PARIS, France – Qualifier Nadia Podoroska produced arguably the greatest shock of a French Open replete with upsets as she eliminated No.3 seed Elina Svitolina, 6-2, 6-4 at the quarterfinal stage.
The Argentine has become the first qualifier ever to reach the last four of Roland Garros – and the first in 21 years to reach such a point in any major.
Before the fortnight started, the 23-year-old had never won a main draw match at a Grand Slam event, beaten a Top 50 player or even recorded back-to-back victories on the WTA Tour.
After eight successive victories – including three in qualifying – the WTA World No.131 finds either Iga Swiatek or Martina Trevisan, a fellow qualifier, standing between her and a place in Saturday’s final.
“It’s difficult for me to speak after the match, but thanks everyone for your support. I’m very, very happy!” she explained. “It’s difficult for me to speak after the match, but thanks everyone for your support. I’m very, very happy!” she explained.
“I try to play every kind of shot. We did a good job with my coaches during quarantine. I’ve been training a lot with all of my team and I think that’s why I’m here today.”
Svitolina, the only member of the Top 50 and only WTA title winner left in the top half of the draw, began with a break but failed to find her rhythm in the first set, which escaped in 35 minutes. The second proved rather more competitive as neither player found serving straightforward but after squandering two match points, the rank outsider claimed the win.
“It was a tough match for me today. Lots of things didn't go my way,” Svitolina said. "I wish I could have handled it in a different way.
“She played a really great match. I wasn't 100% mentally on it today and that was really disappointing.
“I think it was really tough for me to find focus. I didn't perform as I wish I could and in the end I completely dropped my level. I gave her the opportunity to play really good tennis.”
Podoroska started with the confidence of someone with 42 victories behind them at all levels this year. A solid overhead sealed the first point of the match and that was soon followed up by a tremendous pass down the line to move to 40-15.
Svitolina, though, seemed to stamp her authority on the match to break, yet she did not hit the ball crisply in a first set that saw her make nine unforced errors for just two winners.
By contrast, Podoroska was far more efficient, and while she tallied 15 miscues, this was more than compensated by 17 winners. She was especially unforgiving of the Svitolina serve, breaking on three occasions, including a love game that locked down the set.
The Ukrainian did manage to finally hold at the beginning of the second set, but this proved to be only a temporary respite as her delivery continued to waver in the face of pressure from her rival.
Podoroska, though, was unable to maintain the level she had shown throughout the first set on her serve, with her hitting become just a little more erratic and her overall play less efficient.
Six breaks in succession followed before Podoroska held to move within a game of the match.
Having won only one of her previous eight games on serve, Svitolina moved 30-15 clear but found herself facing a match point after some powerful hitting from the Podoroska racquet. The South American netted off the return and given a second chance she was unable to convert after a grueling rally.
It was, however, third time lucky as she forced a short ball from the WTA World No.5 before punching away a forehand to take the win in 79 minutes.
Victory means that Podoroska has emulated Alexandra Stevenson at Wimbledon in 1999 and Christine Dory at the 1978 Australian Open in becoming a qualifier to reach the semifinals of a major – and her next task is to better them both by reaching the final.