Niech żyje, żyje nam

Jasmine Paolini.

They're still playing tennis in Paris, but they're down to the last weekend of the tournament known as Roland Garros. As of early Friday morning our time, there are just four men and two women left in the singles competitions.

Tennis fans started paying attention to this year's French Open in the very first round, when Sascha Zverev of Germany eliminated the undisputed king of clay, Rafael Nadal of Spain. Now Zverev, seeded fourth, is one of the four men left. He'll play Casper Ruud of Norway (the 7 seed) today. Ruud advanced to the semi-finals when the top seed, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, pulled out of the tourney with a knee injury. The Djoker promptly had surgery on his torn cartilage and is already starting rehab. Those knees are 37 years old, which is senior citizen territory for tennis players. (Zverev's 27; Ruud's 25.)

Zverev's winning his way to the late stages of the event is not surprising, but it is awkward. He's in the middle of appealing a judgment against him for domestic abuse. The tennis suits don't like controversy and hard questions, and so I'm sure they'd just as soon see Ruud advance to the finals and let the German deal with his legal problems out of the Paris spotlight. But Sascha is currently playing a killer game after recovering from a devastating ankle injury in Paris two years ago. He could go all the way this time.

The other men's semifinal match pits the Spanish man-child Carlos Alcaraz (seeded third) against Jannik Sinner (seeded second), the red-haired Italian from the top of the boot. (Carlitos is 21, Sinner 22.)  That one could be epic. Actually, both men's semifinals should be good.

On the women's side, it's a great day for Poland, which does my (mostly Irish) heart good. Top-seeded Iga Swiatek has been mowing down opponents left and right, and she's up against a surprise finalist: a 28-year-old late bloomer named Jasmine Paolini. Paolini (the 12 seed) is from Italy, but she's a one-woman United Nations, and she's got a grandmother back in Poland. That makes it sort of an all-Polish French Open final, which never happens, and with Sinner she's one of two Italians to make their respective French Final Fours in the same year, which is also a rarity (if indeed it's ever happened before).

Paolini got to this point by beating the Belarusian screaming mimi, Aryna Sabalenka, who showed up physically ill for their quarterfinal match on Wednesday. Sabalenka wasn't too sick to let out her meaningless blood-curdling shrieks, but she was too sick to win. In another quarterfinal, barely-17-year-old Mirra Andreeva of Russia upended Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who looked kind of pale and weak herself, to make it two big upsets on the same day. 

In yesterday's semifinal, Paolini cruised to the win over the far less experienced teenager, who got rattled. And Swiatek crushed American Coco Gauff as forecast.

I don't expect the women's final, tomorrow, to go much past an hour. Paolini, at 5-feet-4-inches tall, appears to be no match for the imposing world no. 1, who's won the trophy in Paris three out of the last four years. But it ain't over 'til it's over, and a rousing "Jej!" will go up whenever the upstart challenger wins a point. It will be the match of her life – the third match of her life in four days.