Kristina Mladenovic, only the third best French player and ranked outside the top 40, ousted top seed Simona Halep to reach the Birmingham semi-finals on Friday.
The 22-year-old Switzerland-based player of Serbian parentage won an eventful match by 2-6 6-0 7-6 (7-4), upsetting a seed for the third successive time and announcing herself only ten days before Wimbledon as a force to be reckoned with on grass courts.
Mladenovic has a dangerous first serve and a penetratingly flat forehand, as well as decent volleys — and in this match some outrageously successful drop shots too.
She turned the second set around in little more than 20 minutes after Halep had been by far the more assured player in the first, and then overcame the disappointment of failing to close out the match at 5-3 in the third set.
Eventually she did manage that in two telling moments in the tie-break — first with some tough containing which lured Halep into driving into the net and which carried her to match point, and then with a winning forehand return of serve down the line which converted the chance immediately.
“Of course it was an amazing match and a big win for me,” said Mladenovic.
“I beat her before and had a few wins against top ten players, but it is definitely great to beat someone like her now.
“She was very solid in the fist set and I was definitely not in any rhythm. In the second set I tried to start over again, and in the third I thought it was a quality match with both of us playing well.”
Despite that Mladenovic had had to survive any number of curious incidents to get in a position to win.
She needed two successful video reviews in the third game of the final set to overturn decisions which would otherwise have cost her a service game.
She also saw the umpire incorrectly over-rule a line decision, apparently putting her love-30 up on Halep’s serve at 5-4 in the final set, only to be let down when that decision was reversed on appeal as well.
Then two points later Mladenovic saw her drive hit the net tape, with the ball taking a look at falling over, only to fall back. Had it fallen the other way Mladenovic would have reached match point 25 rallies sooner than she did.
When she eventually did win she dropped her racquet in amazement and pleasure, before wandering half-delighted, half-disbelieving to the net.
However just as she had against Eugenie Bouchard, the fifth seed, and Barbora Strycova, the tenth seed, Mladenovic had proved how good she can be on this surface.
Perhaps most surprising of all however was the strange implosion of Halep, the world number three and a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year, in the second set.
Mladenovic next faces the tall, steep-serving Karolina Pliskova.
The 23-year-old Czech is the youngest top 12 player, the third youngest in the top 20, and still improving, something she showed very well in a 6-2 6-2 win over Carla Suarez Navarro, the third seeded Spaniard whose skills are best suited to clay.