Petra Kvitova has had her fair share of tragedy but she put it all behind her by posting a stunning 7-6(3) 6-3 victory over the 3rd-seeded Spaniard, Garbiñe Muguruza, in a battle of the two-time Grand Slam champions at the US Open on the middle Sunday.
The 27-year old Czech was sidelined for five months after being stabbed in her left playing hand by an intruder at her home and although the 13th seed has gradually moved towards her best level, Muguruza was the hot favourite under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The Spanish third seed Muguruza had only dropped nine games en route to the fourth round and her poise, pace and power helped her quickly open a 4–1 lead.
I tried to work really hard to play here again. It means a lot, it's an incredible night to play in front of a great crowd. I don't think I can find the right words, it was a difficult time, all five months [away] were very tough. It was a tough journey that I didn’t know how would end. Everything after what happened is something new and I really appreciate every experience that I have right now in life. Every moment I am living now is something really special. Petra Kvitova
Kvitova held strong, staving off a break point that jump-started her game, and then won five of the next six games on her way to forcing the tiebreak.
Targeting her opponent’s misfiring forehand, Kvitova levelled at 4–all, and had break points at 5–4 and 6–5 before snatching the first set.
The twice Wimbledon champion had stayed composed while Muguruza grew increasingly nervous, challenging line calls with no apparent reason as Kvitova moved her from left to right.
The Spaniard seemed to be back on track when she broke her to begin the second set, but Kvitova grabbed back the advantage and cantered away to a 4–1 lead as the Spaniard was given a warning for coaching.
She hung in by her teeth but she wasted three chances to break back in the ninth game before Kvitova turned it up again, prevailing on her second match point when Muguruza sent a forehand long and the Czech advanced to her second quarter-final appearance of the US Open.
It signalled Kvitova’s return to top form eight months after sustaining the career-threatening hand injury to reach the US Open quarter-finals for the first time since 2015 when she lost to eventual champion Flavia Pennetta.
“I tried to work really hard to play here again. It means a lot, it’s an incredible night to play in front of a great crowd,” Kvitova said in her on-court interview.
“I don’t think I can find the right words, it was a difficult time, all five months [away] were very tough.
“It was a tough journey that I didn’t know how would end. Everything after what happened is something new and I really appreciate every experience that I have right now in life. Every moment I am living now is something really special,” she said.
Kvitova’s victory set up a match in the quarter-finals against Venus Williams, against whom she holds a 4-1 record in the head to heads in her career.
Muguruza’s run had ended, despite her opening dominance at the start of the match.
“Even though I was winning 4–1, I think she was playing great. Looking at her past matches, I think she was playing even better,” said Muguruza afterwards.
“So I felt like she was superior today. You know, great for her. She played very good,” she said.
For Kvitova, who peaked at a career-high World No 2 back in 2012, it is the best of comeback stories.
She has never reached the last four in New York despite doing so at each of the other three Grand Slams on the calendar, including twice raising the trophy at Wimbledon, and she will now face off for a spot in her first semi-final against Venus Williams, who advanced to the last eight after a three-set victory over Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro earlier on Sunday.
“I watched little bit when she played today with Carla. I think that she really played great. I think that she’s playing amazing on the majors this year. I mean, she is really playing very, very well on the big stages,” Kvitova said.
“She played the final of the Wimbledon. She’s a champion. It’s what we all know.
“I will try my best. I mean, she has a big serve, big server of course. She has something special which the other players doesn’t have. That’s what I will try to play again probably, similar game as today.”
Venus Williams kept the family flag flying at the US Open on Sunday as she moved into the quarter-finals in New York by outlasting Carla Suarez-Navarro, 6-3 3-6 6-1.
Now an aunt after sister Serena gave birth to a baby girl in Florida on Friday, Venus is 19-3 in majors this year and looking to win her third US Open title.
Her previous victories came in 2000 and 2001 so the 37-year-old is eager to add another to the tally.
“For me, I am focused on myself and trying to be aggressive as possible,” Williams said.
“No one ever gives you a slam. You got to take it. So I know that, so I am going to try to take it.”
Williams has won seven Grand Slam titles in her career, the most recent being Wimbledon in 2008.
Williams reached this year’s Wimbledon final before falling to Garbiñe Muguruza.
She overcame an inconsistent serving performance to blow past a stunned Carla Suárez Navarro to make the second week of the US Open for the 12th time in her career.
As with her other matches over the first six days of the tournament, it wasn’t a vintage effort, but it had all the hallmarks of what has made Venus so successful: fight, grit and an extra gear when she needed it most.
After dropping the second set and sharing a split of the opening two games in the third, Venus turned up the pressure on Suárez Navarro with a barrage of penetrating strokes, blasting through to win the final six games in a row.
The two-time US Open champion captured the first set behind three breaks of serve, masking the fact that she was missing every other first serve, struggling with her ball toss and losing two-third of her second-serve points when the Spaniard was able to get the first strike in from the back of the court.
Suárez Navarro broke twice in three chances to establish a double break and a 3-0 lead at the start of the second set, and she sent the match to a decider when Venus hit a backhand long in a game she led 30-0 and 40-15.
If the Spaniard had the momentum, it didn’t last long.
Venus broke in the third and fifth games of the third set as she took full control of the match to leave little doubt in the final outcome.
A third consecutive hold made it 5-1, and a monstrous cross-court forehand return three points later gave the American triple match point.
The 28-year-old Barcelona native saved the first, but an exquisite half-volley pickup at the net put a bow on a perfect final-set performance and brought out a wide smile and her trademark twirl.
Williams next plays the No 13 seed, Petra Kvitova, winner over Muguruza, in the quarters.
American Sloane Stephens also reached the quarter-finals with a win over Germany’s Julia Goerges and will meet the 16th-seeded Sevastova, who dispatched Maria Sharapova on a day when only 16 singles matches were completed at Flushing Meadows, thanks to the inclement weather.