Petra Kvitova stood wide-eyed and perfectly still, scarcely believing she was through to her first French Open quarterfinal in eight years after winning 6-2, 6-4 against Zhang Shuai of China on Monday.
When the chair umpire climbed down and pointed to the mark confirming her two-handed backhand had landed just in, she released her emotions The seventh-seeded Czech player looked up in the air, then blew kisses and waved to the small crowd gathered on Court Philippe Chatrier, the tournament’s main stadium.
“Yeah, I got a bit emotional last two points of my match,” she said. “My memories, happy memories. When I made my comeback here in 2017, when I step on the Philippe Chatrier, I couldn’t really imagine me to be in the quarterfinal of this slam. Everything just came back to me.”
Three years ago, the left-handed Kvitova made her comeback at Roland Garros after sustaining serious injuries to her left hand following a knife attack by a robber at her home in the Czech Republic.
“When I’m talking, I’m getting emotional again. It’s been a long ride definitely. Everything came to my mind,” she said. “My whole family, people who I loved to help me through the tough, tough time. I don’t know, just everything came back.”
Then there were some match-point nerves to deal with.
At the U.S. Open last month, at the same stage of the competition, Kvitova wasted four match points in a loss to American Shelby Rogers.
“That match was really tough. Even I play great, I mean, I didn’t just make it,” she said. “It happen to me after such a long time that I didn’t win the match from the match point. Especially in a Grand Slam, right? It was really painful.”
Kvitova’s two Grand Slam titles were won on the green grass of Wimbledon in 2011 and ‘14.
Success has so far eluded the former second-ranked player on Roland Garros’ red clay. Her only semifinal in western Paris was in 2012, and since then she’d reached the fourth round just once prior to this tournament, and that was five years ago.
“I think it’s been a miracle for me to make the semifinal here,” she said. “After eight years to be in the quarterfinal again, it’s great. I’m really happy for that, that I’m still able to play on all surfaces.”
Kvitova had a first chance to close out the match serving at 5-2, but Zhang broke and then held.
“She served very well, played very aggressive,” Kvitova said. “It’s great, it was a nice battle today.”
Her next opponent, Laura Siegemund, meanwhile, endured sub-standard snacks in a 7-5, 6-2 win against Paula Badosa.
As she was gathering her things before leaving, a court-side microphone captured an exchange with an official. Siegemund explained, in crude terms, how unimpressed with what she’d been given to eat by her physio.
“I have to have a word with my physio,” Siegemund said, emphasising her disappointment with an expletive.
Siegemund saw the funny side when asked about it after the match.
“There are cameras everywhere and you cannot say anything without anybody noticing it. It’s fine,” she said, laughing. “I was trying to get some carbs in. I tried the (energy) bar, couldn’t get it down really. So I asked my physio to bring me something else. I just wanted to get some carbs, some potato or rice, whatever.”
The 22-year-old German player had never previously been beyond the second round at the French Open and never beyond the third round at any major tournament.
In remaining men’s fourth-round play, top-ranked Novak Djokovic was facing 15th-seeded Karen Khachanov.
Earlier, No. 5-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 13-seeded Andrey Rublev reached the last eight at Roland Garros for the first time.
Tsitsipas won 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-2 against No. 18-seeded Grigor Dimitrov and Rublev beat unseeded Marton Fucsovics 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Tsitsipas has some treatement for an irritation to his eye at the start of the second set and saved two set points in the tiebreaker.
“I feel irritation in my eye and it happened in my previous matches as well. It’s still a bit irritated, I think it’s red,” Tsitsipas said. “The tiebreak was very tense, the tiebreak was where all the money was. I showed lots of discipline.”
Rublev saved three set points serving at 5-4 down and 0-40 in the fourth set, then won on his second match point when Fucsovics put a forehand into the net.
The 22-year-old Rublev is a two-time U.S. Open quarterfinalist, but had never been beyond the first round in Paris.
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