EASTBOURNE, England - Petra Kvitova made a not-so-winning return to grass on Tuesday, losing her first round match at the AEGON International, though it was to another strong grass court player, Ekaterina Makarova.
Makarova, who won her only WTA title at the Premier-level tournament two years ago, rallied from 4-2 down to take the first set then never fell behind in the second set to pick off the No.2-seeded Kvitova, 75 64. It was almost a mirror match - both are big-serving, flat-hitting lefties with credentials on grass.
"There wasn't any secret. I just had nothing to lose, so I tried to play my best game," Makarova commented. "Petra is really tough and plays unbelievable on grass, so I wanted to show my best tennis and enjoy it. It helped today."
"Ekaterina was a tough opponent for me for the first round. She has won here in the past and I know she can play well on grass," Kvitova said. "But I didn't play well either. It was my first match on grass this year and I didn't expect too much. Every shot I played today could have been better. I have to improve."
Kvitova actually showed signs of a comeback late in the match, closing from 2-5 in the second set to 4-5, then going up 30-0 in that service game - but it was not to be, as Makarova won four points in a row to close out the match.
"It was only one break, and I broke her in the first set, so I knew I could do it again," Kvitova said. "But when I served 4-5 I didn't play the shots I had to play. Breaking her was good, but it was only one game, so it wasn't enough."
Kvitova was asked if this changes her outlook towards Wimbledon. "It's not good preparation for Wimbledon, but I have more days to get ready for it, and I just have to work hard now to improve my game," she said. "Also, the other players now play their best and have nothing to lose against me, so it's a change. But it's better to lose first round here than at Wimbledon."
Makarova's win over the World No.4 was her first Top 5 win.
The 24-year-old Russian had just reached the semifinals of another grass court event in Birmingham last week. "I was in Birmingham and saw the draw here, and I wasn't really happy because she was in the final here last year and of course won Wimbledon. I understood it would be a really tough match, but there was nothing I could do. I just came out and played my game today.
"I really love this city and this tournament. I really enjoy being here and I enjoy my game here. It's such nice grass. I feel really good here."
Also on the chopping block was No.1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who led by a break early in the second set but ended up falling quietly to Tsvetana Pironkova, 62 64. Radwanska wasn't the Wimbledon champion, in fact she has never been to the semifinals of a Grand Slam, but she has won Eastbourne.
"I think it wasn't my day today," Radwanska said. "I've played a lot of matches this year and I'm a little bit tired. I was trying everything but she was playing really well, and she plays really well on grass already, much better than other surfaces - I've played against her a few times before, so I could compare.
"I think I just prefer hardcourt, that's for sure."
Pironkova's win over the World No.3 was her fitth Top 5 win, after No.3 Ana Ivanovic at Rome in 2008, No.5 Elena Dementieva at Warsaw in 2010, No.2 Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2010 and No.3 Vera Zvonareva at Wimbledon in 2011. The 24-year-old Bulgarian is dangerous on grass - she has only been past the second round of a Grand Slam twice and they were very deep runs at Wimbledon the last two years: semis in 2010, quarters in 2011.