Petra Kvitova pulled off another three-set victory, though her first in Melbourne this year. This time, she prevailed over 22nd seed Maria Sakkari in a tight fourth-round encounter at the Australian Open as the Czech became the first player to book her spot in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
Dropping the first set in a tiebreak, Kvitova quickly rebounded to claim the next two sets 6-3, 6-2 in emphatic fashion as she blasted 33 winners to 46 unforced errors in the 133-minute clash. Sakkari started well, hitting 18 winners to 30 unforced errors, but gradually faded as she failed to match Kvitova in terms of power and presence at the baseline.
Kvitova will either face world number one Ashleigh Barty, whom she has lost to in three previous meetings but beat her at last year’s Australian Open quarterfinal, or Alison Riske, whom she has a losing record against. Either way, it can be considered a good run for the Czech who dealt well with the conditions this year despite some struggles.
Sakkari closes out the tight opening set
Kvitova suffered from a slow start as four consecutive unforced errors saw her being broken in the opening game, handing the advantage to Sakkari without doing much. Sakkari survived a series of return winners from the Czech as she battled to consolidate her break for an early 2-0 lead before opening another 0-30 lead on the return in the third game. However, this time Kvitova was able to utilize her lethal first serves to get onto the scoreboard.
Both players were unable to find any opportunities on the return as Kvitova was still struggling to gain rhythm while Sakkari could not handle the destructive Czech serve. Within a blink of an eye, Sakkari found herself leading 5-3 and placed herself just within one game from taking the opening set.
However, Kvitova found her best return game in the match, coming out of nowhere to level the scores at 5-5. Although Sakkari produced some of her best tennis to regain the lead, the Czech broke to stay in the set for the second consecutive time to bring the match into a tiebreak. Despite a bright start, a couple of unforced errors shifted the momentum as Sakkari took full advantage to take the first set tiebreak 7-4, edging closer to a maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance.
Kvitova fights back in style
Kvitova opened the second set in the best possible way, breaking serve to take the lead for the first time in the match. However, Sakkari did not lose focus and instead raised her level, clinching two games in a row before holding two break points in the fourth game. Nonetheless, Kvitova ensured that she remained in contention by surviving the huge scare with big forehands despite looking empty in the tank.
Two double-faults in one game dampened Sakkari’s confidence as she was broken once again, but she quickly rebounded by prevailing in a 10-minute return game to level the scores. From there, it was surprisingly the patchy Kvitova who went on full throttle mode, clinching 12 of the last 17 points to take the second set 6-3.
Kvitova grabs the three-set win
Riding the momentum, Kvitova strolled towards a commanding 3-0 lead at the start of the deciding set after playing some world-class tennis and taking control of the baseline rallies, overpowering her opponent. Although Sakkari finally got onto the scoreboard with a routine service holds after putting more power on her first serves, she was unable to mount a comeback.
Kvitova maintained her high level throughout the set and broke serve for the eighth time to seal the impressive comeback win after two-hours and 12-minutes of play.