Petra Cetkovska's talent was never in question. Throughout her career, the Czech's naturally aggressive brand of tennis has bagged her wins over the likes of Li Na, Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki.
Unfortunately, coming into this year's U.S. Open, the 30-year-old had yet to win a tour-level main draw match eight months into the 2015 season. The reason behind this is injuries, every athlete's kryptonite. Injuries have derailed Cetkovska's once promising career and hip surgery in September of last year made her comeback from injury look ominous. However, returning to New York City for the third year in a row, the soft-spoken Czech was keen to make a big roar in the Big Apple.
Cetkovska Starts Confidently, Fades In Second Set
After winning her opening round match over the United States' Christina McHale, Cetkovska set up an intriguing match-up with fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki. Having beaten the Dane in their last encounter on the grass of Wimbledon in 2013, the Czech knew exactly what she needed to do in order to cause an early upset.
Despite a nervy start, Cetkovska was able to settle in nicely in front of an exuberant New York crowd. She came back from a break down to win the opening set 6-4 on a hot and humid Thursday night. From there, the 30-year-old raced out to a 4-1 lead and was on the verge of sending another seed packing. However, Wozniacki's persistence and great defending was eventually rewarded as Cetkovska began to come undone as she handed both breaks back to the former world number one before getting broken once more to lose the second set 7-5. "When I was up in the second set, I started to be tight a little bit, and I let Caroline play more," Cetkovska said. "Then was just a fight, a mental fight probably for both of us in the third set."
Czech Shows Grit In Third Set
In the third set, the Prostejov native saved four match points with some fearless hitting in a set with no breaks of serve. As a result, this match was sent into a final set tiebreak as the clock ticked past midnight. In that seven-point shootout, the Czech number 13 played a nearly flawless tiebreak that ultimately sealed her a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(1) win over the fourth seed, scoring the biggest upset of day four at the U.S. Open.
As Cetkovska met reporters at 1:00 A.M. in the morning, the soft-spoken Czech was completely drained of all her energy and emotions. Cetkovska said how special this win was because it was over such a high caliber opponent in Wozniacki, and how it was done on the biggest tennis stadium in the world. What stuck out the most in the final match statistics was how aggressive Cetkovska was during the grueling three hour match. She hit 61 winners to 60 unforced errors in a 237 point match, meaning that more than half of the points were decided on a winner or unforced error from the Czech.
"I just kept believing that if I was leading 6-4 and 4-1 that it was not just luck," Cetkovska reiterated. "Caroline, we obviously all know she's a great player, a great defender. It had to be me who was taking little bit more risk - sometimes a lot. But I could not let her play her game. So I just had to try to stay aggressive and not step into her game."
Wozniacki Unhappy, Cetkovska Pleased After Injury Woes
Wozniacki, who is normally so solid from the back of the court, committed 32 unforced errors and only hit 23 winners. That is almost unheard of from a player who is usually so strong defensively. Disappointed with her level, the Dane said she "could only blame herself" and that she was looking forward to going back to "practice and work hard and get better". Wozniacki told reporters, "If I'm not playing my best level, the way that I can play, I'm putting too many short balls and letting her dictate too much, letting her play."
Cetkovska also talked in her post-match conference about the struggles she has had to face with the numerous ailments to her body that have stopped her from playing the game she loves. "This injury that I've overcome, it was really difficult. Those first months, it was extremely difficult. Every day I was asking myself if I will be able to play tennis again, to play on such a big stadium, to play such a big match and win it. To be honest, I was not really thinking of it because it was not really going so well in the beginning. So for me is just an amazing feeling, like satisfaction for everything that I have gone through."
You can read the full match recap here.