Biggest surprises of RG 2023

 - Alex Sharp

Some exciting players have turned heads with major moves in Paris over the past fortnight

Surprises Roland-Garros 2023

Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek are names regularly associated with Grand Slam titles and the latter stages of the most prestigious tournaments.

However, a group of players broke new ground or returned to the major conversation at Roland-Garros 2023. Here are some of the most surprising successes in Paris this spring.

Beatriz Haddad Maia

Cheered on by ardent Brazilian support, world No.14 Beatriz Haddad Maia stormed to her finest Grand Slam performance to date.

From 11 previous major appearances, she'd never progressed beyond the second round. This was quite the journey.

The 27-year-old prevailed 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-5 against Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo in a pulsating fourth-round encounter. At 3hr 51mins, the battle was the longest women's match on tour this year.

>> SABATINI: HADDAD MAIA DESERVES TO BE HERE

Haddad Maia then became the first Brazilian woman to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Maria Bueno at the 1968 US Open with a remarkable 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-1 comeback over Ons Jabeur.

The Brazilian flags were flying on Court Philippe-Chatrier for the semi-final; the world No.14 pushed defending champion Swiatek hard before going down 6-2, 7-6(7).

Tomas Martin Etcheverry

Argentinians adore playing at Roland-Garros and with good reason.

Tomas Martin Etcheverry remembers watching the 2004 all-Argentina final on television, when Gaston Gaudio roared back from two sets down 0–6, 3–6, 6–4, 6–1, 8–6 against Guillermo Coria. From that point on he was hooked.

The world No.49, managed by compatriot and former top-10 player Juan Monaco, arrived at Roland-Garros with three clay finals to his name this season, and he managed to transfer that form to the Grand Slam arena.

Etcheverry was the only man to arrive in the quarter-finals without dropping a set. He'd notched up emphatic wins over seeded trio Alex de Minaur, Borna Coric and Yoshihito Nishioka, prior to a four-set battle with Alexander Zverev.

The German likened Etcheverry's game to the sledgehammer striking of his countryman Juan Martin del Potro; the 23-year-old clearly impressed on his breakout Grand Slam.

Tomas Martin Etcheverry, Roland-Garros 2023, fourth round©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is persistence personified.

Rewind to Roland-Garros 2021 when she battled through personal doubts and physical issues to set the record for the most Grand Slam appearances before featuring in final, at 52.

The 31-year-old's season was completely derailed last year by a knee injury; Pavlyuchenkova wasn't allowed to pick up a racquet for five months. 

Currently down at world No.333, the 12-time WTA title winner is clawing her way back up the rankings and Roland-Garros proved the ideal location.

A 6-2, 6-2 passage past teenage sensation Linda Fruhvirtova set the tone. Pavlyuchenkova then dug in for deciding-set triumphs over Liudmila Samsonova (15) and Anastasia Potapova (24).

Pavlyuchenkova marked her return to the second week in style, with a 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 tussle with Elise Mertens before the former world No.11's Grand Slam resurgence was finally halted in the quarter-finals 7-5, 6-2 by Karolina Muchova.

It's clear that 'Pavs' is back in a major way.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, fourth round, Roland-Garros 2023© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Thiago Seyboth Wild

Former junior world No.1 Thiago Seyboth Wild seems to be finally fulfilling his potential.

Following qualifying heartbreak in Paris in 2020-2022, the 23-year-old successfully booked his ticket into the main draw this year.

The world No.172 was handed a giant test in the first round, finding himself up against world No.2 and recent Rome Masters champion Daniil Medvedev.

Clay is arguably Medvedev's least assured surface and the Brazilian capitalised on this, putting in a fearless performance to come away with a 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 upset for a "dream come true" moment.

No.27 seed Nishioka squeezed past the fatigued qualifier in five sets in the third round, but if the Brazilian can replicate the form he showed against Medvedev, there'll be plenty more to see of Seyboth Wild in the majors.

Juan Pablo Varillas

It took Lima native Juan Pablo Varillas nine years to crack the top 100 before making his Grand Slam main draw debut at Roland-Garros last year. The Peruvian fell in the first round, relinquishing a two-set lead to Felix Auger-Aliassime.

This year, the late-blooming 27-year-old showed his ironman credentials in Paris, emerging victorious from three consecutive five-setters.

Two sets down to qualifier Jerry Shang then two sets down to Roberto Bautista Agut (19), the world No.94 somehow found a way through. He then found the resources to outplay Hubert Hurkacz (13) over another five sets in the third round before his marathon was halted 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 by Djokovic.

Varillas is the first player from Peru to make it as deep in a Grand Slam in 29 years.

Novak Djokovic, Juan Pablo Varillas, Roland-Garros 2023, fourth round© Philippe Montigny/FFT