MELBOURNE, Australia -- No.8 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic made it into the second week of a Grand Slam event for the first time in over a year at the Australian Open on Friday, dispatching Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, 6-1, 6-4, in a third-round meeting.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova failed to advance past the third round at any of the majors last season, but was able to break her duck already in 2019 after easing past 49th-ranked Bencic in a comprehensive 68-minute encounter. Kvitova is currently on an eight-match winning streak, including her Sydney International title from last week.
"I'm really enjoying it," Kvitova said, during her post-match press conference. "I'm happy to be here playing, of course be[ing] in the second week is something really special for me after a while. I did not have that good beginning of the season for a very long time, so I'm really happy for that."
Former Top 10 player Bencic held a respectable 13-13 win-loss record against Top 10 players coming into the match, but Kvitova had emerged victorious in both of their prior meetings, and picked up a third straight win by winning a massive 86 percent of points on her first serve, and firing 32 winners to only 19 unforced errors.
"I knew that [Bencic] is danger player, for sure," said Kvitova. "I was coming to the court knowing that. So from the first point, I was there and ready for that."
In the fourth round, Kvitova will now play one of the surprise packages of the tournament, 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova of the United States. Anisimova moved into the fourth round of a Grand Slam event for the first time in her career when she outhit No.11 seed Aryna Sabalenka, 6-3, 6-2, earlier on Friday.
Anisimova upset Kvitova in their only prior meeting, at Indian Wells last year, which ended a 14-match winning streak for the Czech. "I do remember that [Anisimova is] playing pretty aggressive. She's serving well and hitting each shot pretty hard."
The first set was one-way traffic as Kvitova dominated with her typical combination of fiery forehands and scintillating serving. But it was the Czech’s backhand which gave her the initial lead, as she broke Bencic for a 3-1 lead by forcing an error from that wing.
Another break of serve went Kvitova’s way two games later, as Bencic let two game points slip before plopping a forehand miscue into the net to give the Czech a 5-1 lead. Kvitova claimed her one-set lead with consecutive aces in the following game.
Bencic made the second set much more competitive, ramping up the aggression on her serve and groundstrokes, and was very nearly rewarded with an early break to lead 3-1. But Kvitova used more forehand blasts to maintain equilibrium and hold for 2-2, as the Czech’s winner count increased dramatically.
Kvitova finally cracked open the second set by breaking through in a lengthy 3-3 game, eventually claiming the decisive break after a Bencic backhand error found the net. The Swiss player did well to rebound from an opening double fault at 5-3, picking off four straight points in a row to hold for 5-4 and force Kvitova to serve out the match.
But if Kvitova felt nervous as she approached victory, it was unseen, as she raced to triple match point with her seventh thunderous ace. Another big serve was returned by Bencic into the net, putting Kvitova back into the second week of a major event after what she surely felt was too long of a hiatus.
Kvitova said her game is "about the confidence, for sure, going for the winners or for the ace or for a really good rally. I think I showed that today as well in the second set. I was break [point] down, game was pretty tight. Sometimes I'm kind of the player who is pretty risky. When you don't really have enough confidence, it's always like not great, so I'm happy that it's on the other side now."