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Kvitova tames nerves to reach U.S. Open third round

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Petra Kvitova overcame a bout of nerves and a rocky start to defeat Kateryna Kozlova 7-6(3) 6-2 in the second-round of the U.S. Open on Wednesday.

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Sixth seed Kvitova was off her game early on, committing 20 unforced errors during the first set - twice as many as her Ukrainian opponent - as she struggled with her serve.

“I was really fighting a little bit (with) the opponent but with myself as well. There was a lot of nerves over there,” the 30-year-old Czech told reporters. “So I was really fighting and, you know, was really tight, and I made some easy mistakes.”

The twice Wimbledon champion committed a fifth double fault to hand Kozlova a break point and a 3-2 lead in the first set but recovered to save set point at 5-4 and eventually took the opener on a tiebreak.

She got back on track in the second set to break Kozlova’s serve in the first game before firing off consecutive aces and a pair of winners en route to a 2-0 lead.

A relieved Kvitova, who dropped only one point on serve in the second set, wrapped up victory with a powerful serve that a beleaguered Kozlova was unable to return.

She will next face American Jessica Pegula in the third round.

Kvitova, who reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January, said that winning the tiebreak and getting the break at the start of the second set helped her relax.

“In the second set I think I really played a good one. I served much better. You know, I was hitting clearly not that many mistakes,” she said.

The world number 12 has had little match practice since the sport returned from its lengthy suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a first-round bye, she lost in the second round of last month’s Western & Southern Open, for which Flushing Meadows served as temporary host this year. [nL4N2AT0IX]

Like others who have competed inside Arthur Ashe Stadium this year, she lamented the empty stands, with fans barred from the Queens campus this year.

“I know we have a team there, which is perfect, but, you know, sometimes you play an unbelievable shot and there is just three clapping,” she said.

Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Toby Davis