Wuhan Open: Evergreen Vinci denies defending champion Kvitova

Roberta Vinci beats Petra Kvitova in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals of the Wuhan Open in China

It’s hard to believe that, with her opening loss at Wimbledon this summer, the evergreen Roberta Vinci had made eight first-round exits in the first half of the season—and four more second-round losses.

Indeed, by the time she played Istanbul in late July, the Italian’s ranking had dropped to 58, but everything was about to change.

It started with a decent quarter-final run in Toronto, though she still had to come through qualifying in New Haven. But she did so, and beat Eugenie Bouchard before losing to Caroline Wozniacki in a final-set tie-breaker.

But that proved to be just an appetiser to the main US Open Series event. Come New York, and the only Grand Slam where Vinci had ever reached the quarter-finals, and she made the finest run of her career, causing the tournament’s biggest upset along the way. From a set down, Vinci came back to beat defending champion and world No1 Serena Williams to reach the final.

It meant that, by the time Vinci returned to the tour in Wuhan, the 32-year-old was back inside the top 20, ranked 18, and immediately playing the kind of tennis to take her still closer to her career-high of No11.

In a tough draw, and placed in a particularly tough half, with unseeded former No1s Victoria Azarenka and Venus Williams, she also faced the prospect of defending champion and No3 seed Petra Kvitova in the third round, who had benefitted from a first-round bye.

But such is the nature of Vinci’s game that she can disrupt the power game of the best with slice and chips and drop-shots, beguiling her opponents with the craftiest of single-handed backhands.

And that is just what she did to Kvitova, though it did not look so in the first quarter of an hour. The rangy left-handed Czech powered her way to a 4-0 lead.

But just as it had against Daria Gavrilova in her first match, where Kvitova dropped the second set and went 5-3 down in the third, her form fluctuated, and Vinci took advantage of a couple of wayward errors to get on the score-board, and then draw level at 4-4.

Come the tie-break, and Vinci out-manoeuvred Kvitova to draw errors and grab the set comfortably, 7-6(3).

With the wind in her sails, Vinci broke quickly in the second, and broke again to storm to the win, 6-2, in an hour and a half.

Vinci admitted afterwards: “Against Petra it’s always tough to play—she’s an incredible player, she won last year here. But I played a really good match. She played so well the first few games, so I tried not to think about this and focus.”

So in the space of three weeks, Vinci has beaten both the world No1 and world No4, and can expect another rise in her own ranking after this Premier tournament. How many places will depend on whether she can advance beyond her quarter-final, where she will take on No8 seed Karolina Pliskova, who took almost two hours to beat Elena Svitolina.

Beyond that, the semis will offer up either Venus Williams, a straight-forward winner over No7 seed Carla Suarez Navarro, or qualifier Johanna Konta, who fought back from 5-1 down in the final set to beat the top seed, world No2 Simona Halep.

In the bottom half of the draw, No5 seed and Wimbledon finalist, Garbine Muguruza, came back from a set down to trounce No9 seed Ana Ivanovic, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.

Muguruza will next face Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 6-2.

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