Missing Most Of Its Stars, Roland Garros Still Has Kvitova

WASHINGTON, October 6, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

If you were preoccupied or blinked, you might have missed Petra Kvitova‘s 6-2, 6-4 defeat of China’s Zhang Shuai at Roland Garros on Monday, which lifted the Czech star into the quarterfinal round of the French Open for the first time in eight years.

After all, Kvitova’s match lasted just one hour and 25 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier, before much of the crowd that’s been limited to 1,000 spectators due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols during the Paris fortnight could file in to watch. However, those who witnessed in person or watched on TV saw the seventh seed Kvitova hit 23 winners and comprehensively overpower the No. 39 Zhang with a variety of powerful groundstrokes. She won 71 percent of her first-serve points, controlled the net, broke Zhang four times and outpointed her opponent 70-56.

Kvitova’s win advanced her into the second week for the fifth time, but only when she reached the semifinals in 2012 – her best finish – has the Czech made it past the round of 16. It also projects for her a return to the Top 10 when the rankings are updated next week.

During her videoconference, the World No. 11 Kvitova expressed how she became emotional near the end of her match Monday, particularly looking back at how she began her 2017 comeback at Roland Garros following a violent knife attack during a home invasion in December 2016. “I got a bit emotional last two points of my match,” she said.

“I really started to think still about the match because in tennis we rally never know when it’s end. 

“But my memories, happy memories, when I made my comeback here 2017, when I step on the Philippe-Chatrier, I couldn’t really imagine me to be in the quarterfinal of this slam.

The 30-year-old Czech No. 1 was in a reflective mood throughout much of her media session. She continued:

“Everything just came back to me. … It’s been long ride definitely. Everything came to my mind when I had my whole family, people who I loved to helped me through the tough, tough time. I don’t know, just everything came back to my mind. I just saw them. I was just playing on the Philippe-Chatrier.”

Siegemund taking it one step at a time

Next, Kvitova will take on unseeded and 66th-ranked Laura Siegemund of Germany, who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal with her 7-5, 6-2 win over Spain’s Paula Badosa, a former Roland Garros junior champion, on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

Siegemund, 32, welcomed a straight-set win after consecutive three-setters against Julia Goerges and No. 13 seed Petra Martic to reach the round of 16. 

After trailing 5-3 in the first set, Siegemund rattled off four straight games to win the opener and never looked back. She hit 25 winners and converted five of 13 break-point chances against the No. 87 Badosa. Siegemund outpointed her opponent 76-64 during the one hour and 36-minute match.

“It’s exciting to come so far,” said Siegemund, who won the US Open doubles titles earlier this month with Vera Zvonareva. “It was always my dream to be in the second week of a Slam.

“We just spoke about it with my boyfriend in the US Open. It was one big goal for me to make it in singles into the second week of a Slam. That’s where I see myself. That’s where I want to be. I’m glad I’m making that come true now.”

Siegemund said during her videoconference that clay is her favorite surface. “I feel like there’s also more in it for me,” she said. “I want to take it one step at a time.

“Truly excited to be in the quarterfinal. Also, still in the zone. I try to have more than that, even.

“I’m relaxed. I’m happy that I got through this difficult day today. I’m not relaxed because the seeds are out. I like to play big names and try to beat them. I’m just happy with how I get through. 

“Of course, there are lots of other players now in this tournament in my position that were a surprise. They got really far. They try to get further.”

Kenin turns around match against Ferro

French Open fourth seed and reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin of the United States made an incredible turnaround to garner a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over French hope Fiona Ferro on Chatrier with the roof closed Monday evening. Kenin entered playing in the fourth round at Roland Garros for the second straight year, joining Kvitova as the only two players to have made at least the fourth round at all three 2020 Grand Slams. With her win, she’s into her first clay quarterfinal and her win-loss record in majors the year improved to 14-1.

“I knew I had to change my game and be more aggressive and take my chances,” said Kenin during an on-court interview with Tennis Channel correspondent Jon Wertheim after the match. “I felt I played really well the last two sets.”

Kenin hit 39 winners and broke Ferro seven times. Sixteen of her 29 unforced errors came in the opening set. Meanwhile, 11 of Ferro’s 21 winners came in the opening set. The Frenchwoman committed 25 unforced errors during the one hour and 44-minute match.

Ferro, who reached the round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the first time, entered on an eight-match tour-level winning streak, which started with her second career WTA singles title in Palermo in August. Kenin stymied Ferro, who was going after her first Top 10 win in her third try.

“It was a tough match. The crowd wasn’t for me – they didn’t make it so easy – but that’s fine,” Kenin said. “I’mproud of myself. I’m happy I was able to find a way to win. I know my fans back home were cheering for me.”

Collins versus Jabeur rescheduled to Tuesday

Meanwhile, American Danielle Collins, who eliminated 2016 French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain on Saturday in three tough sets, was scheduled to face No. 30 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who was seeking her second Grand Slam quarterfinal of her career after becoming the first Arab woman to achieve that plateau at the Australian Open. Except for a brief, five-minute warmup, their match never got started on Court Suzanne-Lenglen due to rain and was postponed until Tuesday. It will be the first match on Court Philippe-Chatrier beginning at 11 a.m. local time. The winner will advance to play Kenin.

A most unusual quarterfinal

Thanks to the French Open missing many of its star attractions like last year’s singles champion and World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who stayed home in Brisbane, Australia, where she has been riding out the pandemic in its entirety, and recent US Open champion Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from Roland Garros because the short, two-week turnaround following New York didn’t allow enough time for her to recover from a hamstring injury, it’s no surprise that there’s only four seeds left. Among those who have benefited through this attrition are 19-year-old Polish rising start Iga Swiatek and qualifier Martina Trevisan of Italy. Each has been garnering headlines all week for their surprising and heartfelt results.

On Sunday, the 54th-ranked Swiatek scored the biggest upset in the women’s draw when she soundly beat World No. 2 and top seed Simona Halep, 6-1, 6-2. Less than an hour later, No. 159 Trevisan took out No. 5 seed Kiki Bertens, 6-4, 6-4, for her second straight triumph over a seeded player.

These two unlikely heroes will meet in the quarterfinal round on Tuesday. Swiatek is the youngest player remaining in the women’s draw, while Trevisan is the lowest-ranked player still playing.

Should Zverev have played against Sinner?

After Alexander Zverev was defeated by Jannik Sinner in his third-round on Court Suzanne-Lenglen Sunday afternoon, he came into his videoconference wearing a mask. If was then that Zverev dropped a bombshell of a statement that he was “completely sick” when he took the court against the young Italian star.

“Yeah, what can I say? I’m completed sick. I can’t really breathe, as. You can hear by my voice I had fever, you know, as well,” said Zverev.

Zverev said he ran a temperature of 38º Celsius the night before his match.

“Yeah, I’m not in the best physical state, I would say. I think that had a little bit of an effect on the match today.”

Passer des coups

• No. 1 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both from Colombia, survived a scare and rallied to win their men’s doubles quarterfinal match over unseeded Frederick Nielsen of Denmark and Tim Puetz from Germany, 6-7 (10), 6-4, 7-6 (7) in two hours and 49 minutes to reach the semifinal round. Also, No. 3 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury from Great Britain were knocked out in the quarterfinals of the men’s doubles by No. 7 seeds Mate Pavic from Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

• No. 4 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, both of the Czech Republic took out No. 13 seeds Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia and Kristyna Pliskova from the Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-2, to advance to the quarterfinal round. Also, unseeded Nicole Melichar from the United States and Iga Swiatek of Poland upset the No. 6 seeds Kveta Pesche of the Czech Republic and Demi Schuurs from the Netherlands, 6-3, 6-4, to reach the last eight.

• Junior boys’ No. 1 seed Harold Mayot of France lost in the second round to Hamad Medjedovic of Serbia, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, leaving No. 2 seed Arthur Cazaux of France as the highest remaining seed. Cazaux is through to the third round after beating Pedro Boscardin Dias of Brazil, 6-3, 6-2.

• Junior girls’ No. 1 seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra won her first-round match over Shanice Roignot of France, 6-2, 6-4, on Sunday.

By the numbers

• With Petra Kvitova’s 6-2, 6-4 win over Zhang Shuai, she’s into her first quarterfinal in Paris since making the semifinals in 2012. Oh, by the way, she’s the third-highest seed (seventh) remaining in the women’s draw – and hasn’t lost a set.

• No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman is into his fourth career Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance and his first without losing a set. At this year’s Roland Garros, Schwartzman is 12-0 in sets; at the 2019 US Open, he was 12-1. At the 2018 French Open, he was 12-2; and at the 2017 US Open, he was 12-2.

• Schwartzman’s quarterfinal opponent, Dominic Thiem, is 5-1 in five-set matches since the beginning of 2019 after going 5-6 in five-setter from 2014-18. Thiem’s head-to-head against Schwartzman is 6-2, including 3-1 on clay.

• No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic has reached his 14th Roland Garros quarterfinal in 16 years thanks to his 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 15 seed Karen Khachanov. Djokovic converted six of 15 break points, saved seven of nine break points he faced and hit 44 winners en route to his 35th victory of 2020. Djokovic is tied with Rafael Nadal for most Roland Garros quarterfinal appearances.

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