We rubbed our eyes to check. We took out the calculators. But the math is clear: we had never seen that at Roland Garros. At the opening of the quarter-finals of this 2020 edition, a number symbolized this completely unexpected table: 58. As the average ranking of the last eight contenders for the final coronation. Among these, only Elina Svitolina (3), Sofia Kenin (4) and Petra Kvitova (7) were seeded.
The rest of the contigent was frankly surprising:
- Iga Swiatek, 54e mondiale
- Martina Trevisan, 159th world championship
- Nadia Podoroska, 131e mondiale
- Danielle Collins, World 57th
- Laura Siegemund, 66e mondiale
Of this list, only two remain in the race. That’s good, they face each other on Thursday to already make history. Because players classified as low in the final of Major, we do not see them so often. Except Roland. Last year, Marketa Vondrousova (38th) reached the final of an edition marked by the revelation of Amanda Anisimova, semi-finalist when she was 51st in the world.
The most ultimate symbol of these made in Roland surprises, the coronation of Jelena Ostapenko, world 47th in 2017, marked the dawn of a new era. And to dedicate Roland-Garros a little more as the most undecided Major on the women’s circuit. “Yes, the observation is quite true, confirms Camille Pin, Eurosport consultant. Historically, there have often been quarter-finalists who made quarter-finals, big surprises. The trend has intensified in recent years with a much more open WTA circuit, which is even more the case at Roland“.
A grain of ocher and the machine is stuck
How to explain this French exception? For Camille Pin, the explanation comes first from the surface: “The other three Grand Slam tournaments are on fast surfaces and most of the women’s circuit is on hard. Clay changes the levels a lot. The benchmarks are slightly different and the players who are far above the other surfaces, because they have their own rhythm, their fundamentals, there they have little things to modify“. And that makes all the difference.
“As the level is very homogeneous, not much is enough, continues our consultant. The best have to change their routine a bit and that makes them much more manageable. There is very little gap“. If the clay criterion plays its role to the full, the evolution of the level within the circuit is also to be noted. Certainly, no figure dominates like the Henin, Mauresmo or Williams in the days of their prosperity. behind, it got much tighter.
“From the echoes that I have from the circuit, the level of the first 200 corresponds to the level of the Top 100 of the time, explains Camille Pin. There is a big level increase between 100 and 200. Trevisan is still the best example of this. Friends told me: ‘In the 200s, the level is monstrous’. At the same time, there is less difference with the very best. So that as soon as there is a factor that weakens the best, such as clay, it levels a lot more “.
Ferro or Podoroska won and that changes everything
So, if it is not only in the racket that it is played, it is advisable to turn to the heads. Podoroska may not have XXL references, she arrived in Paris swollen with confidence thanks to… her title at the ITF Saint-Malo, on clay, outdoors. Coming out of confinement, Fiona Ferro had chained 18 consecutive victories, many of them in secondary tournaments. Seeing her arrive in the round of 16 is ultimately nothing incongruous for Camille Pin: “
“As the level is very tight, what makes the difference are the benchmarks in place and the confidence, she explains. The two go together. I am convinced, even more with the girls where the physical factor is less since there are not five sets to play, that confidence is essential in Grand Slam. It’s more of a huge boost rather than less in terms of fatigue, as it can be with men sometimes.“.
So Podoroska or Swiatek may quickly discover heiresses. Because, in Roland more than elsewhere, anarchy reigns. Last year, Sloane Stephens summed it up perfectly: “It is completely absurd. I do not understand anything about the operation of the seeds. Either way, paintings are made to fall apart“. Hard to contradict her. Especially here.
Jelena Ostapenko – Roland-Garros 2017
Credit: Getty Images