French Open: Garcia beats Mertens in thriller, Podoroska advances

Caroline Garcia beat Elise Mertens, while Nadia Podoroska continued her dream run with over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova to reach the fourth round.

Caroline Garcia celebrates after winning her match against Elise Mertens.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The French Open came alive under the Philippe Chatrier Court roof as home hope Caroline Garcia battled back to beat 16th seed Elise Mertens 1-6, 6-4, 7-5 in a third-round thriller on Friday.

Garcia, who has never quite delivered on her early career promise, was roared on by several hundred fans as she finally claimed victory on her sixth match point.

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With play suspended by heavy rain on other courts, the focus was on centre where the largest and noisiest crowd so far at the rescheduled event was treated to an absorbing scrap.

It was a nail-biting climax to a contest that was one-sided in the first set when Garcia could not contain the errors and Mertens looked set to dampen French hopes.

But, Garcia rediscovered her form after breaking early in the second with a stunning drop shot and although a poor volley at 4-3 allowed Mertens back in, Garcia broke immediately.

Garcia sealed the second set with a love service game and carried the momentum into the third as she moved ahead 5-3. Then things got really tense.

Three match points went begging as she served at 5-4 and Mertens seized the chance to break back but Garcia, 26, produced a sensational game to break again for a 6-5 lead.

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Getting over the finishing line was proving a mental trial for her and the fans and she framed a forehand wildly on her fourth match point and then double-faulted on a fifth.

An ace brought her a sixth opportunity though and Mertens cracked as she sent a backhand just long.

Garcia was one of three Frenchwomen to reach the third round and will now face Ukrainian third seed Elina Svitolina for a chance to equal her 2017 run to the quarter-finals here, which was also her best showing in a Grand Slam.

- Nadia Podoroska advances -

Meanwhile, Nadia Podoroska continued her dream run with a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Anna Karolina Schmiedlova to reach the fourth round.

The 23-year-old from Rosario, ranked 131st in the world, was in total command against Slovakia's Schmiedlova who had taken out former world number ones Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka.

Nadia Podoroska plays a shot against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova during the third round of the French Open.   -  AP

 

Podoroska, whose great grandparents hailed from Ukraine, is the first woman from Argentina to reach the last 16 in Paris since Gisela Dulko in 2011.

It has been an incredible year for Podoroska who was outside the world's top 250 in January and who is playing in the main draw of a Grand Slam for only the second time.

“I didn't expect these results so I'm very happy,” Podoroska, who has now won six matches here including three in qualifying, told reporters.

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“I had a very clear strategy today. The first few games were very hard physically but I stayed there. After the first set I was very solid and stayed with my plan.”

After years grinding out a meagre living on the lower-tier ITF circuit, she has guaranteed herself 189,000 euros for reaching the fourth round, by far her biggest pay day.

“It's a relief, now I can relax a little, I've been suffering a bit the last year,” she said.

With either 114th-ranked Czech Barbora Krejcikova or Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, ranked 157th, up next she now has a golden opportunity to reach the quarterfinals.

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