CINCINNATI, OH, USA - No.8 seed Petra Kvitova came up with some scintillating tennis to defeat Serena Williams under the lights on Tuesday, claiming an early blockbuster at the Western & Southern Open.
Playing in their seventh career meeting, Kvitova weathered Serena’s best tennis of the year to seal a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 victory in just under two hours.
“It was a pleasure to share the court with Serena, she’s such a champion,” Kvitova said in a post-match interview. “We are both coming back - from injury, from motherhood - so it’s something really special to play her.
“Unfortunately it’s in the second round, but playing a night session against Serena in front of a USA crowd, it’s been great.”
Two-time champion Serena was in high spirits coming into the match, bolstered by an emphatic victory over Daria Gavrilova in the last round and bidding for a 12th straight victory in Cincinnati.
But she ran up against one of the most in-form players of the tour in Kvitova, who owns a WTA-leading five titles this season across all surfaces - St. Petersburg, Doha, Prague, Madrid, and Birmingham.
She carried that momentum against Serena in Cincy, bossing the proceedings in the opening set. She had the American under pressure from the start, bringing up an early break chance at 2-1 and Kvitova replied emphatically by reeling off the next five of six games, outrallying Serena and unleashing big backhands.
Serena replied like a 23-time Grand Slam champion in the second set, however - raising her level to finally earn a break on the Kvitova serve after a marathon third game of the set, converting on her fifth break chance to grab a 2-1 lead.
— WTA (@WTA) August 15, 2018
She defended her own serve just as fiercely when Kvitova looked to break straight back, saving three break points. Serena extended her lead to 5-2 and comfortably served out the set to send the match into a decider.
With both players fully dialed in, they started out the final set by trading breaks, with Serena seeing an early lead vanish under Kvitova’s relentless attack. She kept Serena under pressure throughout, especially on serve, and was rewarded with a breakthrough at 4-2. It proved to be decisive as the Czech served out her spot in the third round after a grueling two hour battle.
After the match, Serena kept a positive attitude about her progress on her ‘long’ comeback from maternity leave.
“I think it was a good match today,” she told press. “We both played at a really high level. Only one person could win."
— WTA (@WTA) August 15, 2018
She added, “I'm still at the very beginning. You know, this is a long comeback. I just began. I just started. Definitely at the very, very beginning. I'm getting there, and I'm going to just continue to work hard, and hopefully I'll start winning more matches.”
With the victory, Kvitova becomes the second player to win 40 so far this season - trailing only Simona Halep’s 42 - and she snaps Serena’s Cincinnati winning streak of 11 matches in a row.
Up next, Kvitova will take on Kristina Mladenovic in the third round - the Frenchwoman defeated Viktoria Kuzmova in a one-sided encounter, 6-3, 6-0 to advance.
“We played the final of St. Petersburg this year, it was something a little bit different as we played indoors,” Kvitova recalled. “She’s been up and down this season, so I need to be prepared because she’s been in good form here. She has two wins in the tournament, and she can play really aggressive. She’s a big hitter with a big serve - I need to be ready for that.”