Wozniacki beats Kuznetsova to book quarter final berth
No.11 seed Caroline Wozniacki overcomes former Roland-Garros champion Svetlana Kuznetsova to charge through to the last eight.
This was a match between long-standing opponents of pedigree: Svetlana Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion, and Caroline Wozniacki, a double Grand Slam finalist. Intriguingly, the Russian 2009 women’s singles victor here and the former world No.1 had never met before today on clay. The Dane led 7-6 in previous encounters, and it was she who consolidated that superiority by booking a place in the quarter-finals after closing out a three-setter she never truly looked in danger of losing.
Wozniacki’s 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 victory against the No.8 seed, a player regarded as one of the best clay-courters remaining in the field, matched her best run at Roland-Garros. Drawn in the quarter left open by the first-round exit of top seed Angelique Kerber, the 11th-seeded Dane is now a reasonable bet to reach the sharp end of the draw, judging by the form she displayed today.
“I started off really, really well. My game plan was working and I kept her on her toes with drop shots and mixing up the pace,” she said after coming off Philippe-Chatrier Court. “I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I knew that she was going to try to fight her way back. She did in the second set, but I managed to close it off in three, which I'm happy about.”
The first two games comprised 26 points and took 17 minutes. Just when your courtside reporter was preparing a reverie on the theme of length – the time since Kuznetsova last won a title on clay (curiously not since her 2009 triumph here), the time since Wozniacki last reached the last eight (seven years), the time taken by each to get through previous rounds (a collective 12 hours, 38 minutes), the distance covered by their deep, blistering groundstrokes – the Dane won six short games on the trot, taking a 6-1, 1-0 lead in less than 30 minutes.
Cue a different story. It was a stirring performance from Wozniacki, given she proclaims clay not to be her favourite surface, and Kuznetsova has formidable form on the Parisian dirt, walking on to Philippe-Chatrier Court with an 80 per cent winning record from 65 matches. While the Russian and her game were not quite in tune, it was a joy to watch Wozniacki on song as she embellished her clean-hitting retrieving game with some deft drop shots and lobs, and some glorious wrong-footing passing shots.
She has worked hard to adapt her game to clay. “Shots that work well on hard courts don't work as well here. You definitely need to mix the pace more up here. You need to try and get more depth,” she said. “Sometimes on the hard courts you can get away with some shorter balls or some balls that have less angle. Here you really need to have a purpose with every shot.”
In the fifth game of the second set, Kuznetsova’s touch and timing seemed surer, and she kept up the momentum to force Wozniacki at 4-5 to serve to stay in the set - a challenge she failed to meet. Level again, the third set was a microcosm of the first in that Wozniacki scorched to a 5-2 lead, and served out the match to love.
Next up is either Samantha Stosur or Jelena Ostapenko – two very different opponents. “Sam loves the clay. She's had great results here in the past. She has a big serve, a big kick, good forehand. She moves well. But either one is going to be tough. Ostapenko goes for her shots and plays flat. When she's on fire, she's tough. I think she can be a little bit more up and down. Both are very tough opponents playing really well.”