No.21 seed Petra Kvitova returned to the fourth round of the US Open for the seventh time after saving two match points to beat No.21 seed Garbiñe Muguruza 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 in 2 hours and 38 minutes.
The clash of two-time Grand Slam champions, the seventh edition of a rivalry dating back to 2015, was a barnburner to the end. Muguruza served for the match at 5-3 in the third set and held two match points on Kvitova's serve at 6-5, but the Czech escaped both situations to eventually convert her own fourth match point in the super-tiebreak.
Kvitova's best US Open performances to date are a pair of quarterfinals in 2015 and 2017, and she will get the opportunity for a third against No.8 seed Jessica Pegula. The American rebounded from missing a match point in the second-set tiebreak to defeat qualifier Yuan Yue 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-0 in 2 hours and 3 minutes. Kvitova has won both of their previous meetings in straight sets, including a 6-4, 6-3 victory in the 2020 US Open third round.
Petra 🆚 Pegula for a spot in the quarterfinals! pic.twitter.com/XgiI3sr3TQ— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 3, 2022
Here are the key takeaways from Kvitova and Pegula's wins:
Form and history won out: Midway through the grass swing, Kvitova's 2022 record was in the red at 10-13. But a title in Eastbourne has turned her season around. Since then, the 32-year-old has gone 15-3, also including a runner-up showing in Cincinnati two weeks ago.
By contrast, Muguruza came into New York in somewhat tough form with a 9-14 season record. Since winning the 2021 WTA Finals Guadalajara, the Spaniard had neither defeated a Top 30 opponent nor strung together three consecutive victories -- both of which were on the line for her here.
Muguruza stopped her slide earlier this week with a pair of wins against two highly touted teenagers, Clara Tauson and Linda Fruhvirtova. But though she fought to the bitter end. It was Kvitova who came up with the bigger shots in clutch moments.
Explosiveness won over steadiness: Kvitova's highs were breathtaking, but the oscillations in her level were also far greater than her opponents. The two-time Wimbledon champion struck 43 winners to Muguruza's 21, and at times seemed unplayable -- such as the three consecutive forehands with, which she sealed the match's first service break for 4-2 in the first set.
But in the blink of an eye, Kvitova also seemed able to throw the match away. Two double faults and two forehand errors gave that break back immediately, and another trio of double faults at 5-5 gifted Muguruza another break. Kvitova would ultimately tally 12 double faults.
Amid Kvitova's swings in form, Muguruza remained consistent. The former World No.1 ticked off the majority of her service games with little fuss, landing 67% of her first serves and winning 65% of those points. She backed this up by judicious approaches to the net, with the backhand drive volley key to closing out the first set.
A single service break decided the second set, with Kvitova nailing a bullet of a forehand winner to go up 4-2. But at the same stage of the third, that stroke let her down again to put Muguruza up 4-2.
Muguruza blinked on serve only once -- when she stepped up to close out the match at 5-3. She started with a double fault of her own, was lured into error by Kvitova's sudden strategic use of the slice, and was broken on a forehand shank.
The climax of the match saw Kvitova successfully walk her game's tightrope. She survived a 10-minute game to force the super-tiebreak, saving one match point with an ace and the second as a Muguruza forehand found the net. She was unable to take her own first three match points, but a spectacular running forehand winner brought up a fourth, converted as Muguruza netted another forehand.
Pegula proves reliable again, but Yuan is one to watch: The lowest-ranked of the record four Chinese women in the US Open third round, 23-year-old qualifier Yuan faced a mismatch on paper. The World No.142 had never faced a Top 20 opponent before, let alone a player with Pegula's proven consistency at the biggest tournaments: two Grand Slam quarterfinals, one WTA 1000 final and two WTA 1000 semifinals this year alone.
The first set went as expected. Yuan's ferocious hitting garnered her four winners, but also buried her with 11 unforced errors. Meanwhile, smartly contained aggression saw Pegula tally eight winners to five unforced errors.
But Yuan began to display greater patience to hit her spots in a high-quality second set. She powered out to a 4-1 lead, and even when Pegula inched her way back into the set held firm at its climax. Yuan overturned a 5-2 deficit in the tiebreak, saving a match point with a terrific backhand winner on the line and swatting away a drive volley on her first set point -- her 12th winner of the set.
Pegula was able to reset for an efficient third set, though. The World No.8's serve had been the lynchpin of her success, and she only dropped one point behind it in the decider. Indeed, Pegula only lost 10 points on serve in total -- four of which came in Yuan's break to love in the second set.