ROME, Italy - No.7 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova was pushed to a second-set tiebreaker by a determined Katerina Siniakova, but managed to fight through into round three at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, 6-1, 7-6(3).
After her run to the Mutua Madrid Open semifinals last week, two-time Rome finalist Kuznetsova looked comfortable on Next Gen Arena and her game was in full flow for much of the match. She kept Siniakova well out of the opening exchanges, firing winners and moving her about the court, not letting the Czech impose her big game.
Kuznetsova quickly grabbed a double break lead and had points for a third when Siniakova finally got her name on board. Despite the effort, the 4-0 lead was too much to turn around as the Russian carried the momentum to take the set and an early break in the second.
Siniakova showed her grit and put up a greater resistance in the second set, taking advantage of a brief letdown from Kuznetsova to score her first break to the Russian’s serve. But Kuznetsova grabbed it back straight away and established a 4-1 lead.
The Czech grew in confidence as Kuznetsova started to misfire, her forehand leaking unforced errors. A marathon 11-minute game saw Siniakova bat away six game points to come away with a break, leveling the match with a flurry of dropshots and backhand winners down the line.
She reeled off four games in a row and brought up two set points, looking set to take the match the distance, when Kuznetsova halted her rhythm, keeping the pair deadlocked to force a tiebreaker.
Kuznetsova was dominant in the decider, allowing Siniakova just three points as she closed out the match after an hour and fifty-two minutes.
“I expected to do much worse at the start [after coming from Madrid],” Kuznetsova explained in her post-match press conference. “I didn’t really know how to approach the match, but I started well and I was feeling in total control, just cruising 6-1, 4-1, but then it was just too good to be true.
“I just started to rush things and play fast, and it was very wrong for me. [My coach] Carlos came out and tried to help me, and he did a great job. I did good too, I mean, I listened to him. And then I closed out the set, but still it was a bit risky and I hope to improve in the next game.”
She’ll take on tomorrow’s winner between Caroline Garcia and Daria Gavrilova for a spot in the quarterfinals.