Arriving at the French Open, Nadia Podoroska had never been past the first round at a Grand Slam. She now finds herself in the semifinals at the French Open. Now, having already equalled her compatriot, Gabriela Sabatini’s runs to the last four in 1985, 1987, 1991 and 1992, she will seek to reach her first Grand Slam final when she takes on Poland’s world #54 Iga Swiatek. That would make her the first Argentinian woman to make the final in Paris.
Podoroska, ranked 131st in the world, has played the best tennis of her career at the French Open, putting together fortnight of first. Perhaps most impressively, she is the first qualifier ever to reach the women’s semifinals at Roland Garros. The last qualifier to reach the last four at Roland Garros of either gender was Filip Dewulf, with the Belgian, who achieved a career-high ranking of world #39, making the semifinals in 1997, where he lost to eventual champion Gustavo Kuerten.
Podoroska’s Startling Run
In the first round, Podoroska dismissed Greet Minnen in straight-sets, but she was made to work hard in the second round by world #23 Yulia Putintseva, who has twice reached the quarterfinals at the French Open. Podoroska hung tough, however, winning 6-3 1-6 6-2 and she backed that up by cruising past Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, losing just five games to the German. That set up a fourth-round clash with the Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova.
It was Krejcikova who made the better start, winning the first set 6-2, with Podoroska perhaps overcome by the occasion. But it did not take long for the 23-year-old to reassert herself as she rallied to complete a 2-6 6-2 6-3 win. That earned her a place in the quarterfinals, where third seed Elina Svitolina was waiting. Few gave Podoroska much chance against her illustrious opponent, but the qualifier was not to be denied, scoring a stunning 6-2 6-4 upset win over Svitolina.
Next up for Podoroska is the 19-year-old Swiatek. The Pole, who last year enjoyed a breakout run to the last 16 at Roland Garros, has been in stunning form so far this fortnight. Indeed, she is yet to drop a set and hammered the top seed and pre-tournament favourite Simona Halep in the fourth round, losing only three games. It will be the first meeting between the pair, with both surely desperate to make history by reaching their first Grand Slam final.
Can Podoroska conquer Roland Garros
Heading into the French Open, no one would have thought that two women ranked outside the top 50 would be contesting a semifinal in Paris. But both have more than earned their place in the last four. Swiatek will be the favourite heading into the match, her impressive play has earned her that status, and Podoroska will know that she will need to play her very best tennis to beat the rising star. But she has already pulled off several shocks so far and has coped admirably with the spotlight.
In truth, win or lose on Thursday, it has been a superb tournament for Podoroska, one that will change her life. She has already broken into the top 50 in the live rankings and is guaranteed €425,250 in prize money. But Podoroska will not want her run to end anytime soon. Not when she has the chance to become the first ever qualifier to reach a Grand Slam final and possibly even win the title. History, both for her and Argentina, is within her grasp. The question is: can she reach out and claim it?
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