Petra Kvitová survives Muguruza to reach US Open Round of 16 for seventh time

NEW YORK—A woman wiped silent tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand. The other collapsed in his chair sobbing, his face cupped in both hands.

It’s hard to tell the winner from the loser.

Sober Petra Kvitová, physically and emotionally exhausted, is through to the round of 16. And Garbiñe Muguruza, who led 5-2 in the third set and saved three match points in the ensuing tiebreak, heads home.

Both are two-time Grand Slam champions. Both were shaking under the pressure. Kvitová, however, kept his nerves together for a fraction longer in the tell-all breaker on Saturday afternoon at Flushing Meadows. And maybe that’s to be expected of someone who’s ever fought off a knife-wielding intruder in his home, a man who clutched that blade to his throat and left his index finger – on the left hand, his playing hand – almost cut off.

“The start of the tie-break was like a men’s tie-break!” Kvitová exclaimed afterwards, signifying ruthless power on both sides of the court.

“Oh my God, it was a very difficult match. Actually, I didn’t expect this hard. Garbiñe had a very good game. I haven’t seen her play like that in a very long time. I really had to fight, fight, fight to win, especially with a breakdown in the third (set). Facing a few match points on my serve and then the tiebreaker was just a nightmare.

For Muguruza, a former world no. Still, she insisted the close and thrilling match – 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (12-10) – was uplifting and soul-lifting.

“I left everything on the pitch today. I had my chances, I was at one point,” Muguruza said. “I’m proud of my fighting spirit. I’ve had some tough losses this year, but this one really makes me feel like my fighting spirit was there, my tennis was there. Overall, I’m happy with what I showed on the pitch.

It was certainly a respectable acquittal for someone who earlier this year apologized on social media for the tattered play and poor results that followed the Spaniard’s WTA Finals triumph at the end of 2021.

Kvitová, a two-time Wimbledon winner – in 2011 and 2014, the two championships before his horrific and narrow escape from the murder of a stranger in his Czech hometown – returns to the round of 16 at the US Open for the seventh time. It’s her best performance in Queens since a pair of quarter-finals in 2015 and 2017, and the 21st seed will next face eighth seed Jessica Pegula, who bounced back after misplaying match point in her deciding second set against qualifier Yue Yuan to win 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-0.

Interestingly, Kvitová and Muguruza are women of a certain age – 32 and 28 respectively – which made their match a more mature match as younger players such as teenager Coco Gauff increasingly more in the spotlight. Neither Kvitová nor Muguruza are anywhere in Serena Williams territory, although Muguruza admitted she was trying to channel the indomitable Serena a bit into the circuit breaker after watching the legend lose in three hard-fought sets on Friday.

“With Serena last night it was amazing how she was saving those match points and I was trying to do the same.”

Muguruza’s compatriot, teenage prodigy Carlos Alcaraz, didn’t have much trouble beating American Jenson Brooksby in straight sets to reach the last 16.

The world number 4, who reached the quarter-finals in Queens on his debut here last year, advanced 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

“In the tough moments, the break points, I played really aggressively,” said Alcaraz, who converted three of six break chances and only dropped serve once. “I was there the whole time and made the most of my opportunities.”

Brooksby, 21, the great emerging American prospect, threatened to push Alcaraz back on his heels by twice breaking serve to move up 3-0 in the third set, which only prompted the Spaniard to uncork his best tennis of the game. , practically running his opponent off the court and literally running his own sneakers through the ground, necessitating a mid-game change of shoes.

“It’s the third time I’ve broken my shoes – as you can see I ran a lot to get all the balls back so it’s normal for me,” he joked during his interview on field.

At his press conference later, Alcaraz said he could tell Brooksby was sagging emotionally when his two-break advantage was gone in a minute in New York. “I would say he crumbled a bit after the second break. Yes, I’m making the most of my opportunities in the third set.

Nick Kyrgios predicted that Alcaraz will grab the whole enchilada at Flushing Meadows, which made Alcaraz blush.

“For me it’s crazy that Kyrgios says I’m the favourite, I’m going to win the tournament. I would say It is one of the favourites. He plays amazing, everyone knows that.

American Frances Tiafoe, always a crowd favorite at this Open, delighted home fans by beating 14th seed Diego Schwartzman 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-4. He will now face 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal. the second seed, which eliminated Frenchman Richard Gasquet, 6-0, 6-1, 7-5.

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist who covers sports and current affairs for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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