Former champion Petra Kvitova passed an opening round test at the Sydney International with flying colors on Tuesday as she cooled off a streaking Aryna Sabalenka in the opening round, 6-1, 7-5.
The Czech No.2 was supplanted at the top of her national rankings after Karolina Pliskova’s triumph at the Brisbane International and an earlier-than-expected exit herself and accepted a wildcard to the Premier-level event which she won in 2015.
“She came from Shenzhen and won the tournament, so I knew it would be a tough match,” Kvitova said on-court after the match.
“I’m happy with my performance in the first round. She’s a big server and a big hitter from the baseline, and I’m really happy I was able to win it.”
Kvitova rolled through the opening set behind 12 winners to just five unforced errors, before raising her level to overcome an improving Sabalenka to come from a break down and save a set point in the second set.
Sabalenka, the Shenzhen Open champion, arrived from chilly China and appeared slow to adjust to the warm and muggy conditions in the match, as she lost serve five times over 80 minutes and struck for just 11 winners.
Despite only landing 55 percent of her first serves, Kvitova won 85 percent of points played on her first delivery, and hit 28 winners to 27 unforced errors.
In the round of 16, Kvitova faces a contrasting opponent to Sabalenka regardless of who emerges victorious between Hsieh Su-wei and Danielle Collins.