Elina Avanesyan became the first lucky loser to reach the fourth round of Roland Garros in 35 years after edging Clara Tauson 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 in 2 hours and 20 minutes.
The World No.134 is just the fifth lucky loser to make the last 16 of a Grand Slam in the Open Era, following Hana Strachonova (Roland Garros 1980), Dana Gilbert (Roland Garros 1982), Nicole Muns-Jagerman (Roland Garros 1988) and María José Gaidano (US Open 1993). Strachonova's run took her to the third round in a 64-player draw; the others all made the fourth round.
Just over a week ago, Avanesyan's Parisian dream seemed to have crumbled. The final round of qualifying saw her lose a 3-hour, 7-minute heartbreaker 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 to Kayla Day despite leading 2-0 in the second set, 5-3 in the third set and 4-1 in the match tiebreak.
But the 20-year-old's second chance has been characterized by her composure. In the first round, she upset No.12 seed Belinda Bencic 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 for her first Top 20 win and first Grand Slam main-draw victory, and in the second she held off a late surge from home favorite Leolia Jeanjean 6-0, 7-5.
Against Tauson, Avanesyan outlasted her fellow 2002-born peer, winning 31 out of 54 rallies of nine shots or more. She led 5-3 in the third set and held her first two match points on the Dane's serve at 5-4, but shrugged off the loss of that lead to win eight of the last 11 points.
Avanesyan, who reached her first Hologic WTA Tour quarterfinal at Bogota 2022 and made her Grand Slam main-draw debut after qualifying for the US Open last year, has been in surging form of late. In March, she reached the San Luis Potosi WTA 125 semifinals; and four weeks ago, she won the biggest title of her career at the Wiesbaden ITF W100 event.
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It's not the first time Avanesyan has been buoyed by a lucky loser placement. Back in 2021, she won the Versmold ITF W60 tournament as a lucky loser -- her first title above W15 level.
And in retrospect, her loss to Day doesn't seem bad at all. The American has gone on a career-best surge in the main draw herself, taking out No.20 seed Madison Keys 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in the second round for her own first Top 20 win.
Avanesyan will now bid to become the first lucky loser ever to make a Grand Slam quarterfinal when she faces Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic on Sunday. World No.43 Muchova defeated No.27 seed Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 6-3, 6-2 in Friday's late match.
Former Top 20 player Muchova has gone deep at Grand Slams before, reaching the 2021 Australian Open semifinals and two Wimbledon quarterfinals, but this is her first time into the Round of 16 at the French Open.
On Friday night, Muchova ousted a player she had never beaten before, toppling Begu in 1 hour and 33 minutes. Begu had won both of their previous encounters, which had both come on clay -- at 2019 Roland Garros and in Madrid just last month.
Muchova had 25 winners to just nine from Begu, and the Czech won 18 of 23 points at the net to set up her first career meeting with Avanesyan.