Damien Kayat previews Coco Gauff vs Barbora Krejcikova and Maria Sakkari vs Iga Swiatek in the 2021 French Open quarter-finals.
2021 WTA Tour
Roland Garros, Paris, France
Selected Quarterfinals- 9th June
Coco Gauff (17) (84/100) vs Barbora Krejcikova (93/100)
I feel slightly foolish for doubting my pre-tournament pick Coco Gauff. I deviated a bit from my own script and backed Jennifer Brady in their 3rd round match. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Gauff has become the youngest woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in 15 years. She is also the youngest American to reach this stage in Paris since Jennifer Capriati. One thing that I noted in my preview for that 3rd round match is Gauff’s growing ruthlessness.
She usually has to call on the reserves in these Grand Slam matches. But she has barely broken a sweat this week and is yet to drop a set. She needed just 53 minutes to blow Ons Jabeur off the court.
The Rome semi-finalist has attributed her growing efficiency to her pre-Slam success in Parma. “Parma taught me how to close out matches and how to deal with pressure”, says the teenage American. But this will be a fascinating test of her Grand Slam readiness (it’s easy to forget that this will still be Gauff’s debut Grand Slam quarterfinal).
25-year-old Barbora Krejcikova is probably not one of the more likely Czech candidates to succeed this year. In fact, her toughest match thus far came in a tight first-round victory over compatriot Kristyna Pliskova.
Since then, she has been flawless. That includes thumping victories against both Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina. Playing in her first Grand Slam Singles quarterfinal, Krejcikova is amongst one of my favourite subset of players: the doubles player coming good.
The Czech is a two-time Grand Slam Doubles champion and three-time Grand Slam Mixed-Double’s champion. It was actually at last year’s French Open that her singles career started to blossom.
She reached the 4th round and has now gone one better this year. And like Gauff, Krejcikova came into this year’s event in winning form. She won the Internationaux de Strasbourg on the eve of this event. She also reached her maiden WTA 1000 final earlier this season, beating the likes of Sakkari and Kuznetsova en route to the Dubai final.
Verdict: Gauff to win at 84/100
This will be the first time these two will have met. Gauff will look to be the aggressor while the Czech employs her signature changes of pace and spin. You could visibly see how uncomfortable Sloane Stephens was by Krejcikova’s relentless variety.
It’s really a testament to how she has incorporated her brilliant doubles skills into her singles game. But this may be a step too for the Czech. I just can’t look past the utter brutality of Gauff’s game at present. I don’t see her allowing the Czech to dictate points. I can’t be pressed on the exact details here but I think Gauff will prevail.
Maria Sakkari (17) (28/10) vs Iga Swiatek (8) (1/4)
Defending champion Iga Swiatek has been nothing short of resplendent thus far. After Osaka-Gate came the withdrawal of Ashleigh Barty and the defeat of Serena Williams.
Who would have thought it would be the 20-year-old defending champion who would be holding up the status quo this year? She is in the unexpected position of having the most Grand Slam success of any players left.
She is currently on a 22-set winning streak at Roland Garros. I was super impressed by the way she was able to diffuse Marta Kostyuk’s exceptional defensive skills. This may sound crazy, but there’s something about Swiatek that reminds me of Rafa Nadal. She plays every point with a carefree gusto that makes her irresistible to watch.
Greek star Maria Sakkari has been in brilliant form and will provide Swiatek with a brilliant test. She has been in consistent form throughout the year, starting with semi-final showings in Abu Dhabi and the Grampians Trophy. |
But her most impressive showing came at the Miami Open, where she went on to reach her 3rd WTA 1000 semi-final. I actually thought she would ultimately have a more dynamic clay-court swing. But hey, she’s picked a good time to come through on this surface.
Sakkari is one of those players on the tour that can flatten the ball out on clay and there’s little surprise that she has tasted success on this surface. In Swiatek she will find an opponent capable of matching her aggression. Sakkari will need a high first-serve percentage if she wishes to take down the brilliant Swiatek.
Verdict: Swiatek in three sets at 31/10
This will be the first meeting between these two. Swiatek has looked immense this week while Sakkari has been blasting her opponents off the court.
It will be interesting to see how Swiatek handles being the favourite from this point on. Sakkari was excellent against Kenin and will likely push Swiatek to three sets. But I still think that the electric Pole will triumph in three sets at 31/10.