Shoe-in favourite Simona Halep was stunned by teenager Iga Swiatek at the French Open on Sunday when she was comprehensively beaten 6-1 6-2, while Kiki Bertens, the 5th seed, was sent packing by Martina Trevisan, 6-4 6-4.
I realise that it was a fantastic year with all the tough moments that we all had, so I’m not going to ruin the whole year just for a match. Of course it’s not easy to take it, but I’m used to some tough moments in this career. So I will have a chocolate and I will be better tomorrow. Simona Halep
Producing the biggest shock of the tournament so far, the 19-year old Pole dispatched the top seed in the first match on Court Philippe-Chatrier where she outplayed and overpowered the Romanian in a performance that showed maturity beyond her years and booked her place in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros.
Halep was considered the favourite for the women’s singles title prior to the event and, like her opponent, had yet to drop a set before Sunday’s match, but had no answers for her young opponent on this occasion.
Swiatek will now play Martina Trevisan, who defeated Bertens of the Netherlands in another massive upset out on Court Suzanne Lenglen at the same time as Halep was in action on the main court.
The highest remaining women’s seed is now Elina Svitolina, after the Ukrainian No 3 seed produced a dominant display to beat France’s Caroline Garcia, 6-1 6-3, while in Day 7’s other women’s 4th round match Nadia Podoroska, another qualifier, from Argentina, came from a set down to beat Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, 2-6 6-2 6-3.
The carnage at Roland Garros with just 4 seeds left standing, means that Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, who did not make the trip to Paris, will now end the year as the World No 1 despite not playing a match since February.
The rankings were frozen between 23 March and 9 August of this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, while players are currently able to carry over their points won at tournaments longer than 12 months ago.
Barty has been No.1 since September 9, 2019 and becomes the 11th woman in tennis history to have been World No 1 for more than 50 weeks later this year.
Following completion of the 4th round, the only seeds left in the women’s draw are No 3 Svitolina, No 4 Sofia Kenin, No 7 Petra and No 30 Ons Jabeur.
No excuses from Halep
Simona Halep made no excuses after going down tamely to Polish teenager Iga Swiatek in the 4th round, instead giving her opponent credit for her play after the 6-1 6-2 thrashing.
At the same stage at Roland Garros last year, Halep defeated Swiatek 6-1 6-0 in 45 minutes, but the 19-year-old turned the tables spectacularly on Sunday to end the Romanian’s 17-match winning streak after 68 minutes.
“All the credit to her, she played unbelievable today and she was everywhere and she hit all the balls in very strong, very powerful,” said the World No 2, who won the French Open in 2018.
“It was a little bit cold and I couldn’t be at my best, but she played really well and her match was like, no, it was her match today.”
The Romanian, 29, did not manage a single breakpoint on the Swiatek serve, who struck 30 winners against her.
“Because 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,” Halep added.
“For sure I could have done something different, like playing more balls in and trying to push her back, but it’s all I had today and I couldn’t make something better.
“She really dominated the match and was really aggressive. Maybe the third match will be better, but it’s OK, I’ll take it.”
Halep won the last 3 tournaments she played and said she was happy to have been able to play the French Open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I realise that it was a fantastic year with all the tough moments that we all had, so I’m not going to ruin the whole year just for a match,” said Halep, who skipped the US Open in New York due to the health and travel concerns.
“Of course it’s not easy to take it, but I’m used to some tough moments in this career. So I will have a chocolate and I will be better tomorrow.”
As for Swiatek, it was flawless performance.
“I don’t know what happened. I felt like I was playing perfectly,” the 19-year old said after stunning Halep. “I was so focused the whole match.
“Even I am surprised that I can do that.”
The Pole effectively outplayed Halep, who had claimed revenge against Amanda Anisimova, her conquerer at Roland Garros last year, but on Sunday the boot was on the other foot.
Swiatek, a former junior Wimbledon champion, has seamlessly transitioned onto the women’s tour and she raced into a 3-0 lead after the get-go, showing no sign of nerves.
She hit 17 winners in the first set and, although Halep made only 2 unforced errors, she was unable to make headway against the Polish broadside.
Halep’s panic began to show in her glances towards her coach Darren Cahill as Swiatek moved ahead again early in the second set.
She tried to fight back but Swiatek won the biggest points and was nerveless in serving it out.
Trevisan takes out Bertens
Another major shock swiftly followed as Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan defeated 5th seed Kiki Bertens, 6-4 6-4, to set up a clash with Swiatek.
Trevisan, a 26-year-old who has returned to the game after recovering from anorexia, has come through 3 rounds of qualifying and is now through to her first quarter-final, having never won a match at a major before.
In the blustery conditions on Sunday, Trevisan zipped to the biggest victory of her career after an hour and 35 minutes of play with the World No 8.
“I played very good today,” Trevisan said, in her post-match press conference. “I think also today, the key of the match is to come on court and be aggressive on the court to do my play.
“But I think the important thing is always my mentality, because match after match I got more confidence,” the Italian added. “So when I enter on the court, I enter to win the match without fail.”
The left-hander has now knocked out 4 straight Top 100 players and out-struck the powerful Bertens by 22 winners to 13, charging to the net 29 times and being successful in 18 of those attacks and converting 6 of her 13 break points chances.
“I think today the intensity of my play, it was really good,” said Trevisan. “I was really aggressive. So yeah, maybe it’s the one of the best matches I played here in Paris.”
“It will be a very difficult match because Swiatek is also a young player,” said Trevisan. “She beat Halep today. I didn’t see the match, but I think she played very good. So for the moment I’ll enjoy this moment, this win of today, and from tomorrow I will think about my quarter-final.”
An early patch of double-faults by Bertens did not preclude her from holding in her first service game of the match, but they did cost her at 2-1, as one at break point in that game gave Trevisan a love hold for 3-1 and a head start in the affair.
The Italian used that break to her advantage while she won ten of her first 12 service points on the day, romping to a swift 4-1 lead.
Trevisan continued to dominate rallies, hitting with deftness and accuracy, and using an excellent transition game to finish off points in the forecourt when she could and finished off another all-court point with an error-forcing overhead to earn another break for 5-1.
Down a double-break, Bertens began to find her heavy forehand and started to claw back games, quashing Trevisan’s chance to serve out the set twice in a row to get back on serve.
The momentum now with Bertens, the Italian nevertheless returned well enough to reach set point eventually claimed the set after a lengthy rally and a winning drop-shot.
Trevisan charged ahead in the second but the Dutchwoman took advantage of an ill-timed double-fault to get back on serve for 3-2 and held break points at 3-3 but the Italian used her volleying skills to snuff out the chances and stayed ahead.
After missing those opportunities, Bertens faltered on serve, falling behind triple break point and Trevisan pounced, blasting a backhand passing winner off of a drop-shot to reclaim the break advantage at 5-3.
Suddenly serving for the match, Trevisan faced the combination of power and clay-court movement by Bertens, which has propelled her to 6 of her ten WTA singles titles on clay courts alone, and the Dutch player pulled back on serve at 5-4 but was unable to take advantage of her fightback, double-faulting for a 5th time to give Trevisan 3 match points.
Bertens fended off the first two, but the third time was the charm for the qualifier, as she closed out the match with an audacious winning lob, prolonging the tournament of her life for one more round.
Svitolina sinks Garcia
Third-seeded Elina Svitolina is through to the Roland-Garros quarter-finals for the first time since 2017, dashing the home hopes on Sunday with a straight-sets dismissal of Garcia in the last 16.
The Ukrainian’s straight-sets victory over the Frenchwoman shows Svitolina’s growing confidence as she moves deeper into the draw.
Beaten in the quarter-finals in Rome, and having skipped Cincinnati and the US Open, the Ukrainian won the title in Strasbourg and has carried that form over here in Paris.
After dropping a set in round two, she has not dropped one since and was too solid, too consistent and too good for a misfiring Garcia as she wrapped up a 6-1 6-3 victory.
“I feel better and better each day,” Svitolina said. “I think the one day off really helped me to recover and to regroup.
“So right now it’s just playing matches. I’m trying to win every single match that I’m on.
“I’m really happy the way I have been handling…the conditions inside on Chatrier, outside in Lenglen, different courts, different conditions. So every day it’s a new surprise, and I’m very happy the way I was handling it.”
Conditions at Roland-Garros on Sunday were pretty tricky, sun and shade on the court but most obviously, a nasty wind that made life difficult for everyone.
While Garcia’s flatter, high-risk shots too often missed their mark, Svitolina’s outstanding footwork enabled her to adjust to the movement of the ball and she played with calmness and margin, making just 14 unforced errors in 2 sets compared to 34 for her opponent.
“Elina did a really good job kind of accepting that it wasn’t going to be perfect, playing really simple tennis to begin, and using the wind to her advantage,” her coach Andrew Bettles told reporters.
“She adapted her game, changed her position, tactically was very aware. And, yeah, she did a really good job. She used it to her advantage rather than kind of letting it bother her.”
Having made the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, Svitolina has been building nicely and as the highest-remaining seed and the only seed in her half, she is now favourite to make it through to Saturday’s final.
Garcia didn’t play her best against Svitolina but the Frenchwoman can take a lot of positives from her run, reaching 4th round of a Grand Slam since Roland-Garros in 2018.
She turns 27 later this month and as a confidence player who has been ranked as high as No 4, she has the game to get back towards the top 10 again, providing she can stay fit and healthy.
Podoroska fights into quarters
Qualifier Nadia Podoroska is the first Argentine into the last 8 at Roland Garros since 2004, having sealed her spot with a 2-6 6-2 6-3 victory over Barbora Krejcikova.
In a battle of 2 players ranked outside of the Top 100 of the WTA Rankings, the World No 131 overcame the World No 114 in a close encounter that lasted 2 hours and 11 minutes.
The opening set went to the Czech, a doubles champion in Paris in 2018, but Podoroska hit back in the second and the decider proved to be a tight affair, with the Argentine ultimately prevailing thanks to 3 breaks of serve.
“At the end of the first set I start to moving better than at the beginning,” Podoroska revealed after the match. “I think I was a little bit nervous.
“I started to hit more my forehand, and then in the second set, I think because of that she started to do more mistakes.
“Fortunately I could break her serve. Then I start to feel a little bit better.
“For me the, key was just trying to be the [most] focused I can. Today was very windy. I didn’t feel so good at court… but the key for me was trying to be positive and not think too much on that.”
Podoroska sealed a last-8 date with Svitolina after 4 match points, with her record at all levels for the year now standing at a remarkable 42-6.
The Argentine hasn’t played in any Grand Slam event since 2016, but is enjoying a breakout tournament in Paris as she aims to go even further.
“For me, it’s like a dream. Like I said the other days, I always dream being here, playing these kind of tournaments, and for being my first time here, I am very happy,” Podoroska said.
“She’s a great player. She has a lot of experience. But I will try to play my game like I’m doing during this match, so, yeah, I want to be there.”
A source of motivation for her is Gabriela Sabatini, the only female Argentine player to win a Grand Slam in singles and with 2 more victories, Podoroska can match her country’s greatest WTA player and her idol growing up as a child.
“I started to play tennis when I was 5 years old, but it just because I want to play tennis. No one in my family played,” she said. “When I was a child, I saw the legends in Argentina. We have too many players when I was growing up and we always have Gabriela Sabatini.
“She was like a hero for me and for all female tennis. She’s always in contact with all of the female players in Argentina, even with the Fed Cup team, but she’s always giving her support.”
Having lost the fewest games of any player in qualifying, the 23-year old’s form has carried over to the main draw where she dropped one set on her way to the Round of 16.
“I knew that I was playing really good, but for sure, this experience all new for me. You never know how you are going to react. But i’m happy with what i’m doing.”