BEIJING, China - In a battle of the Czech left-handers, No.12 seed Petra Kvitova has posted an efficient 6-3, 7-5 victory over Kristyna Pliskova to move into the second round of the China Open.
It was the first meeting between the pair, but Kvitova's supremacy over her countrywomen has long been noteworthy. The 27-year-old came into today's match riding a 22-match winning streak over her fellow Czechs stretching back half a decade since her loss to Lucie Hradecka in the second round of Madrid in 2012 - one of a scant three overall losses to Czechs she has suffered in her career.
The opening stages of the match were unsurprisingly dominated by the serve. Over the course of the day Kvitova would hammer down seven aces to Pliskova's six; the first five games flashed past without a sniff of a break point for either player and only one deuce, on Kvitova's opening delivery. Rallies were in short supply: if players weren't hammering down outright aces, the points tended to be service winners or simple putaways elicited by big serves. The only sign of weakness was a subpar 43% first serve percentage from Kvitova - but Pliskova was unable to take advantage.
The breakthrough came in the sixth game as the 2014 Beijing runner-up began to read her 25-year-old opponent's delivery to superb effect. A booming crosscourt forehand return and a backhand return straight at Pliskova's feet set Kvitova up with three break points, and she took the third of them with a neat forehand winner. Though the World No.14 would squander two set points on Pliskova's next service game with errant forehands, she made no mistake in serving the set out to love.
The 27-year-old seemed on the verge of running away with the momentum when she powered her way to three break points at the start of the second set - but Pliskova stepped up with a backhand winner and an ace to dig herself out of immediate trouble. The World No.41 couldn't duplicate her escape two games later, sending a backhand long to concede the break.
However, she could take advantage of Kvitova's indecision on her shot selection in the following game. A netted dropshot attempt put the seeded player down 0-30, and Pliskova raked a stinging forehand winner to carve out her very first break points of the match - converting the second when Kvitova sent a forehand wide.
All square once again at 2-2, the match proceeded to resume its earlier serve-dominated pattern with six consecutive holds - mostly smooth sailing, bar a brief moment of drama in the seventh game when consecutive double faults from 40-0 up nearly undid Pliskova. At 5-5, though, it was the two-time Slam champion who raised her game, standing further inside the court to display her aggressive intent on the Pliskova delivery. It paid off: a deep, heavy return on break point rocked the younger player back on her feet, and Kvitova once again had little trouble in serving the match out.
Having extended her ownership of her countrywomen to a 23-match winning streak, Kvitova's reward is a second-round encounter against either Lesia Tsurenko or a qualifier.