PARIS (AP) - It was a long, hard-fought victory for Svetlana Kuznetsova, and it seems to have made her feel like a champion again. An eight-time French Open champion, that is.
Kuznetsova, who won the title at Roland Garros in 2009, broke Petra Kvitova twice when the fifth-seeded Czech was serving for the match and won 6-7 (3), 6-1, 9-7 Saturday to earn a spot in the fourth round.
''I really feel almost like Rafa out there,'' Kuznetsova said, referring to Rafael Nadal. ''The difference is I cannot make winners from that far behind, so I have to go inside a little bit.''
Nadal is known for his inexhaustible defense and his ability to chase down balls in all corners of the court - and get them back. That has earned him a record eight French Open titles.
Kuznetsova did much of the same Saturday, making Kvitova hit shot after shot.
Kuznetsova, who also won the U.S. Open in 2004, took advantage of an injured and error-prone Kvitova on Court Philippe Chatrier. The 2011 Wimbledon champion ended up with 65 unforced errors, including a missed forehand on match point. Kuznetsova had only 20 unforced errors.
''I left out there everything I could,'' said Kuznetsova, a Russian seeded 27th this year at Roland Garros. ''I (came) up with a win, but I was very close to the loss, as well.''
Kvitova was repeatedly visited by a trainer and returned with her upper right leg bandaged after one off-court medical timeout. After the match, she said she felt something in her right hamstring.
''Both of us showed great tennis out there,'' Kvitova said. ''In the end she really played well. She put almost everything back, and it was very tough to win that.''
Kuznetsova is one of two former French Open champions remaining in the draw, along with Maria Sharapova. Serena Williams, Li Na, Ana Ivanovic and Francesca Schiavone have all been eliminated.
In the fourth round, Kuznetsova will get another chance to play like Nadal when she faces Lucie Safarova, a 23rd-seeded Czech.
''Going to be another tough one,'' Kuznetsova said. ''And I (will) try to be ready to run as much, and maybe even more, and to be a little bit more aggressive.''
Former French Open champion Ivanovic lost in the third round Saturday, beaten 6-3, 6-3 by 23rd-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic.
Ivanovic, a former No. 1 seeded 11th, won the title at Roland Garros in 2008, and lost in the final the year before.
Safarova, meanwhile, came into the day with only a 2-7 record in third-round matches at Grand Slam tournaments and only once, in 2007, made it as far as the fourth round at the French Open.
But she improved to 5-2 against Ivanovic, who could not find the mark Saturday. Ivanovic finished with 30 unforced errors, 12 more than Safarova.
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