Emotions flood back for Kvitova, No. 1 Djokovic rolls on at French Open

Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic celebrates winning her fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament against China's Zhang Shuai in two sets 6-2, 6-4, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (Michel Euler/AP)

PARIS -- Petra Kvitova stood wide-eyed and perfectly still, scarcely believing she was through to her first French Open quarterfinal in eight years after winning against Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-4 on Monday.

When the chair umpire climbed down and pointed to the mark confirming her two-handed backhand landed just in, she released her emotions. The seventh-seeded Czech player looked up in the air, then blew kisses and waved to the small crowd gathered on Court Philippe Chatrier, the tournament's main stadium.

"Yeah, I got a bit emotional last two points of my match," she said. "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 quarterfinal of this slam. Everything just came back to me."

Reaching the last eight was less poignant for Novak Djokovic, considering he has done so every year since 2010.

He made sure of an 11th straight French quarterfinal and extended his Open-era record at Roland Garros by beating 15th-seeded Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, with the roof shut on Chatrier to keep out the persistent rain.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion has not dropped a set so far, but his face looked flushed after some heavy exchanges withstanding the Russian slugger's huge forehand.

"It was more difficult than maybe the result shows," Djokovic said. "The result is three sets to love, but I think we were equal on the points."

The top-ranked Serb next plays No. 17 seed Pablo Carreno Busta or qualifier Daniel Altmaier.

Earlier, Kvitova spoke about her emotional reaction. Roland Garros was where the two-time Grand Slam champion made her comeback three years ago after she was attacked by a knife-wielding robber in her Czech home and suffered serious injuries to her left hand.

"It's been a long ride definitely. Everything came to my mind," she said. "My whole family, people who I loved to help me through the tough, tough time. Everything came back."

Then there were some match-point nerves to deal with against Zhang.

At the U.S. Open last month, at the same stage of the competition, Kvitova wasted four match points in a loss to American Shelby Rogers.

"That match was really tough. Even I play great, I mean, I didn't just make it," she said. "It happen 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."

Kvitova's two Grand Slam titles were won on the green grass of Wimbledon in 2011 and `14.

Since making the semifinals here eight years ago, her best result at the French Open was only the fourth round in 2015.

"It's been a miracle for me to make the semifinal here," she said. "I'm really happy for that, that I'm still able to play on all surfaces."

Her next opponent, Laura Siegemund, had never previously been beyond the French Open second round and never beyond the third round at any major tournament.

In other men's action, No. 5-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 13 Andrey Rublev reached the last eight here for the first time.

Tsitsipas won against No. 18-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-2, and Rublev beat unseeded Marton Fucsovics 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

Tsitsipas had treatment for eye irritation at the start of the second set, and at the end of it saved two set points in the tiebreaker.

"The tiebreak was very tense, the tiebreak was where all the money was. I showed lots of discipline," Tsitsipas said.

Rublev saved three set points in the fourth set serving at 4-5, 0-40, then won on his second match point when Fucsovics put a forehand into the net.

Rublev is a two-time U.S. Open quarterfinalist. He next faces Tsitsipas, having beaten him on clay in the Hamburg Open final last month.

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.