BEIJING, China - No.7 seed Petra Kvitova withstood a tough challenge from fellow Top 10 star Belinda Bencic to defeat the No.9 seed, 6-3, 6-3 and reach her fifth career China Open quarterfinal.
"I think from the beginning, we were both a bit nervous, but I think it was a solid match from both of us," Kvitova said after the match. "I put in a lot of first serves, which helped me a lot, even if I was downa break in the second, which was pretty difficult mentally. She really went for her shots, but I was able to break her back. It was a good match from my side."
Runner-up in Beijing five years ago, the two-time Wimbledon champion rallied from a break down in the second set to dispatch the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner in one hour and 27 minutes on Lotus Court.
"I lost to her in our last meeting, which wasn't really nice, but I beat her in Melbourne, so I was trying to think more positively than negative, but it's not always easy to do that because of how well she played in Dubai. Knowing her from practices as well, I know how she's playing."
Kvitova and Bencic split their 2019 meetings coming into Wednesday's clash, with the latter winning their most recent encounter in that aforementioned Dubai final - where Bencic captured her first Premier 5 title since 2015.
"She was expecting more serves to the backhand side because I'm a lefty, but I think I was good at mixing things up. I made many aces out wide, but I really had to mix it up because she sees the game very well, and it's difficult to play the second serve because she goes for it and puts the pressure back on me."
It was Kvitova, a semifinalist at last week's Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, who nonetheless enjoyed the better start, striking a whopping 16 winners as she drew first blood in the opening set and breaking serve once more behind a strong return to close in on victory.
"I'm seeing the ball a bit better than before, thanks to being able to spend more time on court. The matches have been the best preparation I could ever have, so it's good to have that good timing again. The courts are a little slower compared to Wuhan, so I'm just glad to have had two days to adjust before my first match."
Bencic, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open back in September, was eager to flip the script early in the second set, and took a quick 2-0 lead with chances to extend the lead in her next service game.
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"I was probably rushing too much, feeling like I was playing well, but losing, which isn't great. Sometimes, it's tough to stay positive, and feel like the time will come when you're playing well but you don't have the break yet. It's about being there and being patient, but that can be difficult sometimes."
Kvitova gamely broke back and soon wrested control from the Swiss youngster, taking a 0-40 lead in the eighth game and soon breaking serve to secure victory on her second match point.
In all, she ended with a positive diffential, hitting 33 winners to 30 unforced errors, 13 aces, and winning 82% of points behind her first serve while converting four of eight break point opportunities. Bencic, by contrast, will rue 25 unforced errors against nine winners, and engineered just two break chances against the big-serving Kvitova.
Standing between the Czech and a place in the China Open semifinals is World No.1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty, who survived a second set hiccup to defeat hometown favorite and Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic champion Zheng Saisai.
"It's nice to play her. She plays differently. It's maybe our fourth meeting this year. She's in great form; what can we say? She's No.1. It will be nice and I'm looking forward to sharing the court with her."