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Aryna Sabalenka into French Open semifinals with shot at No. 1 ranking

Aryna Sabalenka only needed two sets to beat Elina Svitolina and advance to the semifinals of the French Open, where she'll face Karolina Muchova as she eyes potentially taking over Iga Swiatek's No. 1 ranking.

No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus swept Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the French Open quarterfinals, boosting her bid to overtake Iga Swiatek for the No. 1 ranking.

Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion, prevailed 6-4, 6-4 over Svitolina, a former world No. 3 who in April returned to competition from childbirth.

The match had added tension given the war in Ukraine, which has led Russians and Belarusians to be banned from many Olympic sports, but not tour-level tennis. Svitolina said she made it clear in pre-match comments that she was not going to take part in the customary post-match handshake, as she also did not against Russians the previous two rounds.

Sabalenka came to the net anyway out of instinct. When Svitolina did not approach the net, the crowd booed, which Svitolina said she expected.

“She didn’t deserve all this boos,” Sabalenka said. “I’m giving such a big respect to her what she’s doing after giving birth. It’s impressive, and I’m really impressed by what she’s doing. I give big respect to her.”

Sabalenka also said, “I don’t support war, meaning I don’t support [Belarus President Alexander] Lukashenko right now.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Sabalenka advanced to Thursday’s semifinals, where she plays 43rd-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova. Earlier Tuesday, Muchova beat 2021 French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 7-5, 6-2.

Sabalenka will take over the No. 1 ranking if Swiatek loses before the final. Swiatek’s next match is a quarterfinal with American Coco Gauff on Wednesday. If Sabalenka makes the final, then Swiatek must win the title to stay at No. 1.

Muchova, 26, reached a career-high ranking of 19th in 2021, then missed time in 2022 due to injuries. She will return to the top 20 with this French Open run, matching her best result at a major (2021 Australian Open semifinals, where she beat top-ranked Ash Barty).

In 2021, Pavlyuchenkova became the first woman to play more than 50 majors in the Open Era before reaching her first final, which she lost to Czech Barbora Krejcikova. Pavlyuchenkova, now 31, then missed last year’s French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open due to a knee injury.

Later Tuesday, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz play separate quarterfinals, bidding to meet in Friday’s semifinals.

Djokovic, eyeing a record-breaking 23rd men’s Grand Slam singles title, gets 11th seed Karen Khachanov of Russia.

Alcaraz, the top seed, plays fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.

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