Fans get to witness that longed-for factor in any tennis match-up – a contrast of styles – when Petra Kvitova (Player Profile) and Sara Errani (Player Profile) battle it out in the third round of the China Open on Wednesday. Kvitova vs Errani Head to Head stands at 5-0.
Kvitova saved her season at the Japan Open last week. After an underwhelming year studded with early-round losses at the major events, she fell out of the top ten, an ignominious development for a woman who ended 2011 within touching distance of the number one ranking. Yet she powered to the title in Tokyo, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova, Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber back-to-back. Producing the clean hitting and smart serving that brought her the Venus Rosewater Dish two years ago, the Czech resembled a top three player again.
Her admirers were wary of a letdown in Beijing, and sure enough things looked bleak at the end of her first set with Varvara Lepchenko. Landing just 53% of first serves in court and failing to make any impact on the return, Kvitova fell behind 6-2. However, just as she did against Kerber in Tokyo, she began the next set with a clear head and renewed focus. That crafty lefty serve started to pay dividends; she pressured Lepchenko form the back of the court. Kvitova won the second set 6-2 and blitzed through the decider 6-0 to win her 23rd three-setter of 2013.
Like Kvitova, Errani has had her struggles this season. In the first half of the year she proved that her 2012 form was no fluke, reaching the latter stages in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Rome and Paris. But her post-French Open win-loss record stands at 10-7, and she admitted at the US Open that she was uncomfortable with top five status.
Errani earned a confidence-boosting win over Kirsten Flipkens in her opening match in Beijing, and eased past Misaki Doi in the second round. These are her first consecutive victories in the last five tournaments. Can she carry her modicum of momentum into this last 16 clash with Kvitova?
The pair’s head-to-head is one of the more lopsided among top players. They have faced off five times since the beginning of 2012, and Kvitova has triumphed on each occasion. Their most recent hard court clash, in the Dubai final, went to three sets. In that match, Errani tried serve-volleying in a bid to disrupt her more powerful opponent’s rhythm, but ultimately she succumbed to the barrage of heavy-hitting.
Errani can get the better of a wildly off-form Kvitova with her trademark guile, defence and indefatigability. But as we’ve seen in the past ten days, Kvitova can throw in some head-scratchingly awful tennis and still emerge the victor. On a roll and with more shots in her arsenal, she’ll bring that winning mentality again today and see off the Italian in straight sets.