There were mixed results for the home players in the AGEL Open 2022 in Ostrava on Friday, with only Barbora Krejcikova left surviving of the 3 Czechs in the Last 8, while top seed Iga Swiatek withstood a spirited challenge from Caty McNally.
It was definitely physical. At the beginning of the second set I could feel my energy level went down a little bit. I'm pretty happy I got it back again, and I could use my experience in my important moments, because Caty played really well. Iga Świątek
Krejcikova too was well tested by McNally’s doubles partner, fellow American Alycia Parks, but prevailed, 7-6(7) 6-3, after an hour and 45 minutes.
Four of the 8 players in the quarter-finals own Grand Slam titles but, despite their pedigrees, only Swiatek was seeded this week. Nevertheless, the quality of tennis was bound to be high.
Although Krejcikova, the 2021 French Open champion, was the first to come through her challenge, ending Park’s career-best run to reach the semi-finals, she was unable to consolidate early service breaks in each set, and had to save a set point in the first.
The Czech was also somewhat aided by Parks, who is ranked 144 and coughed up 9 double-faults in the process.
Parks, though, showed resilience to peg Krejcikova back from an early break in both sets but, despite firing 28 winners, including 6 aces, the 21-year-old was undone by those inopportune double-faults and, as the match went on, these increasingly came at unfortunate moments, two starting and ending the first-set tiebreak, while a trio saw her fall behind 2-0 in the second and then, having recovered the break, another to go down 4-2.
Krejcikova’s next opponent is the reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan, who found her way past former the 2-time Wimbledon champion and home favourite, Petra Kvitova, 7-6(5) 6-4, in their first career meeting.
They couldn’t break each other at all in the first set, which was eventually settled in the tiebreak when Kvitova followed a double-fault with a netted backhand.
Rybakina finally broke for 4-3 in the second, and lost just one point in her last 2 service games, capping the match with her 11th ace.
Recovering from a cold, Kvitova had been looking to the home crowds for ‘priceless’ energy this week as the 32-year old’s home is not far from Ostrava.
She did not know until a few days before the tournament whether she would be able to play, and won her first two rounds while still under the weather from her illness.
She said the home crowds have spurred her, especially during a tight, 2 hour 7-6(4) 6-4 upset of 2nd-seeded Paula Badosa from Spain to reach the quarters.
“Playing three sets… probably wouldn’t have been very good in my condition,” Kvitova told the media. “I didn’t have much strength left.
“It’s not ideal. Not for the body, or even for tennis. But… hearing the fans. It’s something priceless,” Kvitova added. “The atmosphere was great on Monday, and [Wednesday] even better.”
Friday proved a step too far for the left-handed Czech, but the good news is that Kvitova appears to have fully recovered from a recent wrist injury.
Swiatek, the World No 1, is a two-time French and reigning US Open champion, who had to figure her way past her former junior doubles partner Caty McNally, 6-4 6-4, after an hour and 54 minutes.
Together they won the 2018 Junior French Open doubles, while McNally had won both of their junior singles meetings but much has changed since then.
“Tactically it was easier to prepare, because I know her game style,” Swiatek said. “She’s playing differently to other players.
“But on the other hand, a lot of time has passed since we played last time. I knew she’d made progress, and I had to be ready.”
Swiatek was under pressure on serve from the get-go, and was the first to be broken, while she faced break points in each of her first 3 service games.
McNally broke her in the 5th game with a passing shot to take a 3-2 lead, but the Polish top seed broke twice, in the 6th and 10th games, to pocket the first set, winning 5 consecutive game to build up a 6-3, 3-0 lead at the start of the second set.
The American hung tough, and broke again in the 6th game to draw level at 3-3, prodding Swiatek to shift gears and earn the second break to love as she emphatically closed out the match.
“It was definitely physical,” Swiatek said. “At the beginning of the second set I could feel my energy level went down a little bit.
“I’m pretty happy I got it back again, and I could use my experience in my important moments, because Caty played really well.”
Swiatek converted 4 of her 10 break points, and while both committed 23 unforced errors, the Pole struck 24 winners to McNally’s 18.
The win extends Swiatek’s overall record to 59 matches won this season, to just 7 lost, and she now is one win away from equalling former World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki, the last player to win 60 matches in a single season in 2017.
McNally, who was the lowest-ranked woman ever to reach the Ostrava quarter-finals at No 151, had 11 break chances, but could only convert on two.
The current US Open champion now will take a 9 match win streak into the semi-finals against Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova, who ousted another Czech hope in wild-card Tereza Martincova, 6-1 4-6 6-1, after an hour and 45 minutes.
Alexandrova, ranked 21, was the only semi-finalist to drop a set in the quarters but, having won the title at the Korea Open in Seoul last week, she continues to enjoy a rich run of her own.