Unlikely semi-finalists Iga Swiatek and Nadia Podoroska target breakthrough places in the Roland Garros championship match on Thursday as Grand Slam winners Sofia Kenin and Petra Kvitova meet in the other last-four tie.
Swiatek can become the first Polish woman in the Paris final in 81 years while Podoroska could be the first qualifier to make a final at the Slams.
Kenin and Kvitova, the only two seeds left, have been here before – Kenin won the Australian Open in January while Kvitova was Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014.
Iga Swiatek (POL) v Nadia Podoroska (ARG)
Head-to-head: First meeting
– At this out-of-season Roland Garros, it’s hardly surprising that some performances have been out of this world.
Podoroska, ranked at 131, is bidding to become the first qualifier ever to make a Grand Slam final.
Taking full advantage of the section of the draw from which Serena Williams withdrew after the first round, 23-year-old Podoroska stunned third seed Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals.
Playing in just her second major in Paris, she started the year ranked a lowly 255.
She has won 43 matches across all tours in 2020 despite the truncated season and will break into the top 50 after the tournament.
Furthermore, she is guaranteed 425,250 euros ($501,740) following her breakout performance in Paris, easily doubling her total career earnings of $301,547.
Swiatek, just 19 and ranked 54, is only the second woman from Poland to reach the semi-finals at Roland Garros – the last was Jadwiga Jedrzejowska who finished runner-up in 1939.
She enjoyed one of the tournament’s stand-out moments when she knocked out top seed and 2018 champion Simona Halep in the last 16.
“I felt a little bit more pressure because I feel like after beating Simona, I’m not the underdog anymore,” said Swiatek, a diehard Rafael Nadal fan.
“But I am just focusing on tennis, not that I’m playing a girl with lower ranking.”
The daughter of an Olympic rower, Swiatek is a fan of AC/DC and Pink Floyd although it was Guns N’Roses’ ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ which accompanied her onto court for her quarter-final win over Martina Trevisan.
Paths to the semi-final (x indicates seeded player):
1st rd: bt Marketa Vondrousova (CZE x15) 6-1, 6-2
2nd rd: bt Hsieh Su-Wei (TPE) 6-1, 6-4
3rd rd: bt Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) 6-3, 6-2
4th rd: bt Simona Halep (ROU x1) 6-1, 6-2
QF: bt Martina Trevisan (ITA) 6-3, 6-1
1st rd: bt Greet Minnen (BEL) 6-2, 6-1
2nd rd: bt Yulia Putintseva (KAZ x23) 6-3, 1-6, 6-2
3rd rd: bt Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-3, 6-2
4th rd: bt Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 2-6, 6-2, 6-3
QF: bt Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-2, 6-4
Sofia Kenin (USA x4) v Petra Kvitova (CZE x7)
Head-to-head: Kvitova leads 2-0
– Australian Open champion Kenin and two-time Wimbledon winner Kvitova have both made the last four without facing a seeded opponent.
Kenin’s highest-ranked rival was world number 49 Fiona Ferro in the last 16; Kvitova’s was 39th-ranked Zhang Shuai, also in the fourth round.
Despite that, Kenin has had to battle through four three-setters in five of her matches so far. It’s a further sign of her tenacity on clay - at the 2019 tournament, she stunned Serena Williams in the third round.
Before this season, the 21-year-old had never gone as far as the quarter-finals on the surface.
Kvitova, back in the semi-finals for the first time since 2012 when she lost to eventual champion Maria Sharapova, has not dropped a set, a feat matched by Swiatek.
“It means a lot to be back in the semi-finals,” said 30-year-old Kvitova. “After my last match, I was very emotional to be in the quarter-finals. Now I am in the semis. I never imagined this would happen after everything that has happened. This is my lucky place.”
It was Paris where Kvitova made her comeback in 2017 after spending six months recovering from a terrifying knife attack at her home in December 2016.
Paths to the semi-final
1st rd: bt Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
2nd rd: bt Ana Bogdan (ROU) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
3rd rd: bt Irina Bara (ROU) 6-2, 6-0
4th rd: bt Fiona Ferro (FRA) 2-6, 6-2, 6-1
QF: bt Danielle Collins (USA) 6-4, 4-6, 6-0
1st rd: bt Oceane Dodin (FRA) 6-3, 7-5
2nd rd: bt Jasmine Paolini (ITA) 6-3, 6-3
3rd rd: bt Leylah Fernandez (CAN) 7-5, 6-3
4th rd: bt Zhang Shuai (CHN) 6-2, 6-4
QF: bt Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-3, 6-3