PRAGUE, Czech Republic – No.2 seed Petra Kvitova gave a powerful account of herself against wildcard Tereza Smitkova to secure her place in the second round of the J&T Banka Prague Open, winning through, 6-1, 6-3.
Following the withdrawal of Karolina Pliskova, the World No.10 is the tournament’s highest ranked player and looked every inch a contender for the title as she dismantled her Czech compatriot in front of a packed house after suffering a brief lapse in the second set.
"People were amazing today. I expected big crowd, but definitely not that big," Kvitova said after the match. "I feel enormous support here. People are even coming to watch my training sessions and they are aplauding even there.“
Although Smitkova won the opening game of the match, she was forced to save break points thanks to some solid first serving.
Kvitova’s power and accuracy when presented with opportunities on second serve were to prove devastating, although the 28-year-old was rather presented with her breakthrough in the match’s third game. Smitkova had initially done well to thwart her rival with an ace but then double faulted after making an unforced error to gift away the break.
The higher-ranked player was in ruthless mood thereafter, giving away nothing on her own serve while breaking the World No.227 twice more.
Again, Smitkova had a part to play in her own downfall, leaving a shot that landed on the baseline when break point down.
.@Petra_Kvitova picks up her first win on clay of the season with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Smitkova.
Advances to second round at #PragueOpen. pic.twitter.com/7ga9ezYJPx
— WTA (@WTA) May 1, 2018
After Kvitova had closed out the opening set in characteristically efficient style, she set about asserting her dominance in the second. Her opponent had been given advice by her coach at the interval and showed some renewed resistance, but it was not sufficient to prevent the Top 10 player breaking immediately.
On serve, Kvitova continued untroubled, with her power simply too great for her opponent. She reeled off nine straight games before finally allowing another to slip, firing long to save her opponent the embarrassment of a bagel.
This was evidence, however, of a lapse in concentration. A succession of loose points in the next game brought up three break opportunities for Smitova, who took the second when Kvitova hit long.
With this stunner, make it 8⃣ straight games for @Petra_Kvitova.#PragueOpen pic.twitter.com/pWPOPURrJE
— WTA (@WTA) May 1, 2018
Suddenly Kvitova faced a fight to wrestle back the momentum and after Smitova held serve she was taken to deuce on her own delivery before stopping the rot.
In the eighth game, she hit back, breaking at the second attempt to once more nudge herself into the ascendancy.
And this time she had done enough to stave off her spirited opponent, holding to 15 to book a match with Natalia Vikhlyantseva in her first foray in this competition.
"Last year, I was sitting here during the final supporting Kristyna Plískova," Kvitova said, referencing her return to tennis nearly a year ago following a home invasion which injured her hand.
"I believed I could play this year and I am very happy for that.“