French SF pits “miracle” Kvitova vs. winning-obsessed Kenin

PARIS (AP) — One says it’s a “miracle” that she is playing at all. The other obsesses about winning. And both are coping better on court at the biggest tournaments in this pandemic year than any of their peers.

Petra Kvitova vs. Sofia Kenin in the French Open semifinals will pit two powerful hitters who are at very different points in their career arcs.

Kvitova, who by then already had two Wimbledon titles, was told by doctors she might never be competitive again after she was stabbed by an intruder at her home in the Czech Republic in December 2016. All five fingers on the left hand that she uses to hold her racket were injured and she sustained nerve and tendon damage.

Her 6-3, 6-3 victory Wednesday against Laura Siegemund, an unseeded German playing her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, marked another step back from that trauma for the 30-year-old Czech who is returning to the semifinals at Roland Garros for the first time since 2012.

“It’s another miracle,” she said.

Her coach, Jiri Vanek, recalled that the first thing Kvitova said after surgery to repair her hand was: “’Look, guys, I (am) coming back and I will do everything that is possible to be able to play.’”

“She was totally focused,” he said.

Siegemund found that out, too, on Court Philippe Chatrier, as Kvitova rained down six aces — taking her tournament-leading tally to 24 — in a first-set blur in which she also won 93% of the points on her first serve and never faced break point.

“The more she starts to roll, you know, the more it rolls,” said Siegemund, who broke Kvitova twice in the second set before she wilted, double-faulting on match point.

Kvitova hasn’t lost a set in Paris. Kenin has lost a set in all of her matches bar one, in the third round.

But her 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 quarterfinal win against fellow American Danielle Collins again showed how winning the title at this year’s Australian Open worked wonders for the confidence of the 21-year-old who, until Wednesday, had not played a Grand Slam quarterfinal outside of Melbourne Park.

“Australia definitely really gave me a big boost,” she said.

In the other women’s semifinal, 54th-ranked Iga Swiatek plays 131st-ranked Nadia Podoroska, the first female qualifier to get to the final four at the French Open.

Kenin and Kvitova are the only women who have reached round four or better at all three of the Grand Slams played in this pandemic-hit year that forced t he cancellation of Wimbledon.

Kenin thinks the winner Thursday could be the player who best handles the big-stage butterflies.

“That’s going to be a major key,” she said. “And, of course, she’s like really, you know, tall, powerful, she has a big serve, big shots. I’m just going to have to figure out a way to balance my game out. Obviously, I’m not going to overpower her since I’m not going to be able to. But I’ve got different things I can throw in to mix things up.”

“I love winning more than anything,” she said.

Kvitova was a finalist at the 2019 Australian Open — her best showing at a major since the stabbing — and will be playing her seventh Grand Slam semifinal.

She, too, says she sometimes gets so nervous that “I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to eat, didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to go out there and play.”

“But on the other side,” she added, “I knew if I step (out) there everything is much better.”

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Dampf reported from Rome.

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More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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