Former world number four Sofia Kenin had a mediocre Australian summer to begin her 2021 as the American could not quite match her Grand Slam success down under 12 months ago.
To top things off, the 22-year-old was diagnosed with an episode of acute appendicitis and had to undergo an appendectomy.
Petkovic prevails in tight opening set tiebreak
Former top 10 star Petkovic, like Kenin, was also playing her first match since the Australian summer and the German stepped on the pedal first, breaking her opponent in the third game.
The veteran’s lead was shortlived, however, as the younger Kenin broke back three games later and henceforth, the duo took care of their respective service games, sending the set to a tiebreak.
It was a tight affair in the tiebreak with each of them dropping their serve twice before Petkovic conjured her first set point, which Kenin saved with a backhand dropshot winner of her own.
Things went south for the American from there as two consecutive loose forehands which hit the net came from the racket, enough for her veteran opponent to close out the set after nearly 55 minutes of play.
Kenin steadies the ship with a breadstick set
The second set was all about Kenin from the get go, the American pouncing on the Petkovic serve in the first game by converting the first of three break points before going on to hold her own serve.
The following Petkovic service game resulted in a similar outcome, a backhand error this time handing the American her second break of the set, which she duly consolidated soon after.
Petkovic did manage to get on the scoreboard for the set after that but Kenin kept her pace as she reeled in the next two games, converting her second point courtesy of a double fault on her opponent’s part, to send the match to a decider.
Kenin grabs decisive break to victory
The first three games of the decider went in favour of the server before Kenin made her first move in the fourth, pulling off a deep return to force an error from Petkovic to convert her first break opportunity for a 3-1 lead.
A couple of errors in the next game, however, did not help the American’s cause, allowing her German opponent to break right back.
Serving at 3-3, it was a crucial game as Kenin was forced to save a break point before coming out on top with a gutsy hold courtesy of an ace.
The American did not have much issues closing out the match, recording the final decisive break of serve to get the chance to serve it out, and doing so successfully on her second match point, with a classic one-two punch.
The victory, which took the American just over two hours to achieve, is the 100th at the tour level of her career.
Petkovic dominated aces board, firing seven off her racket to Kenin’s two, with the pair spreading the count of double faults three apiece.
However, Kenin’s key to victory is seen in her serve statistics as she produced 69% of first serves, and 68% of points behind them in contrast to Petkovic 59% in each department.
Kenin also played the big points well, saving two of four break points on her serve, but converting a staggering six out of seven (86%).
Kenin next faces 27th seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who also played three-setter albeit a much more gruelling one, in the third round.
The Tunisian survived a 156-minute tussle and a vomiting spell, against Spaniard Paula Badosa, a match that saw 28 break opportunities come up.