No.10 seed Petra Kvitova survived a tenacious Monica Puig and an ill-timed Spice Girls interruption to extend her winning streak to seven, edging out the wildcard 6-3, 7-6(8) in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open – her first win over Puig in three tries.
The Czech, whose sole loss on European soil this year was to Angelique Kerber in the first round of Stüttgart two weeks ago, showed no ill effects from having begun her Madrid campaign on Sunday, the day after lifting the trophy at home in Prague.
For both players, the quality of their service proved crucial. The Puerto Rican opened her account with two comfortable holds and, in the fifth game, held from double break point down with four consecutive unreturned serves – but the 24-year-old’s second serve was a vulnerability that Kvitova kept pouncing on.
While the former World No.2 maintained an excellent first serve percentage of 70% in the first set, Puig’s fell to only 58% – and, combined with a second serve winning percentage of only 47%, this spelled doom for the 2016 Olympic gold medallist as she was broken twice in a row to fall behind by a set.
A much tighter second set found Puig raising her level as Kvitova’s game became patchier – but the World No.65 wasn’t always able to take her opportunities. Having failed to create a break point chance throughout the first set, a series of aggressive and accurate returns garnered her eight over the course of the second.
However, Puig was unable to convert any, due to a combination of Kvitova’s clutch play (such as a forehand winner at full stretch in the first game) and her own inconsistency on return (mishitting a second serve return into the ground in the 12th game).
The two-time Wimbledon champion’s service wobbled all the way to the end of the match as her double fault count rose to nine, and would also start to beckon her opponent back into the match with misses such as the sitter she would smash into the tramlines into the second set.
When Puig’s forehand began clicking towards the end of the set, a decider seemed on the cards – but Kvitova managed to stave off two break points at 5-5, and the stage was set for a dramatic tiebreak.
Despite a scattershot mixture of double faults, aces and errors in its opening stages, Kvitova seemed to have settled first when, at 5-5, she played her most patient point of the match: a masterpiece of controlled aggression that ended with a wrongfooting winner. However, consecutive double faults – and, in between, a surprise interruption from the Spice Girls as the stadium DJ miscued the opening bars of “Wannabe” at top volume – meant that the match was far from over.
Leading 7-6, Puig shaped up to punish a short ball – but instead pushed it marginally long. It would be her final chance in a match marked by missed opportunities. At 8-8, a ninth ace gave Kvitova her third match point, and this time she made no mistake with her forehand power to set up a third-round match with either Anett Kontaveit or Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Courtesy of WTATennis.com // photo: Getty Images Europe