Kuznetsova downs Kvitova in French Open marathon

Paris: Svetlana Kuznetsova won a three-hour 13 minute thriller to defeat Petra Kvitova 6-7 (3/7), 6-1, 9-7 and reach the French Open last-16 Saturday as the tournament lost the fourth of its top five seeds.

In the longest match of the women`s tournament, 2009 winner Kuznetsova capitalised on fifth-seeded Kvitova`s 65 unforced errors and 10 double faults to set-up a fourth round clash with another Czech, 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 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.

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.

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.

Stephens had defeated Makarova in their only other previous meeting which took place in Paris in the first round two years ago.

"I`m happy to get the job done early," said the American. "It`s my third time in the last 16. Paris is awesome. Now I hope to go to the next step and get another win."

Later Saturday, Serb sixth seed Jelena Jankovic, a three-time semi-finalist, plays Romania`s Sorana Cirstea, a quarter-finalist in 2009.

Sara Errani, the Italian 10th seed who was runner-up to Maria Sharapova in 2012, faces Israel`s Julia Glushko.

France`s Kristina Mladenovic, who put out Li Na in the first round, hopes to make the last 16 of a major for the first time when she faces German 28th seed Andrea Petkovic.

Petkovic won their only other meeting just down the road from Roland Garros at the Paris Indoor event earlier this year.

The winner of that match will face either Spain`s Silvia Soler-Espinosa or Dutch qualifier Kiki Bertens, the world number 148.

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