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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, October 3, 2020


Petra Kvitova fought off two set points surging through nine straight games to spark a 7-5, 6-3 win over Leylah Fernandez and reach the Roland Garros fourth round.

Photo credit: @RolandGarros

Launching herself into the court, Petra Kvitova lasered a drive down the line that kicked up a clump of clay and wrong-footed Leylah Fernandez so severely the 2019 French Open junior champion waved her racquet in futility as the ball buzzed past.

Unleashing disarming power and timely trips to net, Kvitova capped a complete turnaround against the talented teenager.

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Rallying from a 1-5 deficit, Kvitova denied two set points and surged through nine straight games turning back Fernandez 7-5, 6-3 to advance to the Roland Garros fourth round for the fifth time.

It was Kvitova’s 90th career clay-court win and it was an adventure.

"Definitely think that she is really playing great game," Kvitova said of Fernandez. "She's a great mover. She catch a lot of balls, and if she has a chance, she's really going for it. It was really challenging today. I'm really happy I found a way even though it wasn't easy.

"Lefty is different as well a little bit. I'm so glad that I was still there even fighting in the first set, back on the track, and I didn't really know that I gonna turn it around. I was just trying to kind of came back to the set to my game to find a way. It was great I was still able to win the first set. I'm really glad for me that I was still there mentally."

In a clash of left-handers, Fernandez flew through five consecutive games and earned a pair of set points only to see Kvitova find the range on her damaging drives and answer with a nine-game run.

The six-foot Czech has a wide wingspan and used it to pound returns and set up offensive strikes. Kvitova broke serve five times in a row sparking a nine-game streak to take charge today.

When she wasn’t displacing the 18-year-old Canadian with her ground game, Kvitova was convincing closing at net: she won 13 of 15 net points digging out some fine low volleys.

"What I can take mostly from today's match is just the way she fought, the way she played," Fernandez said. "Next time that we play against each other or next time that I play a top player like her in a Grand Slam, it will definitely be different.

"I'll be playing a lot better, making less mistakes, being more of let's say a professional and follow my coach's game plan."

Contesting just her third Grand Slam main draw, Fernandez was understandably a bit jittery at the start double-faulting away the opening game.

Then she settled in and caught fire showing the ball control skills that make her such a unique and exciting player.

Fernandez flattened a forehand down the line then absorbed the Czech’s power drawing the error to break again for 3-1.

Soft hands, fast feet and the skill to straddle the baseline and take the ball on the rise are all assets for Fernandez. She can thump the ball, too. Whipping the wide serve, Fernandez finished with the forehand with a potent one-two punch for her fourth straight game and a 4-1 lead.

When Kvitova ran around a backhand to drill a forehand down the line, Fernandez read it and flicked a forehand reply for 30-all. Kvitova denied a break point with a fine forehand volley only to spray a backhand. Kvitova’s 14th unforced error gave the Canadian a fourth break point. She seized it knocking a backhand pass by the seventh seed breaking for 5-1.

Sliding into a slice backhand, Fernandez lost her grip, her Babolat racquet tumbled out of her hands yet she still scrambled back to the center of the court wearing a wry smile.

Even when disarmed, Fernandez was still on the ball.

The 2012 semifinalist is streaky, but credit Kvitova’s conviction. Even when she’s spraying balls all over the court she keeps firing away. Moving her court positioning a bit further back, Kvitova hit her way right back into the match.

Kvitova saved a set point with a drop volley then lashed a backhand down the line breaking back for 2-5. By then, the 30-year-old Czech was finally putting more balls in play and making the teenager play more shots in succession to hold in the eighth game.

Stepping up to serve for the set a second time, Fernandez dug out a low volley but Kvitova race up to the ball and crunched a forehand down the line. A heavy crosscourt forehand brought the Czech a break point, but Fernandez fought it off.

Showing her fierce fighting spirit, Fernandez fended off four break points then dabbed a drop shot for her second set point, but Kvitova cracked a two-handed return to erase it. Sticking a return off the line, Kvitova broke back again to get back on serve after nine games.

The comeback continued as Kvitova battled back from 15-30 down erupting with a defiant scream as she carved out a volley winner to even the set after 10 games.

The complete turnaround left Fernandez looked a little like a woman trying to flag down a train roaring past her. Fernandez double faulted away a game for the second time in the set as Kvitova rolled through her fifth straight game for 6-5.

Closure was complicated as Kvitova erased a pair of break points pounding a drive down the line to convert her fourth set point closing a 68-minute set of severe momentum swings—Fernandez flew through five straight games only to see Kvitova roar through six straight games to seize the set.

The weight and pace of Kvitova’s ball put the 5’4” Canadian into reactive positions restricting her ability to create sharper angles and use her finesse.

Of course, when Kvitova is in full flight it’s tough for any woman in the world to hang in her world. The two-time Wimbledon winner powered through her fourth consecutive break to start the second set.

Ninety-minutes into the match, Fernandez, fighting and scrambling for every point, made a push breaking Kvitova to snap the Czech’s run of nine straight games and get on the board at 1-3 of the second set.

Jolting power generated from flat strikes is a clear Kvitova strength, but the owner of five clay-court titles knows how to finish at net as well. Kvitova reached back for an improvised backhand volley before carving out an impeccable forehand drop volley holding with a scream for 5-3.

Crunching a clean forehand winner down the line Kvitova closed with a bang to roll into the second week without dropping a set.

Still, Kvitova showed her class during the post-match racquet tap talking the time to praise the teenager for her effort. Fernandez showed she—like 2018 Roland Garros junior champion Coco Gauff—will be a blast to watch for years to come.

"Well, Petra is a great competitor," Fernandez said. "She told me congratulations and good luck for the future, which was very nice of her. I've admired her since I was very young. To be playing against her in Suzanne Lenglen was a big opportunity for me. Unfortunately I didn't execute what I needed to do."

Into the fourth round for the first time in five years, Kvitova will play Zhang Shuai.

The 39th-ranked Zhang won 22 of 36 trips to net topping French wild card Clara Burel 7-6(2), 7-5 to become the first Chinese woman to reach the round of 16 since Li Na in 2012.

"I'm really glad that I can play her. She's really one of the nicest person here," Kvitova said. "Always say hi, always smiling, everything. I really like her. That's nice. I'm really happy that we can meet each other in the second week of the Grand Slams. That's perfect.

"She's really aggressive player. I think this is how it suits her, this kind of Roland Garros. And, yeah, we have a similar style, so we know each other pretty well. Yeah, I just need to take it like every point as I did today. It's not really about tactics when you play somebody who is really hitting hard. So I need to hit it hard, as well."


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