Martic, Vondrousova Reach Maiden Grand Slam Quarterfinal

Petra Martic (photo: Corinne Dubreuil / FFT)

PARIS, June 2, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

Watching Marketa Vondrousova go about her business of crafting powerful forehands mixed with deceptively accurate drop shots brings to mind a couple of other illustrious Czech left-handed stars, namely Hall of Fame great Martina Navratilova (born in the former Czechoslovakia, who defected and later became a U.S. citizen) and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Since the Australian Open, Vondrousova has put together some impressive numbers. She has accumulated a solid 25-5 win-loss record; reached the final at Istanbul; beat Simona Halep, the highest remaining seed in Paris, in the second round at Rome; and garnered six consecutive quarterfinal appearances, all while raising her ranking from No. 81 to No. 38.

The 19-year-old Vondrousova came into the French Open last week full of hope and promise and was seen by many as a serious unseeded threat. She has made good on that prediction.

On a sunny Sunday morning, opening Day 8 on Court Suzanne Lenglen, the unseeded Vondrousova beat 12th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova, 6-2, 6-0, to move into the quarterfinals of a major for the first time – and she’s enjoying this remarkable run at Roland Garros without dropping a set.

“I played a great match,” said Vondrousova, who with her victory has risen to No. 26 in the projected rankings. “She’s a tough player. So, I’m just happy to be through and happy with my game.”

Playing in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the second time, Vondrousova won 72 percent (18 of 25) of her first-serve points and backed it with a 56 percent efficiency on winning points her second serve. She hit 19 winners and committed just 13 unforced errors. Vondrousova’s return game was just as impressive, winning 63 percent (29 of 46) of her receiving points. She outpointed the overmatched Sevastova, 56-31. The Latvian, who two days ago outlasted No. 20 seed Elise Mertens in a lengthy, three-set, three hour and 20 minute match – longest of the women’s draw – struggled with her service game and played flat throughout much of the 59-minute match, winning only 17 points on her serve. She finished with just seven winners and 24 unforced errors, and managed just one break-point conversation.

When Vondrousova was asked if she gained any inspiration from the legacy of great Czech left-handed players, she said, “I watched Petra when I was young, and I remember when she won Wimbledon, so I was looking up to her. Yeah, it’s great we have so many players.”

It’s been a great fortnight for the teenagers at Rolando Garros as Vondrousova, 18-year-old Iga Swiatek of Poland and 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova of the United States have all reached the second week at Paris.

“I think it’s nice to see a new generation playing so good,” said Vondrousova.

Martic reaches her first major quarterfinal

Vondrousova will oppose No. 31 seed Petra Martic of Croatia, who put together another impressive win on Sunday.  It was Martic’s 16th in her last 18 matches, all coming on clay. She came back from a set down and break down in both the second and third sets to defeat unseeded No. 88 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, twice a Roland Garros quarterfinalist, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, in two hours and 12 minutes.

It was a breakthrough victory for the 28-year-old Martic, who had been on the losing side of all four previous Grand Slam fourth rounds she’s played, including 2012 and 2017 at Roland Garros. Meanwhile, Kanepi has been a perennial contender in the second week of majors, winning six of eight in the round of 16, losing only to Serena Williams at the 2014 and 2018 U.S. Open.

“It was tough mentally for me today, especially because I was stopped four times before in the fourth round,” said Martic during her press conference after winning. “So, it really felt like, you, know, I was doubting whether I was ever going to get that fourth round.

“That was close, two years ago. I was two points away. Didn’t happen.” As a qualifier in 2017, Martic lost 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 to fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina. “Today, it played a role in my mind. It was not always easy to focus on my game, but I really just – I just tried to fight as hard as I could, and than God, I finally made it.”

Although tentative at first, Martic went on to hit 26 winners, which helped overcome her eight double faults and 42 unforced errors. Kanepi finished with 20 winners and 46 unforced errors. Martic broke Kanepi seven times, including three times during the final set, and she put away the match on her first match-point opportunity when the Estonian netted a backhand return.

By winning, Martic set up a rematch of her Istanbul final against Vondrousova, which the Croatian won, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, in April. Her victory over Kanepi improved her French Open record to 22-10. Another win over Vondrousova would lift her into the Top 20.

“I’m really looking forward to this match,” said Martic, who is 4-0 lifetime against Vondrousova, including wins this year in the Australian Open and at Istanbul. “I think it’s going to be a fun one. She’s also got a few trick in her game, but, yeah, I mean, I like that.”

By the numbers

When she defeated Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6, 6-4 on Saturday, 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova of the United States became the youngest woman to reach the Round of 16 at Roland Garros since Martina Hingis in 1998. On Monday, Anisimova will oppose qualifier Aliona Bolsova of Spain for a spot in the quarterfinals.

What they’re saying

• No. 35 Sofia Kenin, who defeated 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, 6-2, 7-5 on Saturday to reach the fourth round: “I’m still trying to process what just happened. … I was there to win a match. Of course, she’s a true champion and an inspiration and she’s done amazing things for American tennis.

“I think this is such a great win for me. I mean, as you can see after the match – I normally don’t cry after a match. I had so many emotions playing on Chatrier. I have always imagined playing there and winning a match. I went there today with the mentality to go and win.”

Serena Williams, 37, still in pursuit of her 24th Grand Slam title, after losing to Sofia Kenin – her earliest Grand Slam defeat since Wimbledon 2014 – seemed philosophical in defeat. She said, “Hey, it is what it is. … I am glad I came. You know, I love the city, and I love the tournament. I really wanted to be here. So I’m glad I came, at the end of the day. It’s just been a really grueling season for me.”

What they’re tweeting

Matt Roberts, co-host of The Tennis Podcast, on the significance of World No. 1 Naomi Osaka’s loss on Saturday after winning the last two Grand Slams: “We’ve become so used to seeing Osaka find her best at the key moments, so to watch her come up so short today was shocking.

“But it shows just how special her run was. It could – perhaps should – have gone awry at several points much earlier, but somehow she kept surviving.”