Svetlana Kuznetsova led a seniors surge into the French Open last 16 on Saturday with a marathon win over Petra Kvitova as Roland Garros lost the fourth of its top five seeds.
Kuznetsova, 28, won a three-hour 13 minute thriller to defeat fifth-seeded Kvitova 6-7 (3/7), 6-1, 9-7 in the the longest match of the women’s tournament.
The 2009 champion capitalised on Kvitova’s 65 unforced errors and 10 double faults to set-up a fourth round clash with another Czech, 27-year-old Lucie Safarova.
Former Wimbledon champion Kvitova, a semi-finalist in 2012, had enjoyed a 3-0 career edge over the Russian going into Saturday’s clash, but her efforts were undermined by twice needing medical timeouts to treat a back and leg injury.
She saved two match points in the 12th game of the decider but the inconsistencies which continue to plague her big-hitting game saw her twice fail to serve out the tie in the 10th and 14th games of the third set.
“I knew I was going to give everything I could and run every mile, every metre I could, and put as many balls back and try to be aggressive because if you watch the match, Petra was inside the court and I was next to the fence,” said Kuznetsova who was also US Open champion in 2005.
“I left everything I could out there. I came up with a win, but I was very close to the loss, as well.”
Kuznetsova, playing in her 12th consecutive Roland Garros, will next face Kvitova’s Fed Cup teammate Safarova who put out Serb 11th seed Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion, 6-3, 6-3.
It was left-handed Safarova’s fifth successive victory against Ivanovic as she booked a place in the last 16 in Paris for the first time since 2007.
“I was pressuring Ana into her backhand side and then attacking the forehand side, which was working well. I was serving decent. So overall the game was really good,” said Safarova, who is 3-3 with Kuznetsova in a rivalry stretching back seven years.
– Halep avoids carnage –
Fourth-seeded Simona Halep, the highest-ranked woman left, made the last 16 for the first time as the Romanian continued to escape the Roland Garros carnage.
The 22-year-old brushed aside Spain’s Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor 6-3, 6-0 and next tackles 15th seeded American Sloane Stephens. Halep, 22, has lost just 11 games in three rounds in Paris.
In contrast, the failure of Serena Williams, Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska to get beyond the third round marked the first time in the Open era that the top three seeds had gone out before the last 16.
Halep, relegated to Court 2 for her third round match, finished off Torro-Flor in just 64 minutes.
“I feel stronger now than last year, and I started to play more aggressive like I did in juniors when I won here in 2008,” said Halep, who has collected all of her seven career titles since the start of 2013.
“So I found my good way to play, and I found a way to be relaxed on court and just to take the pleasure without pressure.”
Stephens, 21, reached the fourth round for a third successive year thanks to a 6-3, 6-4 win over Russian left-hander Ekaterina Makarova.
Serb sixth seed Jelena Jankovic, a three-time semi-finalist, brushed aside Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, a quarter-finalist in 2009, in straight sets 6-1, 6-2 and the 29-year-old will next face Sara Errani, the Italian 10th seed.
Errani, 27, who was runner-up to Maria Sharapova in 2012, routed Israel’s Julia Glushko 6-0, 6-1 in just 52 minutes.
German 28th seed Andrea Petkovic, a quarter-finalist in 2011, beat France’s Kristina Mladenovic, the conqueror of Li Na in the first round, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
It was the 26-year-old Petkovic’s second win over the blonde Frenchwoman this year having also come out on top at the Paris Indoor event.
The former world number nine will face Dutch qualifier Kiki Bertens after the world number 148 eased past Spain’s Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-2, 6-1.