American great Serena Williams showed further signs of rediscovering her championship level, but came up short in a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 second-round loss to Petra Kvitova at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Kvitova came out firing on Tuesday night, using outstanding ball-striking to grab an early service break at 3-2 and then wrapping up the set with a second break four games later, reports Efe.
But the 23-time Grand Slam champion turned the match around when she won a back-and-forth third game of the second set to break the Czech player for the first time in the match and take a 2-1 lead.
Williams later got a second service break on a sharply angled backhand return of serve winner and then closed out the second set when Kvitova missed a backhand return in the net.
The third set had the intensity of a Grand Slam final, with both players feeding off the energy of the crowd to produce their best tennis.
In the end, Kvitova’s superior form on the night was the difference as she got a break in the sixth game and then fought off a tough challenge from Williams in the final game to hold serve and clinch the victory in just under two hours.
Kvitova, who has made a remarkable comeback since being injured by a burglar in a knife attack at her home in Prostejov, Czech Republic, in late 2016, reflected afterward on her win against an all-time great opponent who is trying to get back to top form less than a year after becoming a mother and enduring serious post-partum health complications.
“It was a pleasure to share the court with Serena. She’s such a champion,” Kvitova said in a post-match interview. “We are both coming back – from injury, from motherhood – so it’s something really special to play her.”
“Unfortunately it’s in the second round, but playing a night session against Serena in front of a USA crowd, it’s been great.”
Next up for the eighth-seeded Kvitova in the third round of this WTA Premier 5 event will be France’s Kristina Mladenovic.
Williams, Kvitova and tennis’ other top men’s and women’s stars are in Cincinnati as part of their preparations for the US Open, which gets under way on August 27.