The 2017 U.S. Open has its share of incredible stories, whether it be the wide open bottom half of the men’s draw, the possibility of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal meeting in Flushing Meadows for the first time ever, or the world number one spot in the women’s rankings completely up for grabs.
But amidst all of those is the remarkable quarterfinal matchup between ninth-seed Venus Williams and 13th-seeded Petra Kvitova (pictured above), who will meet Tuesday for a spot in the tournament’s final four.
Ten months ago, Kvitova was attacked and stabbed in her Czech home by an intruder, which left her with severe injuries to her left hand in an event which could have proven to be fatal.
“In my attempt to defend myself, I was badly injured on my left hand,” Kvitova said in a message on Facebook after the attack. “I am shaken, but fortunate to be alive. The injury is severe, and I will need to see specialists, but if you know anything about me, I am strong and will fight this.”
And she did. In incredible fashion, the two-time Wimbledon champion worked incredibly hard to get back onto the court, returning just a few months later at the French Open. After winning the title in Birmingham, she was ousted early at Wimbledon, but Kvitova knew being back on court and playing in Grand Slams was a victory in itself.
“Sometimes I do feel a little bit more normal than before, especially on the court and around players and people, around the tennis, which I’m very grateful I can be part of it again,” she said after her win against Caroline Garcia in the second round. “The life is still a little bit strange, but it’s getting better as well.”
With matches under her belt and a newfound perspective, Kvitova has demonstrated that fight through the first four rounds of play at the U.S. Open. That was no more evident than in Sunday’s showdown with reigning Wimbledon champion and third-seed Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set, but Kvitova would not be deterred. She rattled off three straight games to bring the set back on serve, and then played phenomenal tennis in the tiebreak to win the opener, going on to win the match in straight sets.
“It was a great fight,” she said afterwards. “I struggled a bit from the beginning. I was probably rushing a little bit, so I just needed to really try to be a bit more calm and play some rallies.”
Kvitova’s opponent in the quarterfinals knows a lot about coming back from against the odds. Venus Williams was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that causes fatigue and pain, in 2011, and it seemed that her best tennis days were behind her.
But the 37-year-old has played incredible tennis over the last 18 months, and is enjoying a career year in 2017. She was a finalist at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and is now into her 39th quarterfinal at a major after beating Spain’s Carla Suarez-Navarro on Sunday.
“What she’s gone through is unimaginable, unreasonable. The world we live in is just shocking,” Williams said of Kvitova. “So for her, I think to be playing well is such a blessing. To be able to come out here and do what she needs to do, to clear her head, it’s such a beautiful thing to see.”
Both players have overcome their own adversity to be in the position they are in, but neither player will be thinking about that when they meet for a spot in the U.S. Open semifinals on Tuesday.
Kvitova leads the head-to-head matchup 4-1, but the two haven’t played one another since 2014, a walkover win for Kvitova in Beijing.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org