ROEHAMPTON – For the second time in two Slams, Petra Martic got through qualifying in most dramatic fashion.
At the French Open in Paris a few weeks ago, Martic defeated Maryna Zanevka of Belgium 7-6(3), 6-7(2), 7-6(5) in the final round to make it.
At Roehampton Friday, Martic defeated Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 to reach the Wimbledon main draw.
Martic was down a set and a break in the second, when Krunic seemed to have it well in hand. But the 26-year-old Croat pushed it to three.
She was down a break in the third set as well. Krunic had six match points in attempting to serve it out at 5-4 in the third, Martic saved them all. She needed four of her own in serving it out.
No wonder the hug at the net was so poignant.
To her credit, it was Krunic who reached out first to Martic, despite her own significant disappointment. That is one gracious player in defeat, right there.
Here’s what it looked like.
Krunic was the No. 1 seed in qualifying. And that has to feel like the worst place in the world to be. After a final on the grass at Manchester two weeks before, the 24-year-old returned to the top 100 at No. 99. That would easily have gotten her into the Wimbledon main draw. Except it happened after the deadline.
So there she was, in command against Martic. And she let it slip. Krunic also lost a tough one in the final round of the French Open qualifying, also after winning the first set.
For Martic, it was the continuation of a great comeback story.
Injury woes for years
It all began with a foot injury in 2012, when the talented 21-year-old was on her way up.
The Croatian stood out among the legion of ball-bashing types with her smooth movement, good serve, unusually good slice and willingness to move forward.
At the French Open that year, she upset No. 10 seed Angelique Kerber, No. 29 seed and excellent clay-court player Anabel Medina Garrigues, and No. 8 seed Marion Bartoli to reach the fourth round.
Her singles career high of No. 43 came that year. But a foot injury scuttled her summer, and forced her to miss the Olympics in London.
Then came a right hand injury in 2014.
By last year, she thought she was going to be out of the game with a back injury. She missed 10 months, and when she got to the French Open qualifying this year, her true ranking was at No. 290 (she used a protected injury ranking to get into the qualifying).
It was her first time in a Grand Slam main draw in two years. And she took full advantage. Her win in the first round was her first at a Slam since 2013 Wimbledon.
Martic seemingly had it against Elina Svitolina, too. But her higher-ranked opponent pulled it out.
Here’s a good piece from the WTA site about her effort in Paris.
Martic doesn’t have an easy one for her first-round match at Wimbledon. She faces No. 20 seed Daria Gavrilova of Australia.
But after the last few years, this is probably all gravy. The last time she was at Wimbledon, she lost in the first round of qualifying to Urszula Radwanska. And then, she didn’t play against until this past April.
She is 23-5 since her return, which began at a $25,000 ITF tournament in Italy.