DUBAI (AFP) – Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki both escaped from trouble when it seemed they might be on their way out of the Dubai Open on Tuesday.
Kvitova was four times within a point of going a break down in the second set, having lost the first to an opponent who had beaten her six months previously, Elina Svitolina.
And Wozniacki was twice within a point of being taken to a final set tie-break before emerging victorious against Samantha Stosur, the former US Open champion.
Both Kvitova and Wozniacki have won the title here and are especially motivated to do so again, as the tournament has been upgraded to a Premier 5 event with US$2,500,000 prize money.
But Kvitova sometimes lacked focus and produced her brilliant best only fitfully in her 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Svitolina, a rising 20-year-old Ukrainian who looks bound for the world’s top 20.
Wozniacki, who was struggling with a knee injury and a virus, frittered away a 5-2 final set lead, and needed two and three-quarter hours before prevailing against Stosur, the Australian whose best days may be behind her.
“It kind of felt like I had already won the match, so I was like, you know, Just, you know, go with the flow,” said Wozniacki who needed three tries before she could close out the match on her serve.
“But all of a sudden there was no flow and I had to fight back. I would have been pretty pissed if I wouldn’t have won it the third time, but they do say third time lucky, right? I was hoping for that.”
The Dane responded well to a disappointing start, taking the ball earlier, coming to the net more, and producing the ground strokes which has been largely responsible for her recent resurgence.
But by the end her fire had dwindled and she was mostly just hanging on.
“I think she (Stosur) definitely stepped it up a little bit, and I couldn’t get a first serve in – and now I don’t have a voice either,” joked Wozniacki.
“I guess I just need some rest and lots of fluids and Tylenol and Advil and whatever else there is.”
Kvitova gave a pretty blunt reaction to her first set performance.
“I’m not sure where I was in the first set. I don’t think I was on the court,” she said.
This quickly cost her that set.
It might have done much to cost her the match too, had she not saved four break points in the second game of the second set.
She did that by striking some fierce flat backhands before beginning to score better with the many varieties of angle, pace and direction she possesses on the forehand wing.
“I think I was too hectic,” said Kvitova. “I really wanted to play aggressively and I made a lot of mistakes. Very easy balls I just give it for free.
“On the other hand I didn’t want to play just small rallies with nothing, no power or something like that.
Kvitova next plays Carla Suarez Navarro, the world number 13 from Spain, on Wednesday. Meanwhile Wozniacki’s performance will depend a great deal on her physical recovery as she takes on last year’s runner-up, Alize Cornet, the 15th seed from France.
Earlier three seeds were beaten — Jelena Jankovic, the former world number one from Serbia, Andrea Petkovic, the top ten German, and Peng Shuai, the 16th seeded Chinese player. Another seed Lucie Safarova, the number eleven from the Czech republic, was three times within two points of a straight sets defeat during her 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 victory over Casey Dellacqua, the wild card from Australia.
Safarova’s reward is to face the titleholder, Venus Williams.