Nadia Podoroska won the fight. Up against third-seeded Elina Svitolina — a celebrated striver, a spirited retriever — the Argentine threw everything she had into the 79-minute contest. The 23-yearpunctuated the clash with a forehand winner. Podoroska’s winning statement was vivid. She tossed her racquet in the air and shook her fists before she met her opponent.
The world No. 131, who has paced herself wonderfully well in the championship, only her second main draw of a major, had jumped the queue. Podoroska powered past the 26-year-old Svitolina, winning clutch points in her 6-2, 6-4 victory, which made her the first qualifier to make the semifinals at Roland Garros.
“I don’t want to wake up,” Podoroska said after her eighth successive win at Roland Garros, including three in the qualifying competition.
In Thursday’s semifinals, she’ll go up against either Poland’s Iga Swiatek or fellow qualifier Martina Trevisan. In her on-court interview, the 23-year-old spoke about the situation back home in Argentina with the pandemic raging. Speaking in Spanish, she hoped her efforts would bring some happiness to her people.
Svitolina, the only player with a top-50 ranking left in the top half of the women’s draw that has seen upsets galore, had one of her worst days in office. She held serve just once in the match, won just 12 points on her first serve and eight on her second.
The Ukrainian had 22 unforced errors and just eight winners. Podoroska, who said her English was limited, was articulate in her shot-making, opening up the court with her forehand and coming up with cheeky drop shots. She didn’t just put the ball back, she was looking for holes in her opponent’s defence.
The second set went with service breaks until Podoroska held in the ninth game before breaking her opponent on her third match-point opportunity.
Podoroska had nothing, no significant detail, that set her apart at the start of the fortnight. She had never won a main draw singles match at a Grand Slam, beaten a top-50 player or even recorded back-to-back victories on the WTA Tour. Whatever happens from here, she has done what no qualifier has managed across majors for two decades.
Podoroska said her run in Paris was for her country. “For me it’s very special because in all South America we don’t have too many tournaments. It’s very complicated for all the South American girls playing tennis. It’s good that I’m having these results. Maybe it’s going to help all the young girls.”
In a first-round boys doubles match, India’s Dev Javia and China’s Hanwen Li beat Russian Egor Agafonov and Hungary’s Peter Fajta 4-6, 6-3, 10-8.