MELBOURNE, Australia - Two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova was made to work in her second-round battle against Paula Badosa at the Australian Open, having to save three set points to edge through in two, 7-5, 7-5.
Back on Rod Laver Arena for the first time since last year’s final, Kvitova blasted 31 winners and seven aces to make her way back into the third round.
“Today was really about the nerves, about the wind, about the opponent,” Kvitova said in her post-match press conference. “I really wasn't playing probably my game which I wanted to play. I was struggling with the serve a little bit sometimes.
“I was down 4-2, but I was managing to win it somehow. Three set points in the second set.
“But I think in the end of the day I think this match is kind of important to have, for sure.”
It was her first big test of the tournament so far, with Kvitova needing just 50 minutes to see off compatriot Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 6-0 in her previous match. Coming into Melbourne, Kvitova has already made a solid start to the season, too, reaching a semifinal in Brisbane.
She carried all of that momentum with her in the match against Badosa. The Manhattan-born Spaniard, ranked No.97 in the world, hadn’t won a Grand Slam match in her career before this week, when she claimed a dominant 6-1, 6-0 victory of her own to move past qualifier Johanna Larsson.
The players were off to an edgy start as swirling wind wreaked havoc on ball tosses and rallies. Badosa aimed for big targets up the middle of the court, while Kvitova preferred to go for her trademark barrage of winners, to mixed success. In the tough conditions, it was Badosa’s strategy that was rewarded early on, breaking first to lead 4-2.
But the Czech champion wasn’t down for long, breaking right back to make it 4-3 and having to right away dodge another break chance to consolidate to 4-4. Both players were dialed in as the set went the distance, but Kvitova finally earned the decisive 6-5 break and served it out to love.
The second set unfolded in very much the same way, with Kvitova looking to take control early but Badosa hanging tough with the 2019 finalist. They traded breaks at 2-2, with Kvitova breaking first and Badosa striking right back a game later to level the score.
Having served first in the set, Badosa tried to apply some scoreboard pressure as she took advantage of a handful of errors from Kvitova - including a double fault - to earn three set points at 5-4. But the No.7 seed saved them all in a battle of fine margins - one of Badosa’s backhands was millimeters away from sending them into a decider. Kvitova reached into her long tennis experience to break back at 6-5, before serving it out to love to claim the win after an hour and 39 minutes.
She will take on No.25 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, who eased past Czech qualifier Barbora Krejcikova 6-1, 6-3.
“I just hit with her once, and it was in the off-season in Prague, so we had a practice, but I think it's like two years ago already,” Kvitova recalled.
“It will be very interesting. I didn't play her a long time. I know she's really trying to play aggressive, going through the shots, same as me.
“It will be about the first few shots who gonna hit it harder, probably.”