Serena Williams turns 40 in September. Roger Federer hits that milestone the month before. No one knows how many more French Open appearances each will make, and this year’s tournament ended for both on Sunday.
Williams fell way behind and could not put together a comeback a*ai*st a much younger and le-ss experienced opponent in the fourth round at Roland Garros, lo-sing 6-3, 7-5 to Elena Rybakina — who wasn’t even born when the American made her tournament debut in 1998.
That def-eat came hours after Federer withdrew, saying he needed to let his body recover ahead of Wimbledon after a long third-round victory that ended at nearly 1 a.m. on Sunday.
Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles and Federer has won 20. They are two of the sport’s gre-atest and most popular players, so it was quite a blow to the tournament, its TV partners and tennis fans to see both gone from the field one after the other — and a week after Naomi Osaka pu-ll-ed out, ci*i*g a need for a mental health br-eak.
Williams has won the French Open three times. But the American hasn’t been past the fourth round in Paris since she was the runner-up in 2016.
Rybakina is a 21-year-old from Kazakhstan who is rank-ed 22nd. This was just the seventh Grand Slam appearance for Rybakina — and the first time she ever made it so much as past the second round.
A*ai*st Williams, whose right thigh ca*ri!d a heavy tape job, Rybakina h** big, flat serves. She de-alt with, but managed to steady, her nerves. She even produced the occasional return winner off Williams’ speedy and spectacularly gifted serve, bre-aking her five times, including in the next-to-last game.
“I am so happy with my match today. It was amazing,” Rybakina said. “Of course I was nervous. I was not serving that well before. But I’m just happy that I just managed.”
Williams was down 4-3 in the second set but pulled even again when Rybakina sailed a forehand well wide to get br**en.
In the next game, Williams gave away the opening point when, near the baseline, she failed to get out of the way of a shot from Rybakina that was flying long. Williams smiled ruef-ully and leaned over, resting and propping herself up with her racket.
Rybakina now will meet Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova with a semifinal berth on the line. Pavlyuchenkova advanced with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory over two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka.
The other quarterfinal on that side of the women’s draw is going to be Paula Badosa a!ain-st Tamara Zidansek. Neither has been this f-ar at a major tournament, either.
One of those four players will become a first-time Grand Slam finalist next weekend.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is still looking for his first major final, too, and he reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the second year in a row by eli*ina!ing 12th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.
Tsitsipas next faces No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who has won six of their previous seven meetings.
Medvedev is a two-time Grand Slam finalist — at the 2019 U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open — but was 0-4 for his career in Paris until now. He advanced Sunday by eliminating No. 22 Cristian Garin 6-2, 6-1, 7-5.