By Jerome Pugmire
AP Sports Writer
PARIS — Yulia Putintseva knows the odds are stacked against her as she prepares to face Serena Williams in the French Open quarterfinals Thursday.
“She’s a legend,” Putintseva said of the top-ranked American. “I have nothing to lose, obviously, against her. I’m just going to go and play. What else can I do?”
The 21-year-old Putintseva, ranked 60th, is an outsider, to say the least.
— Williams has 70 career titles; she has none.
— Williams has amassed around $76 million in career prize money, while Putintseva is close to making her first million.
— Williams is chasing her 22nd major championship, which would tie her with Steffi Graf in the Open era and move her within two of Margaret Court’s all-time record. But this is Putintseva’s first Grand Slam quarterfinal, and she had never previously advanced past the third round at any major.
The 34-year-old Williams beat her in their two previous meetings: in the third round at Indian Wells this year and in the second round of the Madrid Masters in 2013.
The matches followed the same pattern. She pushed Williams to a tiebreaker in the first set and got routed in the second, winning only one game combined.
But Putintseva made a good impression on Williams, who sees a similar fighting spirit in the Kazakh player.
“I feel like she gives 200 percent on every single point,” Williams said. “I’m a little bit that way myself, too. I give everything on every point. I’m a fighter.”
Perhaps that’s also down to the fact Putintseva used to train at Mouratoglou Academy in Paris — run by Patrick Mouratoglou, who is now Williams’ coach.
Neither has dropped a set so far at rain-soaked Roland Garros.
Because of rain delays wreaking havoc with scheduling, both players will be playing back-to-back days after winning their fourth-round matches Wednesday.
Williams does not mind that too much, comparing it to when she plays in regular tournaments.
“It’s something you just get used to,” she said. “It’s totally fine, I think, for me and for everyone.”
There was so much rain that no matches were played Monday and only two completed on Tuesday — which has caused some inconvenience for Putintseva.
“I was waiting for like two or three days for my fourth-round match,” she said. “I had to change my hotel, as well, because my reservation finished. But I’m happy that the time I waited was worth it.”
No Kazakh player has advanced to a singles semifinal at a major before.
Should Putintseva cause a huge upset, she would then face either Dutch player Kiki Bertens or No. 8-seeded Timea Bacsinszky, the hard-hitting Swiss player who pushed Williams to three sets in last year’s semifinals.
Ranked just two places higher than Putintseva, and also unseeded, the 24-year-old Bertens is playing in her first major quarterfinal. She went out in the first round in Paris last year.
Bacsinszky won their only meeting in the first round of the U.S. Open two years ago, but that match ended with Bertens retiring in the second set.
“She was feeling sick on court,” Bacsinszky said. “She’s a fierce opponent on clay. I’m not surprised that she has made it so far.”
Here’s a look at what else is happening at the French Open on Thursday:
MEN’S QUARTERFINALS: The men’s quarterfinalists will be on court for the third straight day. Novak Djokovic has dropped only one set so far, however, and the top-ranked Serb will be feeling fairly fresh against No. 7-seeded Tomas Berdych. This is not good news for Berdych — Djokovic leads him 23-2 in head-to-head matches. The other men’s quarter sees No. 12-seeded David Goffin of Belgium play his friend Dominic Thiem of Austria, seeded 13th.
“There’s going to be a lot of respect,” Goffin said. “It’s good when you’re on court knowing this is going to be the case.”