Beatriz Haddad Maia found herself in a unique situation, on Monday morning (5), in Paris. She was in the last 16 of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. And, as the top seed and 14th in the world ranking, she acted as a favorite against Sara Sorribes Tormo, number 132 on the WTA (Association of Tennis Professionals) list.
The 27-year-old Brazilian faced great difficulties, but handled this position well at Roland Garros and defeated the 26-year-old Spaniard by 2 sets to 1, 6/7 (3/7), 6/3, 7/5. The result is significant, as it once again placed an athlete from Brazil as a quadrifinalist in one of the four main tennis championships – the “majors”, of the Grand Slam series.
This had not happened since 2004, when Gustavo Kuerten reached the quarterfinals of the French Open itself for the last time, at Roland Garros. Three-time champion on clay in Paris, the Santa Catarina native was already taking the last breaths of a brilliant career, shortened by injuries. In his campaign 19 years ago, he passed Switzerland’s Roger Federer to Argentina’s David Nalbandian.
Since then, Brazil has been quite successful in the doubles – with titles by Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, both with foreign partners, and by Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos, who triumphed in the mixed bracket at the last Australian Open. In the singles bracket, the limit in almost two decades was the round of 16, a stage that Thomaz Bellucci reached in 2010, at Roland Garros.
It was up to Bia Haddad to overcome this barrier. It took her three hours and 51 minutes to defeat Sara Sorribes and move into the bottom eight contenders for the title on Paris clay. In a match whose date and times have yet to be confirmed by the organization, she will face the Tunisian Ons Jabeur, seventh in the world, who easily beat the North American Bernarda Pera, 36th.
The São Paulo native has had a solid campaign since the beginning of last week, although she has faced difficult moments. The games in the second and third rounds, respectively, against the Russians Diana Schnaider and Ekaterina Alexandrova were also very tough – against the latter, she had to aggressively save a “match point”, Guga style.
In the round of 16, he had some luck. Her opponent could have been Elena Rybakina, from Kazakhstan, who is fourth in the world and has had an excellent season, but she withdrew from the tournament due to health problems. Thus, who advanced to face the Brazilian was Sara Sorribes, willing to surprise.
The São Paulo player started well, attacking a lot in the middle, which took the angle off Sorribes’ responses. She opened the lead and served three times to close out the first set, at 5/2, 5/4 and 6/5. The Spaniard reacted, undermined the opponent’s confidence by reaching all the balls and took the best in the “tiebreak”.
In the second part, the difficulties continued, and Bia found herself at 0/3, already with two service breaks. So, the top seed decided to vary the game a little, sought the net more and took the comfort of the rival, who finally started to show nervousness and miss some balls. The turn came in six straight games.
Pushed by part of the public and coach Rafael Paciaroni, with whom she communicated constantly, Haddad started the third set on the Suzanne-Lenglen court, with a break, but there would still be a lot of tension. The Brazilian lost two “match points” when the rival served at 3/5 and needed a few more minutes to make 7/5 and celebrate a hard-fought – and rare – classification.
The long-lasting campaign in the traditional French tournament represents another step in the career of the 27-year-old athlete, who served ten months of suspension for doping, between 2019 and 2020. She proved that the anabolic steroids accused in the tests were the result of contaminated food supplements. This limited the sentence, but delayed his rise.
The São Paulo native began reaping bigger rewards in June last year, when she won her first two titles in the elite series, both on grass, in Nottingham and Birmingham. She did not return to be champion, but she maintained consistency to remain among the top 20 in the world and reached the top 10 last month.
His situation in the ranking could be at risk next month, just when the points obtained in the 2022 titles will expire. But, at the moment, Haddad does not seem worried about the performance he will have in the grass season in England. Her feet are comfortable on the dirt of France.