is like a marathon. It’s not a 100 metres race,” said Haddad Maia, who was popping dialogues.
“One of my qualities is that I wait and I’m very patient and I never give up. I wait for the moment because I know that my level is high. Even if I’m not playing well or even if I’m missing a few shots one moment, the tennis will appear and I’ll have my opportunity to go for it.”
Haddad Maia triumphed against Swiatek in their only meeting, in Toronto last year, taking it home with a 7-5 difference in the final set.
“She’s the No. 1, one of the best players from last year, ” the Brazilian said. “She has already won twice here. I’ll try to enjoy it. I’ll leave everything on the court. I have nothing to lose.”
The Pole, who celebrated her 22nd birthday earlier in the tournament, noted that her loss to the world No. 14 was on hard courts.
“She’s a fighter and she showed even today that she’s fighting until the last ball. It pays off,” Swiatek said. “You have to be ready even when you feel like you’re leading or whatever. You have to play every point 100 percent. Like before any other match, I will focus on myself and what I want to do on the court.”