ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- 2018 champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic gritted out a tough three-set win over Alison van Uytvanck to move into the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy quarterfinals on Thursday.
In their first career meeting, No.3 seed Kvitova saved a set point in the opening frame and shook off a second set filled with break points to ultimately claim victory over van Uytvanck after two hours and 16 minutes of play.
"Definitely, it was a tough one," Kvitova said, after her victory. "I’ve never played Alison before, and she’d already played one match on the surface, and for me it was the first one, so that's always a bit challenging."
"It took me a while to get used to the court," the World No.11 added. "It kind of suits her game as well as mine."
The players combined for a whopping 33 break points in the match, but Kvitova prevailed by converting all three of her break points in the topsy-turvy decider, while only being broken once during that timeframe.
"Definitely I played much better at the end of the first set, then those two games in the beginning of the second set were just too long," Kvitova stated, referring to the 30 minutes it took to reach 1-1 in the second set. "I don’t really know how I turned it around in the third set. I was just maybe moving a little bit better."
Kvitova faced break points in each of her first three service games, and van Uytvanck took advantage, opening up an early 3-2 lead. The Belgian, who was returning solidly and being stingy on serve, held onto that break lead up to 5-4, when she served for the opening set.
Van Uytvanck held a set point in that game, but squandered it with a double fault, and that is when Kvitova made her move, firing on her forehand to eke out a break and suddenly get back level at 5-5.
The Czech nearly handed back the break right away with a litany of errors, but she erased two break points with forehand winners, before holding on for 6-5. Van Uytvanck, to her credit, pulled off a love hold to send the opening set into a decisive tiebreak.
There, however, Kvitova made a statement at the start of the breaker, chasing down a drop shot and blasting a forehand winner to win the first point. From that point forward, Kvitova dominated the tiebreak, crushing winners off of both wings to take it 7-1 and grasp the one-set lead.
The rapid-fire pace of the tiebreak was quickly derailed, as two extremely lengthy 15-minute games opened the second set. Kvitova did attain a break in the first game of the set, converting her seventh break point of that game with a backhand return winner, but van Uytvanck won the subsequent game, taking it on her eighth break point after a wide Kvitova forehand.
"For sure I’ve had one game pretty long, but not two games in a row that long," said Kvitova. "I think we played those two games longer than one set, so it’s been very tiring, for both of us, I’m sure."
Kvitova faced even more break points in her next service game, and on the fourth of the game, van Uytvanck went up 3-1 after the Czech double faulted. The first four games of the second set held 19 break points in total and took 40 minutes, but after that, van Uytvanck cruised to victory in the set, leveling the match at one set apiece.
Kvitova was broken in the first game of the decider, as the van Uytvanck run threatened to continue. However, Kvitova got back on serve in the subsequent game, then earned a break point at 3-2 with a backhand winner. The chance was converted after a long backhand by the Belgian, and Kvitova suddenly was up a break at 4-2.
That would be all the former champion would need, as she started to pepper the court with ferocious forehands with ease. Finally, the Czech knocked off a fourth straight game to close out the match and seal a spot in the quarterfinals for the third straight season.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova will take on Russian No.1 Ekaterina Alexandrova in the quarterfinals, after Alexandrova beat last year’s runner-up Donna Vekic. In their only prior meeting Kvitova dispatched Alexandrova, 6-1, 6-2, in the Australian Open last month.
"It wasn’t even easy [against Alexandrova in Australia], I just really played a good game, and it was just in the beginning of those sets I was making those key points," said Kvitova. "[Alexandrova] is in very good form. She won a tournament at the beginning of the year. Definitely she likes to play at home, and this surface suits her as well because she likes to play an aggressive game."