A blockbuster third rounder is on the cards in Beijing when the number two seed, Garbiñe Muguruza takes on the Wuhan champion, Petra Kvitova in the third round of the China Open.
Muguruza was the first player into the third round with a 6-2 7-6(5) win over Yulia Putintseva. It was a nervous yet committed display from the Spaniard who, like her first round win over Irina-Camelia Begu, was not convincing but found a way to win. Muguruza twice failed to serve out the match – the first time at *5-4. she was broken to love in a terrible game bookended by a horrible leave with a shot of Putintseva’s landing in and a double fault. Muguruza chalked up two match points serving for it again at *6-5 but made some more tactical errors and was eventually broken by an absolutely delightful drop shot from Putintseva.
Considering the disappointment of not serving it out, Muguruza handled the situation well in the tiebreak. She struggled to string good points together in a row but there was enough positivity to see her through including a superb forehand down-the-line getting her to match point. It was encouraging to see some positive body language at the end from Muguruza and she looked intense at the end in the good way and seemed really up for the battle. There were certainly some nerves but I think this win would have done her a world of good.
Kvitova won her first match in Beijing, 6-4 6-1 against Wafan Yang. From a slow start and and break down, Kvitova played a pretty clean match, finishing with 29 winners to 13 unforced errors. There was one forehand on-the-run that i’m replaying over and over again!
Kvitova had a wonderful week in Wuhan where she ousted the world number one, Angelique Kerber in a gruelling third rounder (finally got to watch the whole match back at the weekend, oh yes it was gooood!) and followed that up with three more tremendous displays, beating Johanna Konta, Simona Halep and Dominika Cibulkova all in straight sets. When Petra’s on, i’m not sure there’s anyone who can live with her game… the sad thing is that Peak Petra has been such a rarity this year. Kvitova’s never going to be a consistent player but I hope we get to see Peak Petra a bit more often.
Head-to-head record: Muguruza and Kvitova are tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head; Muguruza won their first match-up in the round robin group stage of the WTA Finals in Singapore last year, a hard fought 6-4 4-6 7-5 victory. Kvitova gained revenge in Stuttgart with a third set bagel win, 6-1 3-6 6-0.
Interesting stat: In her last eight tournaments since winning the French Open, Muguruza has won back-to-back matches at just three of them including Beijing. Kvitova’s title in Wuhan was her first in 13 months, her longest title drought since winning her first WTA title all the way back in Hobart in 2009.
Final thoughts: After watching their last match, I got a sense this match-up slightly favours Kvitova – I think she’s a cleaner ball striker and is a better mover around the court. She was coming forward instinctively during her first match in Beijing (11/14 net points won) and that could be a key factor in this match. Muguruza likes to come forward but hasn’t looked all that convincing in executing this gameplan over recent months. Muguruza is still some way off her best but it could take a match like this to rediscover her level. However i’d be more inclined to say that Kvitova will push through any fatigue and keep building after her triumph in Wuhan.