Seeded No. 3 in Charleston, Kvitova last played this event in 2018—where she lost in her opening round to countrywoman Kristyna Pliskova—and edged through a nearly hour-long tie-break to ultimately solve the Aussie, 7-6 (4), 6-2, in 86 minutes on Althea Gibson Court.
The Czech struck a solid 21 winners to just 17 unforced errors, and will next face either Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez or Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic. Kvitova and Fernandez last met in the third round of the 2020 French Open, where Fernandez took a quick 5-1 lead before the Czech veteran ultimately emerged victorious en route to the semifinals.
"That was a tough match, and I still don't know how I turned it around," Kvitova said of Fernandez after the match. "I was just there and playing every point, so that's probably how I'll play again. A lefty on clay, green clay may make it a little different, but I think it could be another interesting match. She's in great form, winning a tournament, but me too, actually! I almost forgot!"
Kvitova followed Muguruza, the No. 6 seed, who was playing in South Carolina for the first time since 2013, though she initially intended to enter the tournament in 2020—before it was canceled due to the pandemic—at the behest of coach and two-time former champion Conchita Martinez.
“It didn’t go to well the last time I was here,” Muguruza said after the match, “so I was always thinking, ‘Man, this grey or green clay, I have to come back and have a different feeling.’ Conchita loves this tournament, and loves the city. She’d talk a lot about Downtown Charleston and all the places I’d have to go.”
Restricted to a COVID-19 bubble, Muguruza joked with Martinez that some of the 1994 Wimbledon champion’s grander plans will have to wait until next year.
“I told her, ‘Conchi, stop telling me this, because we can’t go anywhere!’”
The former world No. 1 blitzed Fręch in the opening set and though things got closer in the second, she ultimately adjusted to the green clay to subdue the Polish qualifier, 6-1, 6-3, in 70 minutes flat.
“This clay is similar to European from the outside, but as pro tennis players, we feel everything, so it feels like it’s not as easy to slide on this clay. It’s a bit more compact, and the bounces are tricky.
“I grew up playing on red clay as a kid in Spain. I feel like I spent so many hours running on those courts. Hard courts, it feels like everyone plays well. Points are short and fast. Clay courts allow you to develop more, do more things, and have more time. It can go against your or with you, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s how I grew up playing. It helped me learn how to play points and incorporate different strategies to my game.
“Of course, winning my first Grand Slam on clay courts makes a huge difference: I had my first big success on the surface I grew up loving. Overall, it feels so familiar to me.”
Muguruza will next play No. 11 seed Yulia Putintseva, who eased past fellow Kazakh Zarina Diyas, 6-2, 6-2 earlier in the afternoon. Muguruza leads Putintseva 2-0 in their head-to-head, though their last match came at Roland Garros back in 2017.