It was the most eagerly anticipated encounter of Day 9, a matchup of two great stories and two supreme ball-strikers: two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvtiova against seven-time Grand Slam titlist Venus Williams – Kvitova still working her way back from a horrific knife attack that nearly ended her career last December, Venus overcoming Sjogren’s Syndrome to post her finest season in seven years.
The storylines were compelling for all the right reasons. And on this night, so was the tennis. The two champions traded aces and fist pumps, opening play under the night sky and finishing beneath a closed roof. In the end, Venus played a near-perfect final-set tiebreak to advance to the semifinals in New York for the first time since 2010 – 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 – and in doing so, solidified her return to the Top 5 for the first time since January 2011.
It was another classic duel from a pair who produced one of the finest encounters in recent memory – a three-set barnburner at Wimbledon 2014 won by the Czech. The quality on this Tuesday night was, almost improbably, equally high, their sixth three-setter in six opportunities, with three of those ending in a final-set tiebreak and another going 7-5 in the decider.
Both players suffered from opportunities squandered; Venus converted just 3-of-11 break-point chances (Kvtiova went 3-for-4) and Kvitova failed to consolidate her 3-1, third-set lead. In the end, though, the match will be remembered for its caliber, its flat forehands, laser-guided backhands and super-sized helping of dramatic moments. It was match befitting a final, it lived up the hype – and considering all that was at stake, that is high praise indeed.