Winds of change blow on day of upsets at French Open

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PARIS — On a Sunday of upsets among the women at the French Open, revenge was a dish served up in an autumnal chill by a Polish teenager.

But it was business as usual for the men, with Rafael Nadal reaching his 14th quarterfinal on the red clay of Paris that, by now, must run in his veins. The 12-time French Open champion ran up a – excuse the pun – practically purrr-fect 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 victory against a player who idolizes him so much that he named his cat “Rafa.”

“All of our generation, we try very hard to be passionate,” Nadal said after seeing off Sebastian Korda, a 20-year-old qualifier who has set his sights on winning at least two Grand Slam titles, one more than his dad, 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda.

“If that’s a good inspiration for the young generation, that’s good,” added the winner of 19 major titles who has yet to drop a set in his pursuit of a record-tying 20th.

A young generation is making its mark at this French Open pushed back by the coronavirus from its usual May-June spot, especially in the women’s draw.

Against the player who humbled her 6-1, 6-0 at the same stage last year, 19-year-old Iga Swiatek turned the tables on top-seeded Simona Halep, sending the 2018 champion packing 6-1, 6-2 with powerful groundstrokes and exquisite net play to advance to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Halep, who also lifted the title at Wimbledon last year, never got into her stride under the roof on Court Philippe Chatrier and was unable to exert any pressure on the now-confident youngster who wilted with nerves in their fourth-round meeting last year that was over in just 45 minutes.

Swiatek used that defeat as fuel.

“A huge lesson,” she said. “I knew that I can, like, play differently and I can finally show my best tennis.”

Halep lasted just 23 minutes longer this time. She never had a break point against her opponent who racked up 14 against her, breaking her twice in each set and keeping her serve under near-constant stress.

“She was everywhere,” said Halep, who had been on a career-best winning streak of 17 matches. “I will have a chocolate and I will be better tomorrow.”

Adding to a sense that winds of change are blowing across women’s tennis, Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan ousted fifth-seeded Kiki Bertens moments later, winning 6-4, 6-4 on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

With three Roland Garros debutants – Trevisan, Argentinian qualifier Nadia Podoroska and Paula Badosa of Spain – playing in the fourth round, the French Open’s second week has already been one of new faces. Halep and Bertens had been among just six seeded women who made the last 16. And sixth-seeded Serena Williams’ pursuit of a record-tying 24th major title ended with an Achilles injury after her first-round win.

“At this level nobody surprises anybody anymore,” said Halep. “Everyone has a big level.”

The 159th-ranked Trevisan tossed her racket in delight after sealing her victory with a backhand lob from the baseline that her Dutch foe, who’d been serving to stay in the match, could only watch as it soared over her head and plopped in. Trevisan didn’t see the ball land but Bertens’ reaction told her the match was won.

“I saw the face of Bertens that was a little bit sad, so I said, `Yeah, it is in,”‘ she said.

Trevisan dropped tennis for about 4 1/2 years from late 2009 to early 2014, and recently wrote in a blog post that she had dealt with anorexia after her father, a former professional soccer player, battled medical problems.

Swiatek, the only teenager who reached the fourth round, and Trevisan, one of two qualifiers who got that far, will now play each other in what will be a first Grand Slam quarterfinal for them both.

Trevisan is playing only her second Grand Slam. She was a first-round loser at her first: the Australian Open this year.

Swiatek, who also reached the fourth round this year at Melbourne Park, has said that having recently passed her school exams, she now wants to fully focus on her tennis, to see whether she should make a career of it or head to university.

Based on the evidence so far on clay in Paris, the books can wait.

“I have, like, time to grow up,” she said. “”It’s, like, perfect for me doing it one step after another.”