Open: Nadia Podoroska upsets Elina Svitolina in a historic win to make semifinals
Nadia Podoroska upset third seed Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals of the French Open in what was a historic win for the Argentine qualifier. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat

Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska, the world number 131, has broken more new ground at the French capital this fortnight as she took down third seed Elina Svitolina to advance to her first ever Grand Slam semifinal at the French Open.

Podoroska, who, like Svitolina, has Ukrainian roots, is in just the second Grand Slam main draw appearance of her career, her first since the US Open in 2016, but faced no issues against her more experienced opponent, taking her out in straight sets under 80 minutes.

The result also sees Podoroska become the first qualifier to make the last four here, and the first Argentine woman to make the last four of a Grand Slam event since Paola Suárez achieved that same feat here in Paris 16 years ago.

Podoroska zones in to clinch first set

The match began in a peculiar fashion as Podoroska raced off to two game points on her serve before eventually surrendering the first break of serve to Svitolina after hitting a slew of unforced errors, with the Ukrainian converting break point on her second attempt. The next game also produced a similar pattern as the Argentine denied her opponent the hold of serve, putting away a game point before breaking right back.

The third game saw Podoroska save three break points, coming back from 15-40 down to edge out the first hold of serve of the match. That proved to be a decisive game as the Argentine ran away with the next three games in succession, dropping just five points, and breaking Svitolina twice to find herself a game away from closing out the first set.

Podoroska, however, could not do so as a lose service game handed one of her breaks back to her opponent. However, she would then bounce back in dominant fashion by breaking the Ukrainian to love thus sealing the set 6-2 in 37 minutes.

Svitolina could not do much to hurt her opponent's game which was firing all cylinders. Photo: Mark Bureau
Svitolina could not do much to hurt her opponent's game which was firing all cylinders. Photo: Mark Bureau

Podoroska survives Svitolina onslaught to win

Both women exchanged service holds to begin the second set, with Svitolina getting her one and only service hold of the entire match. The next six games, however, all saw them break each other’s serve as Svitolina tried to mount a challenge but just never seemed able to execute it.

Podoroska would end the streak of service breaks in the ninth game, hitting a couple of winners en route to a hold, thus going up 5-4. The Argentine would then need three match points on the Svitolina serve in the following game and it would be third time lucky for her as she converted the last of those with a forehand winner to complete her upset bid 6-2, 6-4 after an hour and 19 minutes.

Podoroska is now a win away from her first Grand Slam final. Photo: Mark Bureau
Podoroska is now a win away from her first Grand Slam final. Photo: Mark Bureau

The encounter saw 13 breaks of serve overall, with eight of them recorded by Podoroska, out of 13 break opportunities of her own, a 62% success rate. Svitolina, on the other hand, was successful in just five out of 10 similar chances. Each of them also served an ace coupled with a double fault in the entire match.

Key statistics to the match, however, would be net points where the Argentine, who made 27 approaches at the net, won 17 of such points (64%) while the Ukrainian managed just seven out of 15, besides outnumbering her in the winners department as well, 30 to eight. Although Podoroska would hit the same amount of unforced errors, Svitolina had 22 of her own, making it a -14 winner to unforced error differential in what was a disappointing day for her at the office.  

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Standing in Podoroska’s way from her first Grand Slam final is the winner of the quarterfinal match between 54th-ranked Polish youngster Iga Swiatek and fellow qualifier Martina Trevisan.

Both players, like Podoroska, also played a part big-name casualties this week, taking out the top seed Simona Halep and fifth seed Kiki Bertens, both in the fourth round, respectively.

Interestingly, Podoroska, alongside Trevisan, are the only qualifiers in the last eight of Paris this year, making it the first time this many qualifiers made this stage of a Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon 1999.

The said exit of Halep ensured a new French Open champion for the fifth year in a row, and a new name emerge as a Grand Slam finalist from the top half.