17-Year-Old Mirra Andreeva Shocks Aryna Sabalenka to Secure French Open Semifinal Spot

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Mirra Andreeva Stuns Aryna Sabalenka to Reach French Open Semifinals

17-Year-Old Mirra Andreeva Shocks Aryna Sabalenka to Secure French Open Semifinal Spot
17-Year-Old Mirra Andreeva Shocks Aryna Sabalenka to Secure French Open Semifinal Spot

A 17-Year-Old’s Remarkable Journey to the Semifinals

PARIS — With the insouciance of a 17-year-old having the time of her life, Mirra Andreeva has been taking the tennis world by storm at the French Open. The unseeded Russian teenager, known for her carefree approach to game plans, has become the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist in over a quarter century.

Playing in only her sixth major tournament, Andreeva managed to overcome a physically struggling No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday. This victory sets up a semifinal clash against another surprising player: No. 12 Jasmine Paolini, a 28-year-old Italian who reached her first major semifinal by defeating No. 4 Elena Rybakina 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

A Unique Approach to the Game

“I always play the way I want to play. We have a plan with my coach for the match, but after I forget everything, and when I play a match, I don’t have any thoughts in my head,” said the 38th-ranked Andreeva, coached by 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez. “So maybe I would say that my strength could be that I just play how I want to play and I do whatever I want to do.”

This youthful exuberance and freedom on the court are traits familiar to many parents of teenagers, but Andreeva’s approach has clearly been effective.

Historical Context and Semifinal Matchups

Andreeva’s success at her age is noteworthy, as she becomes the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist since Martina Hingis, who achieved the feat at 16 in 1997. To find a younger player eliminating a top-ranked woman at Roland Garros, one has to go back to 1990 when 16-year-old Monica Seles beat Steffi Graf in the final.

Thursday’s other semifinal will feature No. 1 Iga Swiatek against No. 3 Coco Gauff. Swiatek, seeking her fifth Grand Slam title and fourth in Paris, faces Gauff, who won the US Open in September and was the runner-up to Swiatek at Roland Garros in 2022. Both players won their singles quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Andreeva’s Mental Fortitude and Strategy

Despite her age, Andreeva displays a remarkable level of maturity and tactical acumen on the court. She shared insights into her thought process during matches: “I decide: ‘Well, what should I do? Should I go down the line or should I do cross? Should I do a drop shot? Should I do a lob?'”

This improvisational style, while sometimes leading to an overload of decisions, has proven effective. Her sister, 19-year-old Erika Andreeva, also participated in the tournament but was eliminated by Sabalenka in the first round.

Sabalenka’s Struggles and Andreeva’s Triumph

Sabalenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, had a rough day, dealing with a stomach illness that required multiple visits from a trainer and doctor. Despite her physical struggles, Sabalenka fought valiantly but was ultimately overcome by Andreeva’s relentless play.

“I had a difficult time out there physically today,” Sabalenka said. “I have been very sick the last few days with some kind of stomach bug, so it’s been a challenge.”

A Historic Moment for Italian Tennis

Jasmine Paolini’s progress to the semifinals alongside Jannik Sinner in the men’s draw marks a historic moment for Italian tennis, as it is the first time an Italian woman and man have appeared in the final four of the same Grand Slam tournament in the same year. Sinner will also become the first Italian man to reach No. 1 in the ATP rankings.

The men’s semifinals on Friday will feature Sinner against Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev against Casper Ruud. Zverev secured his spot in the final four in Paris for the fourth consecutive year.

Looking Ahead

Paolini will have a chance for a rematch against Andreeva, who defeated her last month at the Madrid Open on clay. “She’s so young but she’s so, so good mentally. And she can defend very well. She can serve well,” Paolini said. “It’s going to be a tough match, but we are in the semifinals, so there is no chance to get easy matches.”

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