Paris: If Iga Swiatek meets Aryna Sabalenka for the French Open championship, more than the trophy would be at stake. The No. 1 ranking would be, too.
But there’s work to be done for both players first — getting to the final.
In Thursday’s semifinals, No. 2 Sabalenka of Belarus will play unseeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic, before No. 1 Swiatek of Poland faces No. 14 Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil.
Sabalenka is unbeaten in Grand Slam action in 2023; she won her first major title at the Australian Open in January.
She’s drawn more attention for non-tennis matters over the past 1 1/2 weeks, however, connected to her country’s assistance to Russia during the invasion of Ukraine. After being asked about that at two news conferences, Sabalenka skipped the next two post-match sessions with reporters, before speaking to the media for the first time in nearly a week after her quarterfinal victory.
Swiatek has not been challenged much at Roland Garros this year as she pursues her third triumph on the red clay and fourth Slam title overall. She hasn’t dropped a set yet heading into the matchup against Haddad Maia, a player who served a 10-month doping ban after failing a test in 2019 and had never been past the second round at a major tournament until now.
WHAT HAPPENED WEDNESDAY?
In the women’s quarterfinals, Swiatek beat No. 6 Coco Gauff, and Haddad Maia defeated No. 7 Ons Jabeur. In the men’s, No. 4 Casper Ruud eliminated No. 6 Holger Rune, and No. 22 Alexander Zverev got past unseeded Tomas Martin Etcheverry.
WHAT IS COMING FRIDAY?
The men’s semifinals feature No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz vs. No. 3 Novak Djokovic, and Ruud vs. Zverev. Alcaraz, who is 20, owns one major title; Djokovic, who is 36, owns 22. Alcaraz will be playing in his second Grand Slam semifinal, Djokovic in his 45th. Zverev reached the final four in Paris for the third year in a row; Ruud was the runner-up to Rafael Nadal in last year’s final in Paris.
WHEN ARE THURSDAY’S MATCHES?
Play begins in Court Philippe Chatrier at noon local time in Paris, which is 6 a.m. EDT. First up is the mixed doubles final, with 2019 US Open singles champion Bianca Andreescu and Michael Venus playing against Miyo Kato and Tim Pütz. That will be followed by the women’s singles semifinals, starting no sooner than 3 p.m. Local time, which is 9 a.m. EDT: Muchova-Sabalenka, then Haddad Maia-Swiatek. It is an off day in men’s singles.
GET CAUGHT UP
What you need to know about the year’s second Grand Slam tennis tournament:
— Rafael Nadal is not here
— Can AI help prevent cyberbullying of tennis players?
— French players bid a quick adieu to French Open
— Novak Djokovic can break a tie with Nadal by winning Slam No. 23
— Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina split past four major titles
— Carlos Alcaraz hits shots no one else does
— Facts and figures about the French Open, including a look back at 2022
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Try your hand at the AP’s latest tennis quiz here.
Looking ahead, Alcaraz is a minus-210 money-line pick against Djokovic, who is listed at plus-172, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Swiatek (minus-1700) and Sabalenka (minus-330) are big favorites in their semifinals. Just as she has been since before the tournament began, Swiatek remains the pick for the women’s title, but now at minus-270; she was at minus-185 heading into the quarterfinals.
THE NUMBER TO KNOW
55 — Number of years since a Brazilian woman reached a Grand Slam singles semifinal; Beatriz Haddad Maia is the first to do so since Maria Bueno at the 1968 US Open.
THE QUOTE TO KNOW
“Obviously, you lose to someone seven times, you feel crappy.” — Coco Gauff, after dropping to 0-7 against Iga Swiatek.
HOW TO WATCH
— In the US: Tennis Channel, NBC, Peacock.
— In France: France TV, Amazon Prime.
— Other countries listed here.
UPCOMING SINGLES SCHEDULE
— Thursday: Women’s Semifinals
— Friday: Men’s Semifinals
— Saturday: Women’s Final
— Sunday: Men’s Final