NEW YORK, NY, USA - No.6 seed Petra Kvitova's recovery from a nagging forearm injury took a step forwards with a positive 6-2, 6-4 first-round win over qualifier Denisa Allertova at the US Open in one hour and 19 minutes.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was forced to miss Roland Garros and this year's grass warmups, and after reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon also withdrew from Toronto due to the injury still bothering her. An abbreviated preparation for the final major of 2019 ended up comprising just one match, a three-set opening loss to Maria Sakkari in Cincinnati.
Wearing a compression sleeve and admitting that she had cut down on her practise time last week, Kvitova said that her arm felt "almost 100%" now. "I don't really feel any pain, just getting swollen," she explained.
Czech compatriot Allertova, meanwhile, has been on a roll both on and off the court this year. The former World No.55, who was sidelined due to a back injury for six months in 2018, has compiled a 24-12 win-loss record this season, including three ITF World Tour finals - and earlier this month, the 26-year-old also married long-term boyfriend Jan Satral, the ATP World No.453, outside Prague.
The initial stages of the match featured high-octane baseline hitting from both players, and some impressive tenacity from Allertova as she successfully staved off five break points in her opening service game. But the key difference between the two was made abundantly clear in the next game as Kvitova, dominating behind her serve, held in contrastingly rapid fashion. The Australian Open finalist was largely impregnable behind her delivery: in the first set she would not face a break point and won 75% of her first serve points, compared to Allertova's 50%, and would eventually tally four aces.
"She qualified, so definitely she was playing well, and we play kind of similar game to each other," said Kvitova afterwards. "She wanted to put pressure on me and I wanted to put pressure on her. Luckily I was the first one who did it, and I think I served pretty well today, as well. I'm pretty glad that I played good match today."
As for the missed opportunities, Kvitova simply kept plugging away on return to create more. The 29-year-old, who was rewarded in the next game on her eighth chance as Allertova's forehand finally cracked, stretched the World No.280 to deuce in each of her service games in the first set and came away with two breaks, the second as Allertova coughed up consecutive double faults in the seventh game.
Allertova would begin to post some more straightforward holds in the second set - but did not manage to alter the overall pattern of the match. Once again, Kvitova broke in the third game of the set, this time with a ferocious forehand down the line.
The closing stages of the match found the former World No.2 unexpectedly evincing vulnerability on serve. A clever wrongfooting backhand from Allertova carved out a first opportunity, and she would break back for 4-4 as a Kvitova forehand found the net. But Kvitova wasted no time in getting back on track, finding some neat angles to immediately regain the break before serving out the match, closing with a flashing forehand winner followed by - inevitably - yet another serve out wide that once again Allertova found too hot to handle.
Up next for Kvitova in the second round will be either former World No.9 Andrea Petkovic or former World No.20 Mihaela Buzarnescu.