DUBAI, UAE - No.2 seed Petra Kvitova recovered from a set down to overcome Czech compatriot Katerina Siniakova 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The Australian Open runner-up was plagued by nine double faults and somewhat intermittent form throughout the two-hour, 34-minute encounter, but battled back in blazing conditions to defeat Siniakova for the second time in as many meetings, following a 6-3, 6-3 win in last year's Prague quarterfinals.
"I'm not sure what I'm pleased with," admitted Kvitova drily afterwards. "Maybe I'm pleased with my comeback, end of the match. Even I lost the tiebreak, I was really fighting in the first set to get it done, then the tiebreak was just a little bad from my side.
"The bad things, it's a lot, so we don't really have time to talk about... I have a free afternoon to think about [them]."
Kvitova struggled to find her range initially, losing serve in the third game with two double faults and a brace of errant forehands. Though the 28-year-old staved off two break points to avoid falling behind a double break, conjuring up with a delectable wrongfooting backhand slice winner to hold for 2-3, Siniakova's clever changes of pace and solid serving saw the World No.44 build a 5-3 lead.
Serving for the set, though, Kvitova struck, firing a backhand winner down the line to level the score at 5-5 - but the two-time Wimbledon champion was unable to sustain her form in the ensuing tiebreak, hitting out too wildly on return and ending the set with a ratio of 19 winners to 20 unforced errors.
Kvitova gathered herself again to kick off the second set, breaking Siniakova immediately with a firm forehand volley - a lead she would hold to level the match at a set apiece. Though there were no further breaks in this stanza, though, there were nevertheless moments of both drama and quality. Kvitova would be forced to come through threatening passages of play on two service games as Siniakova sought the break back, and was able to rise to the occasion with clutch serving and striking - including a brilliant half-volley to seal the fourth game.
The doubles World No.1's talent was also increasingly on display, too, with Siniakova cannily using finesse to disrupt Kvitova's rhythm: the 22-year-old made excellent use of short angled dinks and forehand slices to open up the court, and wowed the crowd with a left-handed lob in the eighth game.
But the Kvitova train proved unstoppable: now hitting with a positive ratio of 14 winners to 12 unforced errors, she calmly served the set out at her first opportunity with an ace.
As the players headed into a decider, both hit a golden patch on serve, with Siniakova capturing 23 out of 24 points behind her delivery after closing out a hold for 3-4 in the second set and Kvitova almost as dominant, losing only seven points in five service games to level the third set at 4-4.
But with the match finely poised at that stage, it was Siniakova's spell that evaporated. A point for 5-4 went begging as Kvitova fired a monster off forehand, and two points later an excellent rally culminated in a Siniakova backhand going long for the break.
The Sydney champion made no mistake in closing the match out: at 30-30, the door was slightly ajar for another plot twist, but Kvitova slammed it shut with an inside-in forehand winner and an unhesitating forehand volley on her first match point - her 45th and 46th winners of the day. Up next for the 2013 Dubai winner is a third-round tilt against qualifier Jennifer Brady, who upset No.14 seed Caroline Garcia 6-4, 7-5 - a player with whom Kvitova admits she is unfamilar.
"I don't know Jennifer at all," Kvitova said of the American. "I know how she looks like, but I never really see her play that much, so I don't know."