MIAMI, FL, USA - No.3 seed Petra Kvitova had to dig deep in her third round match at the Miami Open, needing three sets to see off the always-dangerous Donna Vekic, the No.26 seed, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a two-and-a-half hour clash.
The Czech player bounced back in style after a disappointing fortnight in Indian Wells, recording strong a straight sets win over Maria Sakkari in her opening match in Miami. A quarterfinalist here in 2014, Kvitova’s win over Vekic puts her through to the fourth round for just the third time, and the second year in a row.
“It's much better feeling than the few months ago definitely,” Kvitova said, referring to Vekic’s win over her in St. Petersburg. “I knew what to expect. I know that she played well in St. Pete, did well today. It's different conditions there. Not playing indoor. Wind little bit, sun.
“I think it was great tennis, long. It was a big fight. I'm glad that in the third set I stayed on my serve, you know, just one break over there. I'm really happy that I got the win.”
In a match between two heavy hitters, the player serving was constantly under pressure for much of the opening set. Both players traded breaks at the start, with Vekic breaking first and Kvitova bringing them back level at 1-1. A whopping 14 break chances were on offer in the next four games, with both players attacking the returns - but unable to convert, staying on serve at 3-3.
Kvitova seemed to find another gear as the set progressed, stepping into the court and adding variety to her game. This seemed to vex Vekic, who struck an untimely double fault to gift Kvitova a late break to make it 5-3 - but while trying to serve out the set, Kvitova replied with a double fault of her own, and Vekic quickly broke straight back. A flurry of forehand winners put Kvitova back in the drivers’ seat, and notched a final break to finally close out the set.
Vekic tidied up her game in the second set and cut down on the unforced errors - down to six total in the second compared to 17 in the first - and she was rewarded with an early double break for a 3-0 lead.
She stayed in control even as Kvitova rallied, getting one of the breaks back to cut down on the deficit. But she wasn’t able to turn things around as Vekic marched on to take the second set and bring them into a decider.
Kvitova got ahead early on in the third, notching a break to 15 in the opening game. She kept her nose in front even as Vekic threw everything her way, dodging break-back chances along the way at 3-1. The Czech continued her heavy pace, and Vekic couldn’t find any inroads on the strong Kvitova serve, and the two-time Wimbledon champion served it out to 15 to book her spot in the fourth round.
“I think sometimes you need kind of these matches when you are not playing great, which I didn't think I played great, and still get the win,” Kvitova said. “My serve was just, I don't know where the serve was, but not surely on the court.
"For sure mentally it's great to win the match like this. Hopefully kind of this experience will help me for the future.”
Up next for Kvitova will be the No.19 seed Caroline Garcia, who moved past No.15 Julia Goerges in straight sets, 6-0, 7-5. The pair are tied at two wins a piece in their head-to-head record, and 3-3 overall if Kvitova and Garcia’s Fed Cup clashes are counted.
“It's a while ago what we played each other,” Kvitova said. “She is a tough opponent, for sure. When she's on fire, she's on fire. It's really difficult to do anything against her. But need to wait for my chances again.
“I mean, she has a great length of the ball, she play aggressively, with the flat shots. She's a good mover, as well. She's very athletic girl. It will be big challenge, for sure.”