NEWPORT BEACH, CA, USA - The unseeded Nadia Podoroska has stormed out of the blocks in 2020, and continued her hot streak to upset No.11 seed Veronica Cepede Royg 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 in the third round of the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach.
Podoroska has opened the season with a 13-0 winning streak so far, having captured ITF W25 titles in Malibu and Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe over the two weeks preceding the Californian 125K event, and the World No.258 played with confident power to upset her second seed of the week. It's a significant run for the 22-year-old for two reasons: not only does it mark her return to the Top 200 after struggling with injuries, but it is also a crucial step towards cementing Podoroska's Olympic dream this year.
Take a bow, Tatjana Maria 👏— Oracle Challenger Series (@OracleChallngrs) January 30, 2020
The 🇩🇪upends Shelby Rogers in straight sets to advance to the QF.
Gets the winner of Cepede Royg/Podoroska, which is finishing up on court 6 now. #RoadtoIndianWells pic.twitter.com/31W8HqVo1A
The Argentinian's career was on the rise in 2016, when she defeated Donna Vekic to qualify for the US Open as a 19-year-old and began to establish herself in WTA Tour events - but disaster struck when a wrist injury forced her to retire from her second-round match with Tatjana Maria in Bucharest in July 2017, and sidelined her for eight months thereafter. Podoroska's comeback has been gathering momentum over the past year, though. A gold medal run at last August's Pan American Games in Lima assured her of a wildcard into this year's Tokyo Olympic Games, provided her ranking is inside the Top 300 on 8 June - something she can be increasingly certain about after her brilliant January form.
The former World No.158 got off to a lightning start against Cepede Royg, whom she had lost to in both their previous ITF meetings but defeated in the Pan American Games semifinals, dominating with her forehand and return to race through a 22-minute opening set in which her opponent won just one point on serve. However, the Paraguayan - who reached the fourth round of Roland Garros 2017 - started getting her all-court game working in the second set as Podoroska lapsed into error, with her defensive skills backed up by a willingness to finish points at net. A forehand down the line winner and an ace levelled the match for Cepede Royg, and the former World No.73 seemed to be in control as Podoroska conceded the first break of the decider with a double fault.
However, a handful of Cepede Royg errors let her advantage slip immediately, and Podoroska roared back, finding her range on her forehand once again to assert herself in longer rallies. A wild drive volley miss with the court open in the seventh game to give Podoroska a 4-3 lead would be a missed opportunity for Cepede Royg - and one that seemed to haunt the 28-year-old, who collapsed in a series of double faults and errors in the final two games.
In the quarterfinals, Podoroska will bid for the fourth Top 100 scalp of her career against No.4 seed Tatjana Maria, who came through 7-5, 6-4 over No.13 seed Shelby Rogers to kick off a good day for most of the tournament's top-ranked players. No.2 seed Taylor Townsend did not face a break point en route to dismissing No.14 seed Anhelina Kalinina, although No.1 seed Jessica Pegula struggled more: the Auckland runner-up dropped the second set to 2015 US Open junior champion Dalma Galfi before overcoming the Hungarian 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
Townsend will now face fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe after the former World No.9's return from a foot injury took another step forwards with a 7-5, 6-4 defeat of No.8 seed Nicole Gibbs. Meanwhile, another all-American quarterfinal derby will find Pegula taking on No.5 seed Madison Brengle, who progressed when No.12 seed Yanina Wickmayer retired trailing 6-2, 3-0 due to a lower back injury.
The last quarterfinal will pit No.3 seed Christina McHale, who moved past wildcard Sophia Whittle 6-4, 6-3, against No.6 seed Stefanie Voegele, who ended former World No.63 Irina Falconi's comeback 6-1, 6-1 in just 66 minutes.