NEW YORK, NY, USA - No.13 seed Petra Kvitova has reached the fourth round of a Slam for the first time since her comeback from horrific left hand injuries sustained in a knife attack last December with a dominant 6-0, 6-4 win over No.18 seed Caroline Garcia in just 48 minutes.
The first match between seeds at this year's US Open saw the Frenchwoman broken in the very first game - despite serving two aces and one unreturned bomb. Garcia would be plagued by a wide variety of unforced errors throughout the opening set: seven off the forehand wing, six from the backhand, and equally balanced between going long, wide, into the net or simply shanked. Though the 23-year-old maintained an aggressive strategy in rallies and on return of serve, it didn't pay off: the mistakes were balanced by just four winners and she would fail to reach break point in the whole match.
As for Kvitova, there were flashes of her breathtaking peak form - a running forehand in the third game, a booming backhand down the line in the fourth - but the Czech, who was an efficient three for three on converting her own break points, needed to strike just five winners to wrap up a 25-minute bagel set.
The action tightened in the second set: Garcia, with a blank slate to start afresh, gathered herself to deliver some solid service games. But her 27-year-old rival had also raised her game, adding a pinpoint running forehand in the first game and a squatting reflex backhand down the line to the highlights reel. Garcia proved unable to keep the errors at bay: having decreased her number to just three in the first six games of the set, the seventh saw her cede a total of five, with a netted forehand resulting in a fourth break of the World No.19's serve.
From there, Kvitova accelerated towards the finishing line, seizing her opportunities to finish points at the net with alacrity. Garcia did have some resistance in her. Aiming for her third consecutive Slam second week showing, having broken her duck after 20 attempts at Roland Garros in May, the No.18 seed saved two match points on her serve and held with a spectacular forehand pass. Kvitova, though, remained impenetrable on serve, and closed the match out by hammering down her sixth ace of the day.
The two-time Wimbledon champion, in the second week at Flushing Meadows for the fifth time in her career, will face either current Wimbledon holder Garbiñe Muguruza or No.31 seed Magdalena Rybarikova in the fourth round. Afterwards, she was delighted with her performance: "I think I played better than in Birmingham today, and the round before," Kvitova said. "I'm really pleased with the game I showed today... I came here not with the great results on the hard court, but on the other hand, I feel that I'm playing good, like, in the tennis matches or in the practices."
Kvitova also said she was happy with how her comeback is progressing mentally: "Sometimes I do feel a little bit more normal than before, especially on the court and around players and people, around the tennis, which I'm very grateful that I can be part of it again," she mused. "The life is still a little bit strange, but it's getting better, as well. Hopefully one day will be better."
As for her much-documented struggles in previous years with the New York humidity's effect on her asthma, the Czech said that she has progressed on this front as well. "I think finally I found out, like, my plan or how to deal with these conditions and with the US Open. It's pretty far from the hotel, so I'm not really practicing on the day off again," she declared.