French Open 2014: Latest epic win moves Svetlana Kuznetsova from title outsider to contender

The Russian beat Petra Kvitova over three sets to reach the fourth round

Rolland Garros

Svetlana Kuznetsova began the French Open as a 100-1 outsider, quite a price considering the world No 28 has twice won Grand Slam titles and was champion here five years ago.

At a tournament where the favourites have been falling like novices at Aintree, there are probably a few shrewd punters still enjoying a run for their money after backing Kuznetsova, a trusted course and distance winner. After her 6-7 6-1 9-7 victory over Petra Kvitova on Saturday, the Russian is through to the fourth round for the 10th time in the last 11 years.

With only one of the world’s top six players left in the field and Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion, joining the fallen, Kuznetsova should fancy her chances. It might seem as though the Russian has been around as long as graphite rackets and yellow balls, but she is only 28. Injuries have taken their toll on a player who made her breakthrough with her 2004 US Open victory and has not won a title for four years.

Kuznetsova last month reached her first final since 2011 and is proven on clay, especially here. She has played in two finals at Roland Garros, having lost to Justine Henin in 2006 and beaten Dinara Safina in 2009, and made the quarter-finals or better on six occasions.

With Kvitova also finding some of her best form, a quality encounter was expected. The two did not disappoint as the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd were treated to one of the best women’s matches of the tournament. A gripping cut-and-thrust lasted three and a quarter hours with 37 break points, Kuznetsova converting eight out of 25 and Kvitova four out of 12.

Kuznetsova is a gritty fighter who chases down every ball, while her variety of shots can upset the rhythm of any opponent. Kvitova’s game is more one-dimensional. The 2011 Wimbledon champion is at her best when her huge ground strokes rip through the court, but when the 24-year-old Czech strikes the ball as well she did here she can be a threat on any surface.

When Kvitova went off for hamstring treatment in the second set it seemed her day was done, but the world No 6 responded superbly to lead 3-1 at the start of the third set. Kuznetsova then went 4-3 up, at which stage the Russian stood and applauded as Kvitova saved a break point with a stunning stop volley.

Kvitova served for the match at 5-4 and 7-6, but each time Kuznetsova held her nerve. Kvitova’s broke when she served at 7-8 as she handed Kuznetsova victory with four successive errors, including a double fault.

Kuznetsova felt she had run twice as far as Kvitova. “I almost felt like Rafa [Nadal] out there,” she smiled. “The difference is that I cannot make winners from that far behind [the baseline] so I have to go inside [the court] a bit. I knew I was going to give everything and run every mile, every metre I could, put as many balls back as possible and be aggressive. Petra was inside the court and I was next to the fans. I left everything out there.”

Kuznetsova now faces another Czech, Lucie Safarova, who beat Ivanovic 6-3 6-3. It was Safarova’s fifth successive victory over the former world No 1. Ivanovic’s fellow Serb, Jelena Jankovic, is now the second highest-ranked player left in the tournament. The world No 7 beat Sorana Cirstea 6-1 6-2.

The highest-ranked player left is Romania’s Simona Halep. The world No 4 is reading Harry Potter to improve her English, but hardly needs to improve her game. The 22-year-old trounced Spain’s Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor 6-3 6-0 and has dropped only 11 games in her first three matches. She next plays Sloane Stephens, who beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-3 6-4.

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss