By Shrivathsa Sridhar
PARIS (Reuters) – Alexander Zverev returned to the semi-finals of the French Open on Wednesday a year after leaving the tournament in a wheelchair, while Iga Swiatek also maintained her quest for a third title in four years.
Zverev suffered a season-ending ankle injury during his last-four match against eventual champion Rafa Nadal on Court Philippe Chatrier last year and underwent surgery, but subsequent complications meant he only began playing again pain-free in February.
But his comeback has gathered pace at Roland Garros and he beat unseeded Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 to book his place in the last four in Paris for a third time.
“It was the most difficult year of my life,” Zverev said of his 2022 season. “I love tennis with all my heart and it was taken away a year ago.
“I’m happy to be back.”
The German faces sixth seed Holger Rune or 2022 runner-up Casper Ruud on Friday for a place in the final. Twice champion Novak Djokovic will meet top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the other semi-final.
Swiatek was tested by sixth seed Coco Gauff in a rematch of their 2022 title clash but the world number one was too good for the American and closed out a 6-4 6-2 victory.
“I’m pretty happy to be in the semi-final again,” Swiatek said. “It’s a great achievement no matter how the tournament is going to finish.
“A semi-final is a really great result. Especially coming into the tournament as a defending champion, it puts a lot of pressure on you. I’m really happy I can show consistency and just play good here every year.”
Seventh seed Ons Jabeur’s hopes of becoming the first African woman to win a Grand Slam singles title were left in tatters after she was beaten 3-6 7-6(5) 6-1 by Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals.
Jabeur was bidding to reach her third Grand Slam semi-final in less than a year but Haddad Maia produced a superb performance under pressure.
The world number 14 became the first Brazilian woman since Maria Bueno in 1968 to reach a major semi-final and the first female player from her country to book a last-four spot at Roland Garros in the Open Era.
“A tennis match is like a marathon. It’s not a 100 metre race,” Haddad Maia said. “I think one of my qualities is that I wait and I’m very patient and I never give up.
“So I wait for the moment because I know that my level is high. So even if I’m not playing well or even if I’m missing a few shots one moment, the tennis will appear, and I’ll have my opportunity to go for it.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Paris; Editing by Toby Davis)
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