The opening match on Court 1 on the second week of this year’s Miami Open saw familiar foes clash for the tenth time in their careers as two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova took on fifth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, their encounter on American soil.
Svitolina was looking to record back-to-back against the Czech for the first time and was made to work hard for the win as both women toiled under the Miami heat for nearly two-and-a-half hours before the Ukrainian made it past the finish line
Kvitova clinches two breaks from Svitolina to steal opening set
Ninth seed Kvitova launched her aggressive game from the get-go as the Czech reeled in four of the first five games to sail ahead 4-1 by a break, doing so with her trademark serve and volley.
That lead came with some resistance, however, as Svitolina did have two break point chances in the third game but could not convert, only to be broken herself in the following game.
Three service holds came and Svitolina now found herself serving to stay in the set but her Czech opponent was not sticking around, converting her third set point with a deep forehand cross-court return that forced an error from the former.
Svitolina sends the match to a decider as Kvitova buckles
None of the games in the second set went to deuce as the pair took care of their respective service games, and kept this trend running all the way to the tenth game.
Kvitova is now on serve trying to get ahead 6-5 and force Svitolina to serve to stay in the match once again but things began to turn around as the former netted two forehands to hand her opponent two break points.
A Svitolina return that sailed wide denied the Ukrainian the first of those opportunities but the second one did the trick for her thus seeing her take the lead for the first time in the set.
Svitolina wasted no time closing out the set as Kvitova’s errors continued to rise, this time a missed forehand that landed wide on set point meaning that for the second time in their head-to-head, they will go the distance.
Topsy-turvy deciding set goes the way of the Ukrainian
The decider could have gone either way and it began with the fifth seed getting her nose in front first, breaking her Czech opponent twice to go up 3-0.
Then, it was Kvitova’s turn to reciprocate with a three-game winning streak of her own, before holding serve to love to extend the streak to four games.
Svitolina replied with a love service hold of her own before breaking the Czech once again with a backhand return winner to get her first shot to serve out the win.
Kvitova was noticeably struggling physically as the match went on but continued to resist the Ukrainian’s cause as she denied the latter’s 30-0 lead in that game, winning four points in a row and now, they are tied at five games apiece.
The next game would prove to be the last straw, as Svitolina denied both of Kvitova’s game points whilst conjuring four break points, taking the last of those after another forehand error came off the Czech’s racket.
Svitolina faced no trouble closing out the match this time around, taking her second match point up 40-15 by delivering her fourth ace thus putting an end to a tussle that lasted eight minutes shy of the two-and-a-half-hour mark.
The win is the Ukrainian's first over a top-10 opposition since finishing runner-up at the WTA Finals in 2019, in what was also her first against a top-10 player since that season-ending championship too.
Kvitova’s racket was the aggressor in the match despite coming up short in the end as she produced 42 winners to 27 unforced errors against Svitolina who had 20 and 12, respectively.
The Czech also walked away with three more points won (103 to 100), the better break point conversion rate (71% against 38%), and did have a better day on serve too, recording 66% of first serves against her opponent’s 45%.
Svitolina, however, played better in points on her first delivery, with a success rate of 72% against her opponent’s 65%.
The pair also spread a grand total of eight aces equally, but Kvitova and her nine double faults, five more than her opponent proved costly in the end.
"It's always a big battle to play against her (Kvitova) because she strikes the ball very clean and you have to adjust extremely quick," Svitolina said as she reflected on her win.
She added, "(It is) always a big challenge to play against her but also gives me lots of positives from winning those kind of matches. She's a top player. She has great results each year. She always brings the best out of you. That's why I really enjoy those kind of battles."
With another three-set win this fortnight under her belt, the Ukrainian will take on one of Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova in her second quarterfinal here, also her sixth overall at a WTA 1000 event.