Andrea Petkovic made the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time in three years, but admitted that 12 months ago she was on the verge of quitting the sport.
The Bosnian-born German 26-year-old was at nine in the world in 2011 but ended 2012 at 143 after lengthy absences caused by back and right ankles injuries. She then damaged her right knee at the Hopman Cup in Australia at the start of 2013.
As a consequence the popular Petkovic missed five of six majors including back-to-back French Opens.
“One year ago I wanted to stop with tennis because I was awful,” admitted Petkovic after reaching the last 16 at Roland Garros with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over France’s Kristina Mladenovic.
“It’s nice to be back at the big stages again. It’s just what we all dream about and what we all work for. So it’s just also a confirmation for having stuck to my comeback and pushing through the hard times.”
Her fans will have been pleased for Petkovic, a player who lists amongst her interests reading Goethe and Wilde and who speaks German, English, French and Serbian.
Thoughtful off the court, she also boasts a solid fan base, the Petkorazzi, and once perfected her own dance, the Petko, to accompany every win.
There were plenty of wins in her breakthrough year of 2011 when she was a quarter-finalist at the Australian, French and US Opens.
But there was none of that flamboyance on Saturday on Philippe Chatrier court where she opted for a warm embrace with close friend Mladenovic rather than perform her trademark jig.
That was just as well as she admitted she had been unwell on the eve of the third round tie.
“I’ve had a virus since yesterday, a stomach virus. So I have made great friends with the bathroom the past day and night and today,” she explained.
“I was just drained. My energy level, it was below zero, I think. I was just sort of like a zombie. I knew that it was a virus and it’s nothing that’s going to end my career. But it could have ended my tournament today. So I was pissed at it, you know.
“Because I wanted to play well and I wanted to play better first time on Chatrier. And I just wasn’t able to physically. So I was just annoyed by all the circumstances.”
Next up for Petkovic is the seemingly simple task of disposing of Dutch qualifier Kiki Bertens, the world number 148 who eased past Spain’s Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-2, 6-1 to make the fourth round.
“I don’t feel any pressure. I haven’t ever played her. I don’t know anything about her. I have never even practiced with her. So I really don’t know anything,” said Petkovic.