Just a few months after thinking she might never play tennis again, Petra Martic is through to the fourth round of the French Open.
Martic was sidelined for 10 months with a back injury shortly after she lost at Wimbledon qualifying last year. It was initially thought she would return to the court much sooner.
“When I got injured I thought it would take maybe two, three months the most,” Martic said. “And whenever I got to that point, it was like, okay, one more month. Okay. One more, one more. And then, in the end, it was a full year.
“And I started doubting if I could ever play again and that was the toughest part for me because, yeah, if I knew at the beginning, okay, it’s going to take one year and you’ll be back, it would have been easier. But all this uncertainty, it was really, really hard for me.”
Not only is Martic back, but she is playing better than ever. The Croatian qualifier upset 17th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova 6-1 6-1 in her third round match on Sunday.
Martic, who is ranked 290th, took just 49 minutes to beat the Latvian and match her best performance at a Grand Slam tournament.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I mean, I cannot believe that my first Grand Slam after a comeback and I’m already…actually only once I played fourth round before and it was actually here five years ago. So it’s unbelievable. I still cannot believe I did it.”
Martic’s injury saw the former No. 42 fall outside the top 600 in April, when she made a low-profile comeback at an ITF $25,000 tournament in Italy. The courts were “incredibly bad” and there were no ball boys but Martic didn’t care.
“I was so excited to be out there,” she said. “To me, it really felt like a Grand Slam the first time I went to court to play an official match after this injury…I was as excited as it gets.”
Martic will have her traditional glass of red wine with her team to celebrate her victory over Sevastova before she prepares for her next match against fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina.
Five years ago Martic lost to the current top-anked player Angelique Kerber at the same stage, but the 26-year-old feels she is better equipped now to reach her first major quarterfinal.
“The first time I was here in fourth round was a huge deal for me,” Martic said. “I was so young and I had no idea what is happening. I’m suddenly in the fourth round and everybody is talking about me. And it was so much tension, and I don’t think I was ready to deal with it.
“I think I’m in a much better position now because I’m just hungry for more actually. I’m not satisfied with this. It’s a great result, but I’m going out there tomorrow wanting to win again.”