PARIS: Iga Swiatek targets a place in the French Open quarter-finals as Beatriz Haddad Maia won the third longest ever women’s match at Roland Garros to become the first Brazilian female in the last eight of a Slam since 1968. Swiatek, bidding to become the first woman since Justine Henin in 2007 to win back-to-back titles in Paris, has made the fourth round with ease. Four of the six sets the 22-year-old has played have been ‘bagels’ where an opponent fails to win a single game. Hapless Wang Xinyu was double-bageled by the Pole in the last 32, going down to defeat in just 51 minutes.

Swiatek tackles Lesia Tsurenko and will again be overwhelming favorite having easily defeated the 34-year-old Ukrainian in their two previous meetings, including the first round at Roland Garros last year for the loss of just two games. But Tsurenko hasn’t dropped a set so far and has made the last 16 by knocking out two former Slam champions in Barbora Krejcikova and Bianca Andreescu. Haddad Maia battled from a set and 3-0 down to defeat Sara Sorribes Tormo in a three-hour 51-minute epic.

The 27-year-old Brazilian left-hander came through 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 7-5 against her 132nd-ranked Spanish opponent on Court Suzanne Lenglen. The match was just 16 minutes short of the record four hours and seven minutes it took Virginie Buisson to beat French compatriot Noelle van Lottum in the first round in 1995. Haddad Maia is the first Brazilian woman in a Slam quarter-final since seven-time major winner Maria Bueno in 1968. She will face world number seven Ons Jabeur of Tunisia for a place in the semi-finals. Haddad Maia, ranked 14, claimed victory on a fourth match point after squandering three in the ninth game of the decider.

The Brazilian, who saved a match point in her previous round against Ekaterina Alexandrova, is no stranger to energy-sapping duels. In Rome last month, she dropped a three-hour 41-minute quarter-final to Anhelina Kalinina. Jabeur powered into the quarter-finals for the first time with a 6-3, 6-1 rout of Bernarda Pera, breaking the American’s serve eight times. Jabeur, a Wimbledon and US Open runner-up last year, has now reached at least the quarter-finals of all four Slams. “It was the only Grand Slam missing. I’m very happy with the performance,” said Jabeur. Should 66th-ranked Tsurenko pull off a shock victory over Swiatek, she will join compatriot Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals.

That would mark the first time that two Ukrainian women have reached the last eight of the same Slam. The war in Ukraine has been a constant issue at the tournament ever since world number two Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus defeated Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk on the opening weekend. Kostyuk was booed for refusing to shake the hand of Sabalenka in protest over the war in which Belarus is a close ally of Russia. Sabalenka has refused to carry out media commitments, claiming she does not “feel safe” having faced a barrage of questions over her stance on the war and her links to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

On Tuesday, Sabalenka will face Svitolina for a place in the semi-finals. Svitolina has already said she will maintain the position of all Ukraine players in refusing to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents. She exchanged a cordial thumbs up with Daria Kasatkina after beating the Russian in Sunday’s fourth round. ‘Being respectful’ However, Kasatkina said Monday she had been stunned by being jeered by the crowd, insisting she was “just being respectful on my opponent’s position not to shake hands”. “Leaving Paris with a very bitter feeling,” she added. A win for Swiatek on Monday would give her a potential last-eight clash with Coco Gauff, the American teenager she defeated in the 2022 final.

Gauff, the sixth seed, was taking on Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, the 100th-ranked Slovakian who is in the second week of a Slam for the first time. Fourth-ranked Casper Ruud, the runner-up to Rafael Nadal a year ago, beat in-form Nicolas Jarry of Chile 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 7-5 to seal a quarter-final spot. Ruud avenged last month’s defeat by Jarry in Geneva and could face world number six Holger Rune in a repeat of their bad-tempered quarter-final last year. Rune takes on Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina who is in the fourth round of a Slam for the first time. Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka faces Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina. Nishioka, seeded 27, is in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for a second successive major after his breakthrough performance in Australia. Alexander Zverev, a two-time semi-finalist, faces Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in the night session.- AFP