When Venus Williams lost in the first round of Roland Garros, opportunity opened a cornucopia of possibilities from the tennis gods. Not because Williams was the overwhelming favorite, but because she was the only woman who had experienced finals day in Paris. 2002 was a historic final between two sisters — the occasion helped usher the younger sister, Serena Williams, into the Tennis Hall of Fame. Serena held all four majors at the same time, thanks in part to her Parisian triumph. Now that we are in the second week of Roland Garros, the identities of the women from the bottom half who will make the final are becoming clearer. So far we have two young Americans who were featured in the 2017 U.S. Open final; a fiery Kazakh; and a Russian with the type of game style that brings nostalgic memories to many tennis fans, offering throwback shades of black and white.
Who are these players? Join me as I break down each of the 2018 Roland Garros bottom-half quarter finalists.
The reigning U.S. Open champion has had a love affair with Roland Garros’s clay for many years. Before her U.S. Open breakthrough, Paris was the site of her most consistent major with four fourth-round appearances. She only lost to players who had been to a Roland Garros final. This year she does not have any experienced finalists in her path and has found herself, in many minds, as the favorite for her second major. Only four active women have won another major after their maiden triumphs. Two out of the four won their second a year after their first. Sloane will be hoping she is next on that list.
After a bumpy start to her season, Madison Keys is thriving in Paris. With her win Sunday over Mihaela Buzarnescu, Keys — along with compatriot Sloane Stephens — has reached the quarterfinals or better at all four majors. Many predicted that Keys’ highest level of success would come on the grass at Wimbledon, but she is quickly proving herself to be an all-surface threat. Lindsay Davenport, Keys’ coach, was only able to reach the semifinals in Paris once in her career. Keys will be favored against the Kazakh, Yulia Putinseva, but her opponent will aim to spoil Keys’ dream of an all-American semifinal with her good friend, Stephens.
While reaching the quarterfinals in Paris for the second time, Yulia Putintseva is a surprise in the second week. Before Roland Garros, Putintseva had not won three consecutive matches on the WTA Tour since she reached the St. Petersburg final 16 months ago. Putintseva has a cult following on #TennisTwitter for her expressive gestures and antics with umpires, yet her game has been doing the most talking this fortnight. She will face Madison Keys for a shot at her best result ever at a major.
Daria Kasatkina / Caroline Wozniacki
— As of this writing, their match has been suspended due to darkness. The winner will face Sloane Stephens.
Kasatkina has the type of game that should thrive on clay. The young Russian was a junior Roland Garros champion (2014). Reaching this year’s fourth round has been her best result in Paris and equals her best major result, which she achieved at the 2017 U.S. Open. Kasatkina is currently facing the reigning Australian Open champion, Wozniacki, for a place in the quarterfinals, but she will not be daunted by Wozniacki’s stature considering she currently owns wins over all of the current major champions in the past year. Kasatkina is one of five players in WTA history to hold multiple wins over players who have been World No. 1s at any point in time. She will have to do it once again on the biggest stage to move on.
Wozniacki, the first Danish woman in history to win a major title, is one of five champions left in the draw. Clay has historically not been her strongest surface; the farthest she has advanced is the quarterfinals. Wozniacki regained the number one ranking after six years with her maiden title in Australia, but lost it soon after due to Halep’s indefatigable consistency. In order for Wozniacki to see No. 1 by her name once again, she would have to go home with the title.