10th seed Gael Monfils was one of the seeded casualties at the Tokyo Olympics on second day of action Sunday, at the Ariake Tennis Park, the Frenchman falling in three sets on Court 3, to Belarussian Ilya Ivashka.
The ensuing match scheduled on the same court then saw the women’s 10th seed Petra Kvitova take the court, the Czech looking to avoid a similar fate as Monfils.
Riding a losing streak of three matches dating back to the Bad Homburg semifinals a month ago, leftie Kvitova saw off Italy's Jasmine Paolini in straight sets to open the account of her fourth Olympic showing.
Kvitova grabs decisive break to close opening set
The only past medal winner in the women’s singles draw of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, 31-year-old Kvitova started off the match with a strong service showing, holding serve to love in her opening two service games.
Paolini, however, was determined to not let the Czech have things her way as she stayed toe-to-toe with her more experienced opponent, even coming out on top in the sixth game, the only one to stretch to deuce in the first set.
The first break point opportunities of the match would come in the tenth game, with the Italian now serving to stay in the set at 4-5, where Kvitova raced off to three set points, and the second one did her bidding as she sealed set after 35 minutes.
Kvitova overcomes mid-match glitch and steers to victory
The second set was a more straightforward affair in favour of the 2016 bronze medallist Kvitova, who broke Paolini in the second game to race off to a 2-0 lead in no time.
A messy game from the Czech’s racket on serve next, however, which saw her produce two double faults, proved costly as Paolini broke back right away, to love.
Kvitova was quick to put that glitch behind as she came back to steal the break lead in the next game, doing so on her second break point opportunity, before consolidating the lead to come within two games of the win.
By now, it was too late for the 25-year-old Paolini as Kvitova went on to drop just two more points on serve, eventually serving out the win 6-4, 6-3, with the match time clocked at 71 minutes.
The win marked the first time since the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix back in April where Kvitova completed her opening match with a straight-set win.
In their only past meeting, in the second round of Roland Garros fall of last year, a staggering statistic stood out where Kvitova needed 20 break point chances against Paolini, converting just six of them.
That turned around this time a the Czech was successful in three of five such chances, besides firing five aces, and 15 winners, in addition to a 79% success rate on first serve points, and a total haul of 61 points won.
On Paolini’s end, the Italian could not do much to harm Kvitova’s mission as she produced just seven winners, a much meagre first serve percentage of 53 in contrast her opponent’s 63, and managed just 44 points under belt.
Speaking to Czech press after her win, Kvitova noted the conditions of Tokyo summer are a challenge: “It’s a valuable victory. It’s the first round of Olympics, and it’s never easy, even in the current weather of Tokyo (summer heat and humidity) because I have asthma, so it is a challenge for me.”
“I do not mind the heat so much, but rather the humidity which is damp and stuffy, hence I am fighting it. It is a challenge that I have to overcome to win, and it worked today.”
“Anyway, I'm happy for the way I played, that in the first set I found a return rhythm in the last game, I broke her and won the set, and then the whole match," she added.
Kvitova next faces Belgian Alison van Uytvanck Monday in the second match scheduled on Court 5, the pair’s only prior encounter coming indoors at St. Petersburg February last year.
In that clash, Kvitova needed more than two hours to see off van Uytvanck in three sets, where they combined for a total 33 break point chances, thus will be looking for a more straightforward result this time especially in the current sweltering conditions in Tokyo.