ROME, Italy - Not many No.28s can say they're 4-0 against the No.3. Petra Cetkovska upheld her status as nemesis to Agnieszka Radwanska on Wednesday, sending her out of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in her opener.
For almost two and a half hours the pair battled it out on the Supertennis Arena, Cetkovska using her flat, powerful groundstrokes to hit through the consistent variety from Radwanska - they split two very close sets to start when Cetkovska completely ran away with it after a 33-minute deciding set, 64 46 61.
"I like to play with her. She plays really intelligently," Cetkovska said. "I just played a great match today. I didn't make too many mistakes - she didn't do too many either. Maybe there were just some important moments I did better."
Although Cetkovska's first win over Radwanska is a bit untelling - it came at an ITF Circuit event in 2005 when Radwanska was 16 years old and ranked No.603 - the Czech's latest three wins have all come within the last 12 months, at Wimbledon last year (where she rallied from 5-3 down in the second set and 4-1 down in the third to win, 36 76(5) 64), New Haven last summer (where she led 64 31 but eventually closed it out, 64 57 63) and now here in Rome.
This was the first time she beat Radwanska as a Top 10 player though, and at No.3 no less - it is the sixth and biggest Top 10 win of the 27-year-old's career.
"The times I beat her when she was No.11 or No.12, she was the same great player, for me she hasn't changed much," Cetkovska said. "All of our matches are very interesting and very close - both of us could win, until now it's me.
"I don't know how it will be next time."
Radwanska was gracious in defeat: "Petra played very well today. She's a good player on a slow court. I couldn't finish a ball - she was running very well.
"Losing at the beginning of the tournament is disappointing. I'm tired from all the matches I've been playing and I have some problems with my back. I'm going to take a few days off then play Brussels. I still have some matches before Paris."
Next up for Cetkovska will be Flavia Pennetta, who followed up her first round upset of No.16 seed Maria Kirilenko with a 62 63 win over American qualifier Sloane Stephens. Pennetta beat Cetkovska in their only prior meeting.
Pennetta will be the only Italian player in the round of 16 here, and she is a well-known name in Italy too - she was the first Italian ever to crack the Top 10 (Francesca Schiavone was the second) and she is also the only Italian ever to rank No.1 in either singles or doubles (she got to No.1 in doubles in 2011).
Radwanska wasn't the only favorite to fall early on, with No.6 seed Caroline Wozniacki losing to Anabel Medina Garrigues and an upper respiratory illness, retiring after falling behind, 64 40; and No.7 seed Marion Bartoli losing five games in a row from 1-all in the second set to fall to Julia Goerges, 63 61.
"I have some fever and sore throat, just not feeling great - that makes it even harder to play someone like Anabel on clay," Wozniacki said. "I started feeling not great last night. I always get allergies when I come here. It's unfortunate. I'll just try to get some rest now and then get ready for the French Open."
"I could see Marion was uncomfortable and didn't play her best," Goerges said. "But I played solidly. I had my tactics - I tried to use the angles, keep her on the move and keep the ball away from where she likes to strike it."
Four other seeds won, with No.5 seed Sam Stosur rallying from 4-1 down in the second to close Sara Errani out, 63 75; No.8 seed Li Na pulling off a similar comeback, coming from 5-3 down in the second to beat Iveta Benesova, 61 75; No.12 seed Angelique Kerber cruising past Vania King, 63 62; and No.14 seed Dominika Cibulkova beating Italian wildcard Karin Knapp, 63 46 61.