Kvitova beats Sakkari to make quarter-finals in Melbourne
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Petra Kvitova came from a set down and took full advantage as her Greek opponent Maria Sakkari’s self-belief drained away to advance to the Australian Open quarter-finals with a 6-7(4) 6-3 6-2 victory on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.
Seventh seed Kvitova looked second best early on against Sakkari, who was backed by loud support from local Greek fans, but seized the advantage in a second set where both players struggled to hold serve.
The two-times Wimbledon champion broke Sakkari four times in the second set and then took a 3-0 lead in the decider to give her the advantage she needed to put away the stubborn 22nd-seed in two hours, 12 minutes.
“It’s pretty tough to play Maria. I lost the last time I played her so I knew it would be difficult,” Kvitova said.
“I had to fight pretty hard ... but suddenly I got used to her game and was playing more rallies and starting to play my own game.”
Sakkari, 24, had never been in the fourth round of a Grand Slam before but had won the last two of her three previous matches against Kvitova, all of which were played last year.
Sakkari broke early but blew her first chance to seal the opening set when she lost serve leading 5-4. She broke again in the next game to give herself another opportunity at 6-5 but let that slip away too as Kvitova broke back to set up a tiebreak.
The Czech wasted an opportunity to go 3-0 up when her forehand return to a second serve flew long and Sakkari snatched the momentum back, going on to seal the tiebreak to win the set in 52 minutes.
Both players lost their serving rhythm in the second set with Kvitova dropping serve twice but also breaking Sakkari on four occasions, the last of which when the Greek double-faulted on set point.
Sakkari’s shoulders appeared to drop during the set and she frequently argued with her support team sitting courtside.
Kvitova jumped out to a 3-0 advantage in the decider then let her emotions show for the first time in the fifth game, a bellow of celebration coming after a forehand winner put her 4-1 ahead.
The Czech completed the win when a Sakkari return smacked into the net, setting up a meeting with either top seed Ash Barty or Alison Riske, who play later on Sunday, in the last eight.
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