NEW YORK, NY, USA - No.13 seed Petra Kvitova made a successful debut at the 2017 US Open on Monday, moving past 2008 US Open finalist and former World No.1 Jelena Jankovic, 7-5, 7-5.
"It was a tough match, and as always, a tricky opponent," Kvitova said in post-match press. "With the wind today, it wasn't really easy to find a way. Sometimes I just played to middle, because I didn't want to miss."
Kvitova led the head-to-head 4-3 coming into today’s encounter, but Jankovic won their last meeting: a surprising come-from-behind win in the third round of Wimbledon in 2015, where Kvitova was defending champion.
"We've had a couple of great battles in the past, so it's always tricky to play with her. I know she didn't have a lot of matches, but that's the same as me, so it was just who would be lucky in the end. I think I took my chances at the end of the sets."
It was a cool and breezy day in Flushing Meadows, which caused some streaky quality from both players.
The Jankovic serve was first to come under attack at 3-2, when powerful returns by Kvitova forced errors from the Serb. Feeling pressured, Jankovic hit two consecutive double faults to cede the break for 4-2.
But it became complicated for Kvitova when she threw in a shocker of a service game as she tried to close out the set at 5-4. After two unforced errors off the forehand and a double fault, Jankovic had three break points, the first of which was converted by the former top-ranked player at the net.
After seeing her lead disappear, Kvitova was able to clinch Jankovic’s next service game, and a 7-5 set, when the Serb hit an ill-advised drop shot on game point, and then hit groundstrokes long on the next two points to hand over the set.
Despite hitting 12 unforced errors to only four winners in the opener, Jankovic started the second set with a valiant effort to turn the match around. She opened with a break of Kvitova's serve, and started to find the range on her trademark backhand for a 2-0 lead.
Kvitova was able to get back on serve at 2-1, due to another poor drop shot by Jankovic when down break point. But the Serb claimed another break at 4-3 when Kvitova's forehand again started to leak unforced errors rather than slam winners.
When presented with an opportunity to serve out the second set at 5-4, though, Jankovic could not hold on, throwing in a double fault and then hitting a backhand wide to let the Czech level the set at 5-5.
Finally, once Kvitova reclaimed the prowess of her characteristic powerful left-handed serve and forehand, she could not be stopped, holding serve with ease for 6-5, and closing out the match with a final forehand winner.
The two-time Wimbledon champion summoned her best at the tight moments of both sets, finishing with 28 winners, and triumphing on 73% of her first serve points.
Kvitova advances to the second round of the US Open for the sixth straight year. She will follow up this stern test with another challenge: former World No.11 Alizé Cornet of France, who defeated Heather Watson of Great Britain in their first-round tilt, 6-4, 6-4.
"I'm more relaxed right now. I think that at Wimbledon, I was a bit nervous before every match, and today I felt a little relaxed and not really thinking too much about the tennis and about the match but just trying to enjoy myself on the court."