Tennis: Surprises keep coming in wild women’s draw

PARIS (Reuters) – It is not unusual for the French Open to throw up surprises in the women’s draw but this year’s re-scheduled tournament has been more wildly unpredictable than ever.

On Sunday Argentina’s 131st-ranked Nadia Podoroska beat Czech Barbora Krejcikova, ranked 114th, to make it two qualifiers into the last eight for the first time since 1978.

Earlier, Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan, ranked 159th, had beaten Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens in another huge upset on the day that Polish teenager Iga Swiatek thrashed top seed Simona Halep for the loss of three games.

The draw had already been shredded with only 13 of the top 32 seeds having made it through to the third round — the lowest number in a women’s draw since 32 seeds were introduced in Grand Slams at Wimbledon in 2001.

The heavier than usual balls being used, the relentless cold and rainy conditions in Paris, the impact of a season severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the tournament to be switched from May/June, and the fact that only a smattering of fans are allowed may all have contributed to the upsets.

The 23-year-old Podoroska, playing in only her second Grand Slam main draw, is the first Argentine woman to reach the last eight in Paris since Paola Suarez’s semi-final run in 2004.

Asked for her thoughts on all the surprises, she said the strange circumstances may have proved a leveller.

“I play too many matches in these conditions, so it’s a little bit, I feel, comfortable,” she joked after beating Krejcikova in three sets on an almost empty and windswept Court Simonne-Mathieu.

She will face third-seed Elina Svitolina in the last eight, the highest-ranked player left in the draw, while Trevisan plays 54th-ranked Swiatek meaning at least one unseeded player will reach the semi-finals.

“No one is going to give me the trophy just because I’m the highest seed left,” Svitolina said.

“They beat those higher-ranked players, and they are there for a reason.”

The fourth round concludes on Monday with Australian Open Sofia Kenin, seeded four, and twice Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova trying to restore some order.

But do not bet on it.

Halep, for one, will not be surprised if the lower-ranked players continue to make headway on the damp red clay.

“Everyone at this level is playing really well and in the fourth round of a Grand Slam it’s not a surprise any more because if you are there it means that you have a great game,” the Romanian said on Sunday.

“I believe that every match it open at this level and it’s about the day that you play. So, yeah, all the credit for the players who are winning the matches.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond

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