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BELGRADE, SERBIA: Migrants queue for food at a park where hundreds of migrants are temporarily residing on Thursday, October 6, 2016. —AP
BELGRADE, SERBIA: Migrants queue for food at a park where hundreds of migrants are temporarily residing on Thursday, October 6, 2016. —AP

Afghan migrants stuck in the Balkans resist going home - No turning back

17-year-old Mirra, youngest woman to reach quarter-finals since 2005

PARIS: Aryna Sabalenka eyes a place in a seventh consecutive Grand Slam semi-final when she takes on Russian teenager Mirra Andreeva at the French Open on Wednesday, with the schedule diminished following the withdrawal of Novak Djokovic.

The other two singles quarter-finals on Court Philippe Chatrier see Elena Rybakina face Jasmine Paolini and Alexander Zverev play Alex de Minaur in the night session. World number two Sabalenka, who is still on course to meet rival Iga Swiatek in Saturday’s final, has not failed to reach a Slam semi-final since lifting her first major title at last year’s Australian Open.

“When you finally get there, to your goal, it actually gives you so much confidence in yourself,” the Belarusian said. Sabalenka has powered through the draw so far without dropping a set, including a 6-1, 6-2 dismantling of Andreeva’s older sister Erika in the first round.

However, 17-year-old Mirra, the youngest woman to reach the quarter-finals since 2005, could prove a tougher nut to crack despite having failed to win a set against Sabalenka in two previous meetings. “Of course we will add a few adjustments,” she said. “We will change something, because the way I played last two times didn’t work.

“I don’t have anything in my head, so I hope my coach will help me with it.” The winner will play either former Wimbledon champion Rybakina or Italian 12th seed Paolini for a spot in the final. Rybakina will be a strong favourite to progress, but the 28-year-old Paolini will be full of confidence after an excellent year which has seen her fly up the rankings.

“Before was, like, ‘I cannot win these matches’. I have to, I don’t know, do a miracle,” Paolini said after beating Elina Avanesyan to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final. “But now I step on court, and I say, ‘Okay, I can have my chance’. I have to play well, of course, but I have chances.”

Djokovic injury shakes up men’s draw

Djokovic had been due to face Casper Ruud in a repeat of last year’s final, but the 24-time Grand Slam champion’s title defence was abruptly ended by a knee injury he suffered during his dramatic last-16 victory over Francisco Cerundolo.

Jannik Sinner will now usurp Djokovic as world number one next week and the Italian goes up against Carlos Alcaraz in Friday’s men’s semi-finals. Zverev and De Minaur, playing in only his second Slam quarter-final, will face off for the remaining last-four spot against Ruud.

German fourth seed Zverev will be targeting a fourth straight Roland Garros semi-final after making the last eight for the sixth time in seven years. He needed five sets to beat Tallon Griekspoor in the third round, before fighting back to defeat Holger Rune in another decider in a last-16 tie which finished at 1:40 am local time—the second-latest finish in French Open history.

“I’ve played a total of eight-and-a-half hours over the last three days so I need to recover,” said Zverev. “I need to do everything possible to be ready for the quarter-final match.” Zverev is playing under the shadow of an ongoing trial in Berlin over allegations of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Australian De Minaur, seeded 11th, had never even got past the second round in Paris before this year, winning just three of 10 matches. “It’s one of my best Slam results. Looks like I’ve converted myself into a clay specialist,” De Minaur said. There will be a first-time French Open men’s champion on Sunday, with Ruud the only man left in the draw who has previously reached the final. —AFP

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