DOHA, Qatar – No.8 seed Petra Kvitova secured a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 win over Jelena Ostapenko in the Qatar Total Open, with the wind a major factor in an encounter that lasted exactly two hours.
The players came into this match locked 3-3 in their career head-to-head series, with Ostapenko having taken the win the last time they met back in Miami 2018.
It was, however, the WTA World No.11 who took the edge in their rivalry as she progressed to the quarterfinals for the fifth time in six visits to Qatar, while maintaining a proud run that has not seen her lose to anyone outside the Top 40 since the US Open.
Kvitova had been taken the distance in her second-round outing with Carla Suárez Navarro and would have hoped that after taking the first set courtesy of winning six successive games she would not be so extended once more. Ostapenko, though, found her range to force a decider, which was comprehensively claimed by the higher-ranked player.
“There’s no chance to have tactics in this wind,” she said. “The wind changes everything. It’s difficult to put the serve in and she returned the second serve well. It was difficult from the first point. I lost to her in our last match, so I knew what to expect.
“I'm tried to stay there, to be patient, but sometimes it's a little difficult. The safest is to play to the middle, but of course if you are just playing to the middle it’s difficult to win any points.
“So it was really difficult, especially when you're serving, it's really tough. On the second serve she really could hit it very hard and I just missed the next point. So I tried the same on her serve and it worked pretty well afterwards.”
The opening set got off to a rocky start for Kvitova, who quickly discovered that the windy conditions would not make serving easy. A couple of double faults helped Ostapenko establish a break point, which would be converted as the Czech No.2 sliced wide.
Although the Latvian then held, Kvitova came roaring back at her, stringing together nine successive points as she drew level then moved 3-2 ahead.
The weather would continue to play a major role, with both players experiencing spells in which they harnessed it effective amid periods in which they struggled to judge the crosscourt wind. Kvitova, though, was the more consistent as her opponent struck 13 unforced errors in the opening frame.
The sixth game of the set proved to be the major battleground, with five deuces before it eventually fell the way of the 29-year-old following back-to-back Ostapenko double faults which served only to highlight how awkward it was to serve effectively given she had made 83% of first deliveries in her second-round win over Barbora Strycova.
Having established a led, Kvitova raced to secure the set in 32 minutes, posting a remarkably strong seven winners to just sixth unforced errors.
She extended her winning run of games to seven at the beginning of the second with a hold to 15 then raced into a 0-40 advantage on the Ostapenko serve. Faced with a crisis point, the 2017 French Open champion raised her game impressively to salvage the situation and drag herself back into contention.
Although she broke in the next game, this was simply the catalyst for a flurry of four breaks in succession as Kvitova’s second serve suddenly started to look vulnerable, with seven double faults delivered in the set.
The 2018 champion also saw her unforced errors spiral to 17 while Ostapenko cut hers to a mere 11, setting her up to serve for the set at 5-4. Although the chance was missed, she broke again, this time to love, before finally drawing level.
Her momentum, though, was short lived. Kvitova lost only four points as she opened up a 4-0 advantage in the decider, then produced the shot of the day en route to a tough hold when extended by Ostapenko.
The match was sealed in her next service game, setting up a meeting with compatriot and No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova or the in-form Ons Jabeur.