Three Czechs, Petra Kvitova, Barbora Krejcikova and Karolina Pliskova, advanced to the Round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Sunday, while Jessica Pegula and Maria Sakkari prevailed in 3 sets, and Aryna Sabalenka received a walkover.
My tennis was not good enough, I was just fighting and trying to make the balls in the court, I was missing so many balls – it doesn’t really help my game. It’s very concerning I have to say, but I gave myself another chance, and I survived another day. We live to fight another day, I’ll try and make things better the next match. Maria Sakkari
Seeded 15, 16 and 17, the Czechs got past some stiff opposition, Kvitova in surprising fashion as she outpaced Jelena Ostapenko, the No 24 seed from Latvia, 0-6 6-0 6-4, while Krejcikova battled past China’s Wang Xinyu, 6-2 6-7(1) 6-2, and Pliskova saw off Russia’s 11th-seeded Veronika Kudermetova, 6-1 7-5.
Kvitova’s match made history, with both players losing a bagel set to love for the first time at a WTA 1000 event.
Ostapenko raced through the first set in stunning fashion, but Kvitova lifted her game in the second to match the Latvian’s efforts and evened the playing field.
There was more drama to come, as Kvitova won 10 games in a row, extending her lead to 4-0 in the third.
Although Ostapenko appeared unwell throughout the match, coughing into her towel, she wrestled back the momentum and rattled off 4 games to level proceedings, prompting Kvitova to call for a controversial medical time-out with an apparent blister on her finger.
In another momentum swing, Kvitova returned from the break to take the match and the two spent some time at the net having words as they shook hands.
Kvitova now will meet Pegula, the in-form American 3rd seed, who also faced some controversy as her opponent, Russian Anastasia Potapova, chose to wear a Spartak Moscow jersey onto court, sparking a backlash among fans.
While some may see this as a harmless nod to her favourite sports team, others were outraged by the move, seeing it as condoning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when Russian players are only allowed to compete on a neutral basis on the WTA Tour
Speculation as to her motives only serves to heat up the tension between Russians and Ukrainians on tour, and has, once again, highlighted the difficulties faced when politics and sports collide, as well opening up the debate surrounding a possible ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes at Wimbledon later this year.
The fact that Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko then withdrew just minutes before her match against Belarusian Sabalenka for ‘personal reasons’ may have been coincidental, but suggests the strain of what is happening in her homeland continues to take its mental toll.
33-year old Tsurenko has now lost by retirement or walkover in 9 of her 18 tournaments, dating back to Indian Wells last year.
As a result, Sabalenka, whose first Grand Slam title came in Melbourne and was part of a perfect 13-0 start to the year that ended in the quarter-finals at Dubai, advances to face Krejcikova, a former French Open winner, who beat the top 3 players in the world on her way to the title in Dubai last month, climbing 14 places in the WTA rankings to No 16.
Pegula said her ability to compartmentalise keeps her focused on each match, and it helped her take it point-by-point in the come-back win she needed on Sunday to rally for a 3-6 6-4 7-5 victory over Potapova, the 27th seed who lifted the WTA trophy in Linz last month.
“That was definitely a battle today,” Pegula said. “I just felt like I started off a little slow. She had some confidence, obviously going for a lot of her shots. She just won a tournament as well.
“So I’m just glad I was able to work my way back into the match and ended up playing much better than how I started.”
It marked the second straight match that Pegula had to come from a set down to win, and it took her 2 hours and 17 minutes to accomplish.
In addition to coming from a set down against Potapova, Pegula had to save a break point at 4-4 in the second set, and won 7 of the last 7 points to extend the match, while she was also 1-3 down in the decider.
A Grand Slam champion awaits Pegula next, as she will play Kvitova for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Krejcikova, meanwhile, also had to work hard to reach the Last 16, fending off a strong challenge from Wang Xinyu, who powered through the second set tiebreak before the Czech surged through the decider.
Although her 6 aces were outweighed by 10 double-faults, Krejcikova won 86% of her first serve points and bagged 103 of the 185 points played.
Elsewhere, 7th-seeded Sakkari from Greece had her hands full with Anhelina Kalinina, the 27th seed, and had to battle from the brink against the Ukrainian No 1.
Kalinina was simply a bit sharper than Sakkari who was too erratic at times, bounding out to a 4-1 lead in the first set, but the Greek played better in the second, and went on a 5-0 run before the Ukrainian snagged a couple of games.
They traded breaks early in the decider, and Sakkari looked more certain in the way she was playing, which eventually made the difference as Kalinina offered her a couple of chances, and she finally converted the 3rd match point to win the match.
Her fighting spirit had carried her through in the end, as last year’s finalist nudged her way past, 3-6 6-2 6-4, on Stadium 2, to set up a Round of 16 meeting with Pliskova.
Sakkari has now won 7 of her last 8 matches at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
“My tennis was not good enough, I was just fighting and trying to make the balls in the court, I was missing so many balls – it doesn’t really help my game,” Sakkari told the crowd, adding: “It’s very concerning I have to say, but I gave myself another chance, and I survived another day.
“We live to fight another day, I’ll try and make things better the next match.”
Sakkari hit 30 winners against 42 unforced errors, while Kalinina, who double-faulted to give the Greek match point 3 times in the final game of the match, struck 18 winners, 35 miscues, and tossed in a total of 8 double-faults.
Coco Gauff is starting to enter the phase of her career when her opponents are actually younger than her.
On the eve of her 19th birthday the American 16th-seed eased past 18-year old Linda Noskova of the Czech Republic, 6-4 6-3, to book a Round of 16 clash with Swedish qualifier, Rebecca Peterson.
“I felt a little pressure coming in in today’s match, to be honest with you, because of the age thing, which I’ve never thought about that in the past,” Gauff confessed in her post-match press conference.
Mostly, the American was unfazed in the match, firing back-to-back aces when she faced her first break point of the match.
She finished off the first set with back-to-back overheads, and, for the match, she had 7 aces and won 30 of her 34 first-serve points.
This was a match between 2 of the 4 teenagers ranked among the Hologic WTA Tour’s Top 100 – No 6 Gauff, No 53 Linda Fruhvirtova, aged 17, No 54 Noskova and 18-year old Diana Shnaider at No 94.
With her victory, Gauff stretches her streak of wins against players ranked outside the Top 50 to 28, and reaches the Last 16 in the California desert for the first time.
Gauff shared a laugh with reporters in press when asked to recall her previous meeting with Peterson, who defeated Jil Teichmann in 3 sets earlier on Sunday.
They last met more than 4 years ago, when Gauff was still a wide-eyed 14-year-old, and the American vividly recalled the location of the match in Midland, Michigan, and the scoreline, 6-2 6-1, of the loss.
“She gave me a real old-school whooping,” Gauff said with a laugh. “Hopefully it’s a little bit different this time around… I have definitely grown a lot and learned a lot from then.”
Peterson, ranked 102, upset the in-form Swiss, Teichmann, 3-6 6-3 6-1, to advance to the Last 16 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Sunday evening.
It was an impressive turn-around against the World No 39, because, after losing the first set, the 27-year-old went on to win the next two rather easily.
Peterson, who has fallen below the 100 mark in the world rankings, was once ranked as high as 43, in 2019.