WTA Eastbourne: Andrea Petkovic battles past Saisai Zheng

With a few withdrawals happening in the tournament, Saisai Zheng got into the main draw as a lucky loser and went up against Andrea Petkovic. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the German who despite looking comfortable in the first set let slip her lead to allow Zheng to take the first set. The German looked unhappy with herself but bounced back strongly to force a decider. It was quite a battle in the third set and Petkovic eventually triumphed 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 to progress to the second round at the Aegon International.

Petkovic lets lead slip as Zheng bounces back strongly

Despite the blustery conditions, both players were holding serve with relative ease in the early stages of the first set. Petkovic upped her level in the fourth game and earned a couple of break point. The German coolly put it away with a backhand winner to break for a 3-1 lead. She was in immediate danger of giving the break right back after a miss at the net. Petkovic gave it back in the worst possible manner with a double fault as Zheng climbed back to 2-3.

The German was back in it though handling Zheng’s slices well to get another couple more opportunities to break. The Chinese fought them off bravely and hung on to get back on terms for 3-3. As Petkovic held for 4-3, Zheng faced yet another break point after overcooking her shot. And the German capitalized with a delightful sliced drop shot to edge 5-3 ahead.

Petkovic takes an important lead in the first set | Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images
Petkovic takes an important lead in the first set | Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

Serving for the set, Petkovic was in a spot of a bother though netting her shot to hand Zheng break back point. The Chinese benefitted after the German sent her shot long to find the break back for 4-5. Zheng looked on course to level for 5-5 at 40-0 but then it soon changed to deuce with the German coming up tops in their long rallies. Petkovic almost had set point but sent her smash straight into the net. The Chinese eventually held in a must-win game after being pushed to five deuces.

Petkovic was under pressure again and Zheng pounced on the errors winning her third game in a row to break to take the lead for the first time in the set. There was no twist left as the lucky loser went on to seal the set 7-5 after close to an hour of tennis.

Zheng reels off four games in a row to grab the first set | Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images
Zheng reels off four games in a row to grab the first set | Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

Petkovic improves her serves and finds a way back

At the sit-down, Petkovic seemed troubled and disturbed at not having closed out the set when she could have. However, she got off to just the start she wanted, finding an early break to race to a 3-0 lead. Zheng got herself on the scoreboard and found it in her to push the German with some aggressive shot making and was rewarded with break back point in the fifth game. Petkovic snuffed out the chance and maintained her advantage for 4-1.

Petkovic off to a strong start in the second set | Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images
Petkovic off to a strong start in the second set | Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

It was unraveling for the Chinese though who was in danger of going down a double break. And on her second attempt, the German unleashed a winner to surge 5-1 ahead. It seemed like the serving woes were still around as a double fault gave Zheng to get back at least one of the breaks which she does for 2-5.

It was looking a lot like the first set where Petkovic was serving for the set and failing to do so. However, this time, she had another chance with the Chinese making errors to gift Petkovic triple set point. Zheng not doing herself any favors as another error into the net allowed the German to take the second set 6-2 to force to a decider.

Petkovic comes through in a topsy-turvy set

The third set looked set to be a battle as both exchanged breaks to start the set. Petkovic then held her serve for 2-1 and Zheng had to fight off the break point to draw level for 2-2. It was then the Chinese who was finding some incredible shots to get break point of her own in the fifth game. The German came through after another grueling rally but was under fire once again. This time, Zheng capitalized to lead 3-2 much to the frustrations of Petkovic.

Petkovic though fuelled her frustration into her game and got for herself break point. Zheng saved one but caved in with a double fault allowing the German to get right back into the match for 3-3. The successive breaks came to end with both women holding serve and soon it was Zheng who was serving to stay in the match at 4-5. 

Petkovic goes ahead to put pressure on her opponent | Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images
Petkovic goes ahead to put pressure on her opponent | Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

Down 0-30, the lucky loser went on to win three straight points to diffuse the pressure on herself. The German though was making Zheng run all over the court and earned match point for her efforts. Petkovic profited off a wild shot from Zheng to emerge victorious after more than two and a half hours of play.  

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