In this wild Roland Garros that saw four of the Top 10, including world No. 1 defending champion Ashleigh Barty, skip this tournament, qualifiers have stepped up and snatched the spotlight.
The 131st-ranked Podoroska has now won eight straight matches, including three in qualifying, and eclipsed her total career earnings of $300,000 with this wondrous Parisian run.
Though the fifth-ranked Svitolina took the court with more career titles (15) than Podoroska had career Tour-level victories (eight), the world No. 131 outclassed the Strasbourg champion in every phase of the game. Commanding play with her forehand, aggression and some timely drop shots, Podoroska hit 30 winners compared to eight for the three-time quarterfinalist.
Podoroska played dynamic and creative tennis, while Svitolina, succumbing to the pressure as the highest-seeded woman still standing, looked strained and shrank on serve. Podoroska converted eight of 13 break points, including six straight break points at the start.
It was as if Svitolina was playing not to lose, but that defensive posture contributed to her demise. Svitolina won just six points on serve in the first set, including two of 15 first-serve points and won only one of her eight service games on the day.
Facing a Top 20 opponent for the first time, the qualifier was understandably skittish as she dropped serve in the opening game.
Settling her nerve, the 23-year-old Podoroska went on the offensive. Podoroska pounded a forehand into the corner scoring her second straight break for a 3-1 lead.
Playing for her first Roland Garros semifinal, the counter-punching Svitolina was content to make balls in the court and paid the price for passive play.
The first Argentinean woman to contest a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Paola Suarez in 2004 competed with the strong self-belief of a woman who knew this match was in her hands.
Dictating play with her forehand and mixing in the occasional drop shot, Podoroska reeled off five straight games and served for the set at 5-1. She narrowly missed a diagonal forehand as Svitolina broke back for 2-5.
That was a temporary reprieve.
Podoroska cleaned the sideline crunching a return winner down the line breaking at love in 35 minutes.
The Podoroska forehand and return were key components to her opening-set dominance: she struck 10 forehand winners, won an eye-popping 13 of 15 points played on Svitolina’s first serve and converted all four break-point chances. Podoroska cracked 17 winners compared to two for Svitolina in the first set.
The pair traded love holds to start the second set then Svitolina started to settle in moving the ball side-to-side to promote longer points. Podoroska sprayed a backhand down the line as Svitolina broke for 2-1—her first lead since the opening game.
Podoroska came right back swinging as she shoved Svitolina into the corners with her forehand then dabbed a drop shot winner—her fifth break in as many chances to level.