Emotions bubble up as Petra finds her way back to quarters

 - Ravi Ubha

Kvitova reflects on journey as she reaches the last eight in Paris for the first time since 2012

© Julien Crosnier/FFT

When asked about the possibility of landing a third Grand Slam title next weekend at Roland-Garros, Petra Kvitova wasn’t too keen on looking that far ahead.

“Actually I don't want to think about it,” she said on Monday. “It's really a few matches to go. This is really tough for me, to think about that far.”

But Kvitova did look back on her inspiring Roland-Garros journey near the end of her 6-2, 6-4 victory over Zhang Shuai that propelled the Czech into the quarter-finals on the Parisian clay for the first time since a semi-final showing in 2012.

Kvitova appeared close to tears after striking a backhand winner down-the-line to seal proceedings against Zhang, three years after making her comeback to the sport on the very same court in the wake of being attacked in her home.

She fought for her life that day and suffered terrible knife wounds to her left, playing hand, which still affects her play.

“I got a bit emotional the last two points,” said Kvitova. “In tennis we really never know when it ends. But my memories, happy memories, when I made my comeback here in 2017, when I step on the Philippe-Chatrier — I couldn't really imagine me to be in the quarter-final of this slam.

“Everything just came back to me. When I'm talking, I'm getting emotional again. It's been a long ride definitely.”

When Kvitova downed Julia Boserup in the first round in 2017, her support camp cheered from her player box while wearing T-shirts with the words, ‘Courage, Belief, Pojd'.

Petra Kvitova's team, Roland Garros 2017, first round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

It was like they were there again Monday.

“Everything came to my mind when I had my whole family, people who I loved to help me through the tough, tough time,” she said. “Just everything came back to my mind. I just saw them.”

Speaking of tough, her play at Roland-Garros is surely helping the seventh seed to forget about one of the toughest losses of her career.

The popular two-time Wimbledon champion held four match points on Shelby Rogers last month at the US Open before falling in a third-set tiebreak.

“It was not really easy to lose from the four match points,” said Kvitova. “It was the same (round) as today. I'm really glad I was able to make it a little bit farther. That match was really tough.

“It happened to me after such a long time that I didn't win the match from the match point, especially in a Grand Slam, right? It was really painful.

“I try just to motivate myself to be back on the clay and to practice more. I was thinking just about the clay, not really about the match any more. I think that was the kind of key, of preparation. I'm glad that it's not coming back, the memories from that match.”

Kvitova returned to the Czech Republic thereafter and decided to skip the Italian Open, perhaps due to a forearm injury she sustained last year during the clay-court swing that can flare up with an abundance of clay matches. The issue prompted her to miss Roland-Garros in 2019.

The cool conditions in Paris that forced Kvitova to don a heavy, pink jacket as the 39th-ranked Zhang took an off-court medical timeout for a leg injury late in the first set haven’t discouraged her.

The 30-year-old has yet to drop a set and her running forehand down-the-line at 5-2, 15-0 is a contender for shot of the day.

Instead of a flat-hitter like Zhang, she next meets maiden Grand Slam quarter-finalist Laura Siegemund and her varied game.

Kvitova has been on the tour for a while so it’s understandable she couldn’t remember that she met the 66th-ranked German once before, at the US Open in 2015 when she won 6-1, 6-1 in the first round.

“It’s really great for her, great achievement,” said Kvitova.

As it is for Kvitova herself.