As Ashleigh Barty held up the French Open Trophy last weekend, the happiness on her face competed largely unsuccessfully with the look of utter disbelief that overshadowed the joy for much of the time.
Two years after being badly beaten by Madison Keys in the first round of the French Open, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty has the chance to turn the tables and set up a possible semi-final showdown against defending champion Simona Halep.
The 23-year-old continued her progression at the tournament by defeating American Sofia Kenin in the round of 16 early last night (AEST), and will start a warm favourite to defeat another American, Keys, in the quarter-finals tomorrow night (AEST).
She won the opening set 6-3, but then paid the price for a poor start to the second as Kenin displayed the tennis that saw her take down the legendary Serena Williams to level the match at one set apiece.
Barty, however, would race through the deciding set without losing a game to become the first Australian woman since Samantha Stosur in 2016 to reach the last eight at Roland Garros.
She is also the first Australian for a very long time to reach consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals in the same calendar year, something Stosur could not even achieve throughout her career.
The result will see Barty break new ground, as she is slated to enter the world’s top five at the conclusion of the tournament.
Next up is Keys, who will be itching to win her maiden Grand Slam title after being denied by Sloane Stephens at the 2017 US Open, and was stopped once again by her in the semi-finals of last year’s French Open.
The 24-year-old made light work of Naomi Osaka’s third-round conqueror, Katerina Siniakova, winning in straight sets to advance to the last eight in Paris for the second consecutive year, and her fifth quarter-final in her last seven Majors.
While she does have history beating Barty at the French Open in 2017, the Australian did win in their most recent meeting, triumphing 6-4, 6-1 during the recent Fed Cup tie between Australia and the United States in February.
The other top half quarter-final will pit defending champion Simona Halep up against American teen sensation Amanda Anisimova, who has become the first player, male or female, born this century to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament.
Halep and Anisimova dropped just four games between them in their respective straight-sets dismissals of Iga Swaitek and Aliona Bolsova.
The bottom half quarter-finals get underway this evening, with Sloane Stephens to face Johanna Konta in one match and Marketa Vondrousova to tackle Petra Martic, who knocked out second seed Karolina Pliskova in the third round, in the other.
In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic lined up a quarter-final showdown against Alexander Zverev after both defeated Jan-Lennard Struff and Fabio Fognini in their respective fourth round matches.
Dominic Thiem also progressed, but Juan Martin del Potro fell short by way of a four-set defeat against Russia’s Karen Khachanov; the result means the Argentine will drop out of the world’s top ten when the rankings are updated next week.
Last night, Kei Nishikori won his suspended tie against Benoit Paire, breaking in the eleventh game of the fifth and final set to set up a quarter-final showdown against the undisputed King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, with that clash to take place this evening (AEST).
The Spaniard, who recently celebrated his 33rd birthday, will again start a warm favourite to progress to the final four where he would await the winner of the all-Swiss showdown between Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka.
While Federer has not dropped a set in his four matches, Wawrinka was taken the distance in his fourth-round clash against Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas, requiring 14 games to knock out the sixth seed in five extraordinary sets of tennis.
The all-Swiss clash will see Federer go full circle with his return to Roland Garros, as his most recent match at the tournament prior to this year was a quarter-final defeat to eventual champion Wawrinka in 2015.
They will be first up on Court Suzanne Lenglen tonight, with the women’s quarter-final between Marketa Vondrousova and Petra Martic to follow, while on Court Philippe Chatrier Sloane Stephens and Johanna Konta are first up, followed by Kei Nishikori and Rafael Nadal.
Play starts at 10pm AEST tonight (2pm local time).