Petra Kvitova came through the battle of Wimbledon champions at the Adelaide International 2, the second WTA 500 tournament being held at Memorial Drive, which got underway on Monday.
My serve really worked well today, so that's what I'm really happy [with]. We didn't really have a lot of rallies, so it was about the serve and the first one, two points of the rally. I'm glad that I was there for every shot. Petra Kvitova
The left-handed 12th seed from the Czech Republic out-served Elena Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion, winning 6-3 7-5 in a 1st-round contest that lasted and hour and 26 minutes.
Rybakina has now lost early in the two tournaments she has played leading into next week’s Australian Open.
Kvitova, who has won Wimbledon twice, exacted a measure of revenge after Rybakina won their first head-to-head meeting last year in Ostrava.
The outdoor hard courts of Adelaide were kinder to Kvitova than the indoor courts on home soil had been, and the World No 16 did not face a break point in this latest encounter, and she managed to break the Russian-born Kazakh at the tail end of each set to advance.
“I tried to play faster than Elena,” said Kvitova, who won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014. “She played really great, it was a good match, and I know that she’s serving really well.
“I was focusing on my serve, and I was trying to wait for some chances to break her.”
Little separated them in terms of match statistics, with Kvitova hitting 21 winners to 12 unforced errors, including 5 aces, while Rybakina racked up 20 winners, 10 miscues, and 7 aces.
When Rybakina missed her first serve, though, Kvitova pounced, and she won 55% of the points played on the Kazakh’s second serve, an advantage that Rybakina could not replicate when she had an opportunity on return.
“My serve really worked well today, so that’s what I’m really happy [with],” said Kvitova, who only lost 14 points in 11 service games overall. “We didn’t really have a lot of rallies, so it was about the serve and the first one, two points of the rally. I’m glad that I was there for every shot.”
Kvitova awaits the winner of the opening match between Chinese qualifier Zheng Qinwen and American Lucky Loser Shelby Rogers.
Meanwhile, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a finalist at the 2021 French Open which saw her soar to No 11 in the world, also fell in her opening match, losing a tight 7-5 6-4 to Swiss qualifier Jil Teichmann.
It was the 31-year old Russian’s first match in 8 months after ending her 2022 season after Rome in May due to a recurring knee injury, and is currently ranked No 365 due to her inactivity, so she entered the WTA 500 event on a protected ranking.
Despite Pavlyuchenkova’s long layoff, there was little to separate her from Teichmann, the World No 35, and just a single break of serve decided each set in each final game of the in 1 hour and 39 minute encounter.
After losing in round one of the Adelaide International last week, there was no repeat for American Danielle Collins and the 2022 Australian Open finalist will be Teichmann’s next opponent after she defeated Karolina Pliskova, the former World No 1 from the Czech Republic, 6-2 6-4.
All three of Collins and Pliskova’s head-to-head meetings have been played in Australia, and the American’s 76-minute victory broke a 1-1 tie.
Later, a flawless Belinda Bencic, the 8th seed from Switzerland, held off another Wimbledon champion, Garbiñe Muguruza from Spain, who has been having a torrid time of late but put up encouraging resistance.
Bencic, who delivered a sizzling serving performance to take out the former World No 1, 6-3 6-4, has come off a strong week at the United Cup, firing 10 aces and losing just 7 points behind her serve in the 79-minute match.
“I think I served really clean today, I think, that was my biggest weapon,” Bencic said. “I felt very comfortable in my own service games, and I was able to put pressure on the return.”
Playing her second match of the season, Muguruza put in a solid performance but could not find a way into Bencic’s serving games.
The Spaniard fired 8 aces of her own, and faced just 2 break points, but a break in each set was enough for the Swiss.
Bencic did not face a break point and, after pocketing the opening set, she lost just one point on her serve in the second, finishing the match with 21 winners to just 7 unforced errors.
The Swiss will face either Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia or Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya in the 2nd-round.
In other Monday results, Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia, ranked 15, also progressed, 7-6(5) 6-1, at the expense of Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, while Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova beat Australian wild-card Jaimee Fourlis, 7-5 6-3, to advance.
Alexandrova, ranked No 19, will play the winner of the match between Belarusian wild-card Victoria Azarenka and Russian Veronika Kudermetova, the No 6 seed, next.
World No 1 Iga Swiatek and 3rd-ranked Jessica Pegula were due to play Adelaide this week, but both pulled out after their exploits at the United Cup with Poland and the United States respectively.