Virginie Razzano, still coping with the death of her coach-fiance, ousted British sixth seed Elena Baltacha 6-4, 6-2 on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals of a $220,000 WTA tournament.
The 81st-ranked Frenchwoman would reach her first WTA semifinal in more than two years with a victory on Friday over 102nd-ranked Irina Falconi of the United States at the hardcourt event, an early tuneup event for the US Open.
"I played a great match," Razzano said. "I'm feeling good with my tennis. I was very serious, focused on my game. I was able to concentrate on my goals from the start."
Razzano fought through her sorrow at an emotional French Open appearance in May barely a week after the death of Stephane Vidal, her coach for 11 years, due to a brain tumor.
"I'm feeling strong," Razzano said. "I don't have stress, just good stress going on the court.
"When I lost my fiance, who for me was the most important thing in my life, and then you go to play a tennis match, it's not very important. When you play matches, it's just my job."
Razzano, 28, had not won back-to-back matches since Vidal's death until downing Baltacha. She said every victory is a tribute to their time together.
"For me it is (a tribute) already done, because I won two matches in a row. He is happy because I made a good start, played two very good matches," she said. "The more I win matches there is more confidence for me.
"I'm going positively. Go to win. I win for him and for me. First for him, then for me."
Razzano won her only two WTA titles in 2007 at Guangzhou and Tokyo. She last reached a final in 2009 at Eastbourne. She had not reached a quarter-final since then until three months ago at Barcelona.
"I had some difficult months," Razzano said. "I played good in Barcelona. It wasn't easy to play with so many things on my mind but I made a good result.
"I want to play a lot. I didn't play a lot when my fiance was very sick. One week I was home to be with him and the next at a tournament. It was hard. It was not only about tennis."
Razzano's long-time physical coach, Bernard Cabassol, will guide her through the US Open with a new tennis coach possible before she plays in Asia starting in late September.
"For me it was too soon to start with a new coach," Razzano said. "I need to recover completely to start over with this one area again."
Razzano, ranked as high as 16th in 2009, hopes to return to the top 50 by the end of the year and resume her place among the top 20 by the end of next year.
"I'm trying to come back to the top 20. It's my place," she said. "I have the game to come back. I don't have a lot of time for this season but for the end of 2012, top 10 or top 20."
She has not given up on her dream of winning a Grand Slam title as well.
"I want to win some tournaments. And why not a Grand Slam?" Razzano said. "I have many years to play. My body is in good shape. I'm only 28. Now it is the experienced players winning Grand Slams."
Falconi, ranked 102nd, advanced when China's Zhang Shuai retired due to heat illness after the American won the first set 6-4. Zhang dropped the first three games, roared back to seize the lead, then dropped the last three games.
"At 0-3, I changed my play and became more aggressive," Zhang said. "After 4-3, I felt no energy. I couldn't move and couldn't breathe so couldn't play."
Russian second seed Nadia Petrova defeated Canadian wild card Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-2 without facing a break point in 52 minutes on the court.
Petrova, seeking her 10th career WTA title but her first since Quebec City in 2008, reached a quarter-final against the winner of a later match between Serbian fifth seed Bojana Jovanovski, the world's top-ranked teen at 56th, and 124th-ranked American Jill Craybas, the oldest player in the draw at 37.