NEW YORK, NY, USA – Marie Bouzkova produced an impressive performance to shock No.3 seed Petra Kvitova at the Western & Southern Open, recovering from the loss of the first set to seal a 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory in two hours 25 minutes.
Holding a 5-7 record against Top 20 players ahead of the meeting against the WTA World No.6, she was forced to ride out a storm for the opening set and a half but sufficiently withstood the barrage of winners to overcome an opponent who was playing in her first tournament since making the final of Doha in the early spring.
Efficiency was key to her success, with Bouzkova taking all four break point opportunities that she created over the course of a high-quality encounter.
"I didn't think I played badly," Kvitova admitted afterwards. "I really started well, everything was on my side. I played aggressively.
"In the second set, she played a little bit better. I made a few mistakes, which definitely helped her.
"In the end, unfortunately, I think it was the energy and the heat. I'm not used to it, so that's sad and that's the bad thing today.
"Anyway, my performance wasn't really that bad."
Kvitova held a remarkable 35-4 record against Czech players on Tour coming into this match up with the 22-year-old, and seemed set to improve it as she hit 11 winners to three unforced errors in the opening set, but Bouzkova lasted better in the soaring temperatures and was able to close out one of the best wins in her young career.
A two-time semifinalist in this tournament, Kvitova has found the early rounds difficult to negotiate in recent years, falling before the third round in four of her five previous visits. Another such hard luck story seemed unlikely as she started at a surging pace.
There were no signs of rust in her game, showing good intent on just the second point of the match as she sent a fizzing forehand down the line into the corner of the court when she was positioned in the tramlines. It was a shot that sent a warning to Bouzkova of what was to come for the next hour.
The 22-year-old did well to hang tough as the opening four games were split evenly, but when her second serve percentage started to dip, she was severely punished, taking only three points from 10 such opportunities as the frame quickly slipped away.
A loose game saw Bouzkova presented with her first three break points of the match, and though it was surrendered with a double fault, Kvitova quickly regained her concentration to move to a 0-40 advantage, which was transformed into the equalizing game with a powerful winner off a modest second serve.
The following eight games all went with serve, and while there was not a single break point, Kvitova was pushed to deuce three times and forced Bouzkova into a clutch hold from 40-all when serving at 4-5.
Bouzkova’s sticking power was rewarded as she moved a break up at 6-5, pouncing on her opportunity with an aggressive, deep return that Kvitova could only push wide. She then produced a solid hold to 15, sending the match into a deciding set.
Having taken advantage of the heat rule to leave the court before the decider, Kvitova, who had won five of her six three-setters in 2020, immediately sought to impose herself on her return, winning serve then manufacturing a break point that she missed, allowing Bouzkova to negotiate a difficult game and set a platform to go on and win the match.
The backhand that had worked so effectively for the unseeded Czech when playing catch-up in the second set continued to come to the fore as she took command in the middle of the decider.
A couple of double faults gave her a break point that was sealed when Kvitova hit into the net, and after a testing hold, she established 5-2 lead as her opponent seemed to toil in the heat.
Kvitova saved four match points but could not stave off a fifth as Bouzkova sealed a third-round clash with Anett Kontaveit or Jil Teichmann, breaking a run that had seen her lose her previous four three-set matches.