Right at the bottom of the China Open draw, we find an unexpected second round match-up between Andrea Petkovic (Player Profile) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (Player Profile). The Kuznetsova vs Petkovic Head to Head stands at 2-2.
It’s unexpected because at the beginning of the week, Victoria Azarenka loomed large in this section. The world number two had been ill in Tokyo, but she was tipped to mount a serious challenge for the title in Beijing, where she was the defending champion. Instead, she played one of her worst matches of the year on Monday, falling 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to the unseeded Petkovic.
While the majority of the post-match focus was on Vika’s plethora of double faults and unforced errors, credit must go to the German, who handled herself brilliantly in the closing stages. Petkovic suffered from dizzy spells towards the end of the second set and looked to be on the verge of pulling out at the beginning of the decider. But she kept pressing the Australian Open champion, forcing her to hit the extra ball and, more often than not, getting the error she hoped for.
“I’m very happy with my performance,” said Petkovic after the upset. “I was happy with my movement and my serve for the most part, and I managed to get a lot of balls back very deep and very strong.”
It was by far her best result since returning to the tour in March following surgery on her right knee. Ranked inside the top ten at the end of 2011, Petkovic tumbled to 177th in the WTA standings and had to play the qualifying rounds of several tournaments as she worked her way back. Now ranked in the top 50 again, she looks ready to make another march towards the sport’s upper echelons.
First, however, she’ll have to keep her China Open run going with victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian demolished Su-Wei Hsieh 6-1, 6-1 in the first round, saving seven of eight break points in the process. It was the kind of dominant performance that has featured sporadically in Kuznetsova’s season, in amongst the head-scratching losses to the likes of Virginie Razzano and Romina Oprandi. The double Grand Slam champion still has a game that dazzles, but consistency has deserted her over recent seasons.
With that in mind, the outcome of this match depends on which Kuznetsova shows up. If it’s the player who reached the quarter-finals of the Australian and French Opens this year, producing brilliantly bold and aggressive tennis, she could overpower Petkovic in straight sets. If it’s the temperamental, wildly erratic Kuznetsova who mustered only five games against Petra Kvitova in Tokyo last week, then Petkovic can win with solid defence and steady nerves.
The head-to-head stands at two wins apiece, Kuznetsova winning both clay court encounters and Petkovic triumphing on hard courts. All of those matches have been tight, so it wouldn’t be surprising if their Beijing clash goes the distance. But with Petkovic’s confidence riding high after the win over Azarenka, we’ll pick her to come through in two tight sets.