PARIS (Reuters) - Suddenly Iga Swiatek had everything to lose when she walked out on court against Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan with the door to a French Open final invitingly ajar.
But the 19-year-old Pole produced a commanding display to win 6-3 6-1 and move into the semi-finals where another qualifier in the shape of Argentine Nadia Podoroska awaits.
Having thrashed top seed and former champion Simona Halep in the fourth round on Sunday and with so many big names already gone, Swiatek was suddenly being touted as a favourite.
The way she began against the 159th-ranked Trevisan it looked as though that tag was weighing heavily, but as she so often seems to do Swiatek proved that she has the mental strength to go along with a dazzling all-round game.
From 3-1 down she reeled off eight consecutive games to crush the Italian qualifier’s resolve before becoming the first Polish woman to reach the semi-final here since 1939.
“At the beginning I felt little bit more pressure because I feel like after beating Simona, I’m not underdog any more,” she told reporters. “I just kept my mindset from the previous matches. I was just focusing on tennis, not that I’m playing quarter-final, not that I’m playing a girl with lower ranking.
“I just knew that I’m not going to play as perfect as with Simona. It’s impossible to keep that level of consistency. I just knew that I’m going to make some mistakes at the beginning because of the conditions.
“But I just stayed really down-to-earth and really positive.”
Swiatek also had to contend with sitting around for hours as the men’s quarter-final between Dominic Thiem and Diego Schwartman went on and on, and a tricky wind.
She did so like a seasoned pro, a tennis maturity she says comes from the fact that as a young emerging player she has rarely benefited from wildcards and has had to climb the rankings to her current 54th the hard way.
“It was pretty annoying at the beginning. I just had to accept if you’re from eastern or central Europe it may be kind of harder to get wildcards because we don’t have any big tournaments in Poland,” she said.
“As soon as I accepted that and as soon as I realised it’s going to be even better if I’m going to earn it on my own, I was okay with that. I just kept working.”
The work is certainly paying off and now she has a first Grand Slam semi-final to look forward to.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis
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