It took a while for top seed Iga Swiatek to find her way past Yulia Putintseva at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open on Wednesday, while Petra Kvitova needed 3 sets to reach the quarter-finals.
I'm really happy I won because normally it's really hard for me to play with such players. I like to risk and with risking comes unforced errors, so it's tough to get the balance between when to push and when to stay and wait for the opponent to miss. Iga Swiatek
Two matches were also played to complete the 1st round, with Jelena Ostapenko and Alison Riske advancing over Anna Blinkova and Fiona Ferro respectively to reach round 2.
Swiatek, who is playing her first tournament as the No 1 seed, needed an hour and 47 minutes to figure out the vagaries of spin presented by Putintseva on the slow indoor hard-court before posting a 6-4 6-4 win over the Kazakh.
Although the 2020 French Open champion from Poland managed the win in straight sets, she was perplexed by the almost impenetrable defence offered by Putintseva for most of the match.
“It was very tough,” Swiatek admitted in her on court interview afterwards. “She was running to every ball – it was really hard to finish her, especially with such a slow surface.
“She could reach everything and she was fighting to the end – even on match point, I had to finish her, like, three times.
“I’m really happy I won because normally it’s really hard for me to play with such players.
“I like to risk and with risking comes unforced errors, so it’s tough to get the balance between when to push and when to stay and wait for the opponent to miss.”
Putintseva had battled for 3 hours 24 minutes to get past Zhang Shuai in the first round just 24 hours earlier, and was uncharacteristically errant as she swiftly fell behind 0-3, but once the 26-year-old found her groove and levelled at 3-3, almost every game was tightly contested.
In the end Swiatek handled the tricky situation well, coming good at the end of both sets, which she sealed with single breaks of serve.
Some dazzling all-court aggression helped her win the last 8 points of the first set, scoring winners at the net and, on set point, off the return.
In the second, the Pole showed her grit when, leading 3-2, she missed triple break point to break the Kazakh and then, at 4-4, had to fend off 2 against her, coming up with her 4th ace and a brace of brilliant backhand winners to survive.
In the final game Putintseva faltered, offering up a pair of loose errors, and Swiatek needed no further encouragement, whipping 2 stunning backhands in a row to edge herself over the line with obvious relief.
In the quarter-finals, Swiatek awaits either fellow-Pole Magda Linette or 7th seed Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan.
Kvitova followed Swiatek onto court and was stretched all the way by Russian qualifier Anastasia Potapova before winning 6-1 6-7(4) 6-3 in 2 hours 5 minutes.
The Czech led Potapova 6-1, 4-2 and had been dictating proceedings until the Russian broke her at 4-3 with a return winner, a stunning passing shot and a winning forehand.
The World No 92 hustled and scampered her way to the tiebreak and carried her energy through that and on to take a 2-1 lead with a break in the 3rd set.
Kvitova blitzed a trio of breathtaking returns to break back immediately and, serving at 3-4, the Potapova of the first set returned with a slew of groundstroke errors that enabled the Czech 2nd seed to serve out the win.
Potapova’s numbers in the first set were unfortunate, with the Russian tallying 14 unforced errors, including 3 double-faults to only 3 winners, but over sets 2 and 3, she found 18 winners to 15 unforced errors.
On the other side, Kvitova kept a tight ship in the first set, with 10 winners to 9 unforced errors, but in the next 2 sets she coughed up 31 unforced errors, particularly off her forehand in the closing stages of the middle one.
Earlier, last week’s two finalists maintained their strong form in Ostrava, with Ostapenko, runner-up in Luxembourg to Clara Tauson, bounced back to dominate lucky loser Blinkova from Russia, 6-4 6-0, in just 66 minutes, while Riske needed 3 sets and 2 hours 15 minutes to oust French qualifier Ferro.
Latvia’s Ostapenko lost her serve twice in the match but went on to break her opponent 6 times and showed supreme proficiency in using the drop-shot to exploit her opponent’s movement, as well as her signature power.
Ostapenko will now play 4th seed Maria Sakkari from Greece in round 2.
Riske had won just 4 matches throughout 2021 before last week, but doubled that to reach the Portoroz final before falling to Italy’s Jasmine Paolini.
The American came from 1-3 down in the 3rd set to triumph 6-4 1-6 6-4 over Ferro and she now faces Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann for the chance to take on Kvitova for a place in the quarters.
9th seed Paula Badosa’s Ostrava Open campaign ended with a round-of-16 loss at the hands of Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday.
The Estonian defeated the Spaniard, 6-3 6-4, in an hour and 17 minutes and she will now play either Sara Sorribes Tormo, also from Spain, or 3rd seed Belinda Bencic from Switzerland for a spot in the semi-finals.