Ukraine's Svitolina playing love match for France

Paris (AFP) –


Elina Svitolina knocked Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia out of Roland Garros on Sunday but insisted she was also playing for France due to her romance with national number one Gael Monfils.

Ukraine's Svitolina, the highest seed left in the tournament after the exit of Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova, made the quarter-finals for a third time with her 6-1, 6-3 win.

Monfils, the world number nine, was a first round casualty.

"Right now I'm thinking I'm playing for both of us," said Svitolina.

"I know how much he loves to compete here in Paris and how much he loves to play in front of big crowds.

"Unfortunately this year it's a bit different. So it's really sad that he couldn't play his best."

Svitolina, 26, and 34-year-old Monfils started dating almost two years ago and have even given themselves a common identity which dots their frequent social media updates -- 'G.E.M.S.' which meshes 'Gael', 'Elina', 'Monfils' and 'Svitolina'.

"I always love the way that he pushes me to be better, and I also try to motivate him to be better person, better tennis player," said Svitolina.

"I think this is the way that it has to be, and you have to really support each other and push for better results."

They share near-misses at the Grand Slams.

Both have twice reached semi-finals -- Monfils at Roland Garros in 2008 and the US Open in 2016. Svitolina fell at last-four stage at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019.

Next up for Svitolina in Paris is a quarter-final clash against Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska, ranked 131 in the world, who defeated Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Svitolina will be desperate to erase the bitter memory of her last run to the last eight in 2017 when she led Halep 6-3, 5-1, and had a match point, before suffering a spectacular collapse.

Podoroska, 23, is making her debut in Paris and became the second qualifier to make the last eight on Sunday following Italian world number 159 Martina Trevisan's 6-4, 6-4 win over Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens.

Podoroska, who was ranked at 255 at the start of the season, has now won 42 matches across all tours in 2020 despite the truncated season and will make her top 100 debut after the tournament.

She will now bid to emulate compatriot Paola Suarez who made the semi-finals in Paris in 2004.

Three years ago, on her only other visit to Paris, Podoroska fell in the first round of qualifying, losing to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in just 39 minutes, winning just 21 points.