LONDON, Great Britain - In a match of two distinct halves, No.7 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova made her way past compatriot Ekaterina Makarova 6-0, 7-5 to book her place in the third round of Wimbledon for the ninth time.
The 32-year-old has dominated the head-to-head between the two, leading 6-1 - but the younger Russian's only victory had come on the lawns of Eastbourne in 2010. In the first set, Kuznetsova made it clear that grass had not been the deciding issue there as she used all her experience, variety and power to inflict a bagel set on Makarova in just 24 minutes.
The World No.47 lacks neither grass-court ability nor power: Eastbourne champion in 2010 and Wimbledon quarterfinalist four years later, Makarova's average first serve speed was 99mph and she landed 90% of first serves in the first set. Yet such was Kuznetsova's sharpness out of the blocks that Makarova was unable to even reach game point on her own delivery in the opener, and both of her break point opportunities were quickly snuffed out by Kuznetsova hammering down unreturnable serves of her own.
The older Russian employed all her experience to construct points, dragging Makarova around the court with backhand slices before slamming powerful drives off both wings into the openings she had created. In the opening set, Kuznetsova would hit 11 winners to a paltry three unforced errors, and when Makarova limply conceded her serve to love at the start of the second set, the Court 3 crowd might have been expecting a rout.
But when the former World No.2 opened her next service game with a double fault of her own, that was Makarova's cue to come to life. Smacking one of her eight clean return winners of the day on the next point, she broke straight back - and turned the second set into a battle as Kuznetsova struggled to maintain her purple patch.
The two-time doubles Slam champion began to use the entire court more effectively in rallies, taking big cuts at returns to dominate from the off: she would rack up 15 winners in the second set compared to just six in the first. Kuznetsova, meanwhile, lapsed into looseness, handing another mid-set break immediately back with a wild forehand - and, serving to stay in the set, the 2004 US Open champion and 2009 Roland Garros winner found herself staring down the barrel of a set point.
A fabulous rally that ended when Kuznetsova tangled Makarova up in a short slice saved it, though - and after fighting through two deuces to level the match at 5-5, it was the higher-ranked Russian who accelerated through the final two games for the loss of just one more point to book a third round against either American Varvara Lepchenko or Slovenian qualifier Polona Hercog.
Kuznetsova's affinity for clay may be more her trademark than any fondness for grass - but her first Slam quarterfinal came at Wimbledon (on her debut appearance in SW19 in 2003), and she would reach the last eight three times in her first five campaigns here. Those early results have tailed off in this decade, though - last year marked Kuznetsova's first second-week run since 2008 - but on today's evidence, the veteran's experience still makes her a dangerous customer on the lawns.
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