NEW YORK, NY, USA -- Petra Kvitova's 2017 comeback has led her to the second US Open quarterfinal appearance of her career.
The No.13-seeded Czech dispatched reigning Wimbledon champion and No.3 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, 7-6(3), 6-3, in an awe-inspiring slugfest under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday night.
Both players have struggled at the US Open in the past: this is the only major where Kvitova has never made the semifinals, while Muguruza had never advanced past the second round prior to this year. But both were in imperious form this week, neither having dropped a set en route to this fourth-round encounter.
The two had battled three times before, with Kvitova winning the last two meetings, both in 2016. This was the first match between them in a Grand Slam event, which could have caused one to ignore the head-to-head, but Kvitova indeed claimed her third straight win over Muguruza, rebounding from a break down in the first set.
Muguruza started the match in front, breaking for 3-1 as Kvitova struggled with Muguruza’s heavy hitting from both sides. Muguruza served well during this stretch, making it through the first games of the match unbothered when she stepped up to the line.
But Kvitova suddenly clicked on her highly praised forehand, and hit screamers off that side to break Muguruza and get back on serve at 4-3. Muguruza’s unforced errors started to rise dramatically, and she faced break points at both 4-4 and 5-5, Kvitova converting in the latter game to serve for the set.
But Kvitova faltered, hitting two errors early in the game and a double fault on break point, which sent the opening frame into a tiebreak. Muguruza took a 2-0 lead due to two Kvitova unforced errors, but the Czech dominated from there, serving well and hitting powerful forehands. Muguruza double faulted to provide Kvitova with three set points, and she clinched the set with an overhead on her first.
Muguruza opened the second set with a quick break for 1-0, but inopportune errors by the Spaniard gave Kvitova the break back immediately. Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion, cruised on serve from there up to 5-2, and had a match point in that game on the Muguruza serve, which she did not take after she hit a backhand error.
Muguruza made one last push on Kvitova's serve at 5-3, gaining three break points in the game. But the first two were lost due to more unforced errors, and Kvitova's celebrated serve-forehand combo saved the third. Two points later, a final Muguruza forehand unforced error gave Kvitova the victory, sending her into her first Grand Slam quarterfinal since the US Open two years ago.
Both players were hitting bruising groundstrokes throughout the rallies, and the unforced error count was high on both sides. But Kvitova was hitting with greater velocity on the important points, and though she had 42 unforced errors to Muguruza's 25, the Czech had over triple the winners, 24 to 7, and wrested further control of the match as it progressed.
Muguruza had her chances throughout the match, but was a woeful 3-for-12 on break points. Part of that was due to clutch serving by Kvitova, especially once she leveled the first set. Kvitova was getting a ho-hum 55 percent of her first serves in, but she won an excellent 78 percent of those points.
Kvitova will now face two-time US Open champion Venus Williams, the No.9 seed, in the quarterfinals. Kvitova has a solid record against Williams, leading the head-to-head 4-1, and it will likely be another stirring, hard-hitting contest in Flushing Meadows.
This article was first seen on www.wtatennis.com.