Tennis Channel Court Report breaks down Day 7 at the U.S. Open, where Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens advanced to the quarterfinals, but Maria Sharapova was sent home.
USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK — Adversity is never welcomed, but sometimes what comes next when you come through the other side can be viewed with a gratefulness hard to imagine.
That is exactly the universe that two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is living through at the moment.
The 27-year-old suffered a serious wound to her playing left hand — she sustained severed nerves and tendons — when she was stabbed by an intruder at her Prostejov apartment in the Czech Republic last December.
Would she play again? Would the surgery repair enough of the damage? These were the questions and more that Kvitova had to contemplate, not to mention having to deal with the mental anguish.
While it’s true Kvitova still has trouble clenching the fist of her left hand, that amazing southpaw forehand is returning to its weapon status. And Kvitova, who was strong enough to fight off the still at-lodge perpetrator, is back to showing strength of game and mind on the court.
More: Maria Sharapova falls in fourth round to Anastasija Sevastova at U.S. Open
More: Sloane Stephens reaches her first U.S. Open quarterfinal
On Sunday at the U.S. Open, the 13th-seeded Kvitova highlighted her five-month return to tennis that she initiated at the French Open with the biggest win she’s posted — a victory over a top-10 opponent. She upset reigning Wimbledon champion and third-seeded Garbine Muguruza 7-6 (3), 6-3 to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the second time in her career.
Kvitova later wondered if she found the right words to say to the fans following her victory. She had nothing to worry about as she delivered her message with the special emotion it deserved.
“It was a dream to come and play on this stage,” she told the cheering crowd. “I worked hard to play here again. It’s and incredible night to play in front of a great crowd. I don’t think I can find the right words. All five months were very tough. It was a journey that I didn’t know how the journey will end.”
Even Muguruza, despite the defeat, was moved by what Kvitova’s gone through and the success she’s achieving in relation to her recent difficult back story.
“I think it’s incredible,” Muguruza said. “I think it’s incredible that she’s playing at this level. I’m not really familiar about what happened. I know, of course, what happened, that she got attack and stuff. I think she’s playing very well. So I don’t feel she has changed.”
Initially, it appeared that Kvitova’s U.S. Open was on the verge of ending against Muguruza, the player most considered the favorite to take the title. She trailed the Spaniard 1-4, and was facing two break points. But Kvitova was unwilling to be denied another chance to play in New York this year.
“I feel great, obviously,” Kvitova said. “I was happy that I managed to win the match. You can just dream about (it), but when you’re there, it’s just different. It’s about experience again.”
“The touch is there, the strength, the aggressive kind of game plan,” she added. “I really, really appreciate for that. Took me (a) while to find it. Luckily, I find it in a Grand Slam, which is nice.”
There’s another challenge awaiting Kvitova in the quarterfinals in the presence of ninth seed Venus Williams, who won back-to-back U.S. Open titles in 2000 and ’01. At 37, Williams is having a resurgence this season, playing in the Australian Open and Wimbledon finals.
The manner in which Williams celebrated her 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 fourth-round victory over Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain on the court tells the story clearly: Williams is here to win an eighth career Grand Slam trophy.
Kvitova, of course, will be out on court looking to prevent Williams from realizing that goal. She holds a 4-1 lead over Williams in matches played, but they haven’t encountered each other across the net since the 2014 Beijing tournament.
“I think she’s playing amazing at the majors this year,” Kvitova said of Williams. “We’ve always had tough battles. But I will try my best.”
For her part, Williams didn’t attempt to hide the admiration she holds for Kvitova and the remarkable recovery the Czech’s experiencing.
“What she’s gone through is unimaginable, unreasonable,” Williams said. “The world we live in is just shocking. So for her, I think to be playing well is such a blessing. To be able to come out here and do what she needs to do, to clear her head, it’s such a beautiful thing to see.
“What else can I say except that I’m glad to see her back,” she added.