Day 2 in Paris dawned drizzly and cold but thanks to the new retractable roof on Court Philippe Chatrier, Petra Kvitova took advantage of the indoor conditions to see off home favourite Oceane Dodin with a 6-3 7-5 win, while outside Kiki Bertens came from a set down to defeat Katarina Zavatska.
I found she was playing very aggressive, very flat shots, similar to me, so I was trying to wait for the change to break her serve. In the second set, she came back and she really played much stronger, and it was really tough in the end. Petra Kvitova
The Czech No 7 seed, who had to miss the clay court Grand Slam last year due to injury, closed out the contest with her 29th winner of the match on the 76-minute mark to book a second round against Italy’s Jasmine Paolini.
It’s not often Kvitova plays the mirror image of herself, but that’s exactly what happened when the two-time Wimbledon champion faced the 118th-ranked Dodin.
Armed with a big serve and huge groundstrokes not dissimilar to the left-handed Czech, the right-handed Frenchwoman pushed the No 11 seed for 77 minutes in a highly-entertaining match full of great rallies, which Kvitova eventually won.
“We never played each other before, not even in practice, so it was really tough from the beginning, but I found actually she plays very aggressive, her shots are similar as mine, so I was just trying to wait for the chance to break her serve,” said the 30-year-old Kvitova, who won 86 per cent of her first-serve points and hit just 14 unforced errors.
”In the second she came back and really played much stronger and it was really tough in the end.”
Kvitova reached the semi-finals in Paris in 2012 and hasn’t made it past the fourth round at the event since.
Both started in dominating form, offering no opportunities to the other until Kvitova found some winners and Dodin shanked a couple of shots.
A single break of serve in the 7th game of the opening set was enough to help Kvitova take the lead after a near-flawless first set, during which she struck 12 winners and made just 4 unforced errors.
It looked as if the Czech would run away with the match as she clinched an early break in the second, but the 23-year-old, who is coached by her father, clawed back the break and stayed level until 5-5, when she got broken on a wild forehand.
Kvitova dropped only one more point before booking a spot in the second round, where she will play Italy’s Jasmine Paolini, after the Italian beat Spain’s Aliona Bolsova, 6-4 6-3 .
“I found she was playing very aggressive, very flat shots, similar to me, so I was trying to wait for the change to break her serve,” said the Czech. “In the second set, she came back and she really played much stronger, and it was really tough in the end.”
Kvitova hit 29 winners against 14 unforced errors, compared to Dodin’s 13 winners and 22 unforced errors.
Kvitova said she had lowered the string tension in her racket to deal with the extra moisture in the air, and is grateful to be playing tennis again after lockdown.
“I was still practicing, but it was really, really tough to get motivated by myself, without anything,” said the 30-year-old. “I’m a person who loves to play matches and have the motivation to get better, that the tournaments are there and playing better in a match.
“So in that time, when I didn’t really know what will happen, I was so unmotivated to just play tennis. I just had to play because of my body, of my health that I don’t forget everything… But really, I wasn’t really enjoying the tennis in that time.”
Kvitova, who reached the fourth round of the US Open, has some unfinished business in Paris when, last year, she was forced to pull out shortly before her first round with a forearm injury.
“This time I can get only better,” said the two-time Wimbledon champion, who reached the semi-final in Paris in 2012.
No 5 seed Kiki Bertens overcame an inspired effort from Ukrainian Katarina Zavatska to come through 2-6 6-2 6-0 in 2 hours and 5 minutes when play eventually started late morning on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
In a match that was delayed start by the rain, Bertens dropped serve 5 times and hit 34 unforced errors in the tricky conditions, but managed to draw on her experience to rally back against her 20-year-old opponent.
The Ukrainian crumbled in the 3rd set after being forced to use an unfamiliar racket after suffering numerous equipment malfunctions.
The 20-year-old had set herself up for what would have been a momentous upset at Roland Garros, appearing to be in inspired form and winning the first set against Bertens with the loss of just 2 games.
Bertens, who has been suffering from Achilles trouble in recent matches, rallied in the second but ahead of the deciding third set, Zavatska was forced to use an unfamiliar racket after she broke numerous strings and eventually ran out of bats entirely.
Zavatska’s coach came to the rescue, supplying her with one of his own, a Babolat, which was entirely different to her usual Yonex, helping Bertens to a whitewash bagel in the decider.
“It was really tough,” Bertens conceded afterwards. “She started really well and I was rushing a bit.
“It’s really tough to play aggressive here and to hit winners. In the second and third set I was much more patient.”
Bertens retired from her match in Strasbourg and confirmed that the Achilles injury was still bothering her.
“It was tough to move,” she added. “My legs weren’t moving at all in the first set.”
Zavatska, meanwhile, showed no sign of being overawed by the occasion as she raced out of the blocks early despite just making her Grand Slam debut in the US Open last month.
She was aggressive at the net where she showed off an excellent touch on the way to her first set win, with Bertens being uncharacteristically error-prone in the opening exchanges.
The Dutchwoman soon found her rhythm and by the time that Zavatska experienced her racket mishaps, it was clear that the momentum had already swung.
Berten’s next test will be no easier against 2012 Roland-Garros finalist Sara Errani, who made it through qualifying before dismissing Olympic champion, 6-2 6-1, on Monday.
Pironkova passes Petkovic
Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova scored a 6-3 6-3 win over Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, who had not played a match in a year, and was initially planning on retiring by the end of 2020, but knee surgery and a pandemic intervened.
Despite losing her opening match, the 33-year-old German is having more fun on the tennis court than she has had in her whole career.
Petkovic has had a rough run with injuries throughout her 14-year professional career, and even earlier when she was a junior, with issues with her right knee before her left knee started acting up a few years ago.
Her latest surgery came in February and she had initially planned to return to the tour in Miami in March, but the coronavirus delayed her comeback and she suddenly found herself restarting again after nearly 12 months out.
“Every injury is super hard, but I think I have developed a kind of stoicism towards it in the course of my life, just because I had to; at one point you just learn to accept things that you cannot change,” Petkovic said.
“I’m happy with what I’ve done, and now it’s all about the extra, all about the bonus and being out there, playing with the top girls. How lucky am I?
“So this is just a place that I wish I had in my early 20s and I feel like that’s the damnation or the curse of humanity that the perspective you gain with age, your body kind of gives out, right?” she added with a laugh.
Petkovic hosted a sports show on German television and has written a book which comes out in October, plus she is a foodie and a music love.
Pironkova has made a tremendous comeback earlier this month with a run to the US Open quarter-finals in her first event in more than three years.
Other Monday Results
Kvitova’s compatriot Katerina Siniakova also reached the second round without much of a fuss, defeating American Lauren Davis, 7-6(5) 6-2, in an hour and 43 minutes.
The 61st ranked Siniakova will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova next after the Russian took down countrywoman and 28th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-1 2-6 6-1.
Playing through tricky conditions as autumn’s chill descended in Paris, Pavlyuchenkova found herself locked in a three-set clash against Kuznetsova, who was seeking to win her first match at Roland Garros since 2017.
Pavlyuchenkova stayed solid against her countrywoman and Fed Cup teammate, however, firing 21 winners and breaking her opponent’s serve 7 times to make it through in 3 sets after an hour and 35 minutes.
In the all-American opener between Cici Bellis and Bernarda Pera, the latter took the win in straight sets, 7-6(3) 6-1, in an hour and 26 minutes.
Pera awaits the 25th-seeded Amanda Anisimova, who defeated Tamara Korpatsch in their round-of-128 match-up, 6-2 6-0.
Polish teenager Iga Swiatek made it through a rainy Monday afternoon in emphatic fashion, knocking out 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, 6-1 6-2 to reach the second round.
Facing off for the first time, both Swiatek and Vondrousova were fresh off fantastic French Open results in 2019.
As an 18-year-old, Swiatek, a former junior standout, stunned reigning Olympic champion Monica Puig to reach her first career Grand Slam second week, where she ultimately bowed out against defending champion Simona Halep.
Vondrousova went even farther, shocking Johanna Konta to reach her first Grand Slam final, finishing runner-up to future World No 1 Ashleigh Barty.
Though a left wrist injury prematurely curtailed her 2019 season, Vondrousova showed vast improvement as the tour turned back to clay, rolling into the Internazionli BNL d’Italia semi-finals with a win over two-time champion Elina Svitolina.
In all, the youngster took more risks and reaped the rewards, making 23 winners to 19 unforced errors, and though Vondrousova struck fewer errors, she hit just 7 winners and converted only 1 of 3 break point chances.
Standing between Swiatek and a second straight trip to the third round is WTA Doubles World No.1 Hsieh Su-Wei, who outlasted Austrian qualifier Barbara Haas in a second set tiebreak.