Over the years, French tennis fans have been called a lot of things by players visiting from the United States; it’s better, perhaps, not to detail them here. On Sunday, though, South Carolina native Shelby Rogers told the spectators in Court Suzanne-Lenglen something they probably never thought they would hear about themselves from an American.

“You guys are awesome!” Rogers called out to the hardy fans who had come out in the overcast Paris weather to watch her 6-3, 6-4 fourth-round win over Irina Camelia-Begu. If they had wondered at the start who this 23-year-old, 108th-ranked player was, and what she was still doing in their tournament on its second Sunday, they knew now.

In beating Begu, the 25th seed, Rogers did just what she had done in upsetting 10th-seeded Petra Kvitova and 17th-seeded Karolina Pliskova last week: She used her easy power and smoothly lethal two-handed backhand to control the proceedings from the baseline, all while looking, as one fan put it on Twitter, “like she’s just trying to get some cardio before she goes out with her friends later.”

But if Rogers appeared relaxed and in control while the match was going on, once it was over it was obvious how much the moment meant to her. After years of having her career interrupted by knee and back injuries and bouncing around in the triple digits in the rankings, Rogers had reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, and she had done it at the least likely Grand Slam.


Cinderella Sunday

Cinderella Sunday

Rogers spent most of her post-match interview with her hands over her mouth. It was as if she knew nothing she could say could properly convey the emotions she felt.

“It’s an incredible moment for me,” she finally said through tears.

“I’m definitely outside my comfort zone already,” Rogers admitted later, “and I keep telling myself, 'You belong here, you belong here.' You know, 'Play your game, do the things that got you to this moment. Don’t change anything.'”

Many fans have complained this year about the head-spinning unpredictability of the WTA tour. These days, it seems, the seeds never hold, and even the top players can’t make their good form last longer than a week. But the upside of unpredictability is moments like this, and runs like Rogers’. In her reaction, you see what it’s like to have a dream suddenly come true, and you see that tennis remains more than just a profession. That’s not a feeling you often get from a Top 5 player who has reached the quarters.

At the same time, Rogers has sustained her good form in Paris; by now, her success shouldn’t be a surprise.

“I think that’s a very important point on backing up a big win,” she told reporters. “I guess I have done that pretty much this whole tournament.”

Rogers wasn’t the only player who was at a loss for words after winning in Lenglen on Sunday. Her surprise victory was proceeded by an even more surprising win by 55th-ranked Albert Ramos-Viñolas, in straight sets over No. 8 seed Milos Raonic.

Like Rogers, the 28-year-old Spaniard has come from nowhere to reach the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam for the first time. In his 18 previous appearances at the majors, he had lost in the first or second round every time, and this was just his second win, in 21 attempts, over a player in the Top 10.

“I played every ball with a reason. I’ve been working hard for a long time trying to find the way to win more matches,” Ramos-Viñolas said of his long and mostly futile road to this moment. “Here, today, maybe the work I did is paying off. It’s like a present for me, because I didn’t expect this.”

As those words may indicate, Ramos-Viñolas, Spain’s fourth-most-famous left-handed tennis player, is one of the tour’s most unassuming men. His fellow Spaniard, Garbiñe Muguruza, said on Sunday that, more than anything else, he’s “very quiet.”

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Very quiet, and instinctively modest. When Ramos-Viñolas was asked on court about his next match, against Stan Wawrinka, the Spaniard wasted no time in downplaying his chances.

“I lost to him, 6-1, 6-1, last week,” he said of their match at the French Open tune-up in Geneva.

Like a lot of players, unassuming and not, Ramos-Viñolas can get nervous. He double faulted twice while trying to serve out his last match, against Jack Sock, and he squandered two match points in the final game against Raonic. For a moment, it appeared that his modesty, and his long track record of defeats against top players, would get the better of him again. Instead, Ramos-Viñolas played, as he said, with purpose. On his third match point, he moved into the net and hit one overhead that Raonic retrieved and sent back high in the air.

Did Ramos-Viñolas have it in him to land the last punch? Where some might have let the ball bounce, he didn’t hesitate to pluck it out of the air and send it past his opponent for a winning smash.

As the ball whistled into the backstop and Raonic’s shoulders slumped, Ramos-Viñolas took a second to react. It was as if, like Rogers, he couldn’t quite believe what he’d seen. Then he leaned back, threw his arms out to his side and began to scream and shake with happiness and relief. The quiet man couldn’t keep it in any longer.

Together, Rogers and Ramos-Viñolas brightened up a dreary day in Paris, and showed that reaching just one quarterfinal at a Grand Slam is a dream come true for most players. At the majors, it's what happens in the finals that is ultimately remembered; what's often forgotten is that these events are really two weeks of emotion, emotion that’s here and gone in a flash. Even if Rogers and Ramos-Viñolas don’t go any farther in Paris this year, their flashes of joy on Sunday reminded us that you don’t have to win it all to win something important at a Grand Slam.