Watching Petra Kvitova shouldn't be the nerve-wracking event that it sometimes is. The world number 3 has plenty of ups and downs no matter where she plays, but when she plays in this country and I see her go for the asthma inhaler, I lower my expectations. Tonight in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open, Kvitova played a very good first set against Christina McHale, but then the trouble began. Kvitova lost her way and subsequently lost the second set.
In the third set, Kvitova found herself one point away from being down 1-5. At that moment, she turned on the mysterious switch that enables her to get out of profound trouble. But at 3-4, she double-faulted twice in a row, and--down a break at a very crucial time--could do nothing to stop McHale from serving out the match. McHale did that in style, too, hitting a lovely drop shot at match point, and posting a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
Kvitova hasn't played much this season. She was injured, then she was sick, and even in Indian Wells (where she has never advanced beyond the third round), she struggled with the effects of asthma. Then there's the fact that the Czech star sometimes just "goes off," and none of us knows why. The season is still quite young, but, so far, Kvitova is just not showing us her great wealth of talent. At her best, she's extremely difficult to beat. But right now, Kvitova's "best" is absent.
McHale, on the other hand, did a great job of absosrbing her opponent's power and even showing some of her own finesse. She also does a really good job of staying calm and weathering the rough times during a match. It's no wonder she pulls as many upsets as she does.
Meanwhile, top seed Victoria Azarenka easily defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Li Na defeated Zheng Jie. And though she got off to an excellent start with a 3-0 lead, Flavia Pennetta lost in straight sets to Agnieszka Radwanska.
Pennetta, by the way, went out in the first round of doubles, losing to her very good friend and doubles partner, Gisela Dulko. Dulko is playing as much as she can this year with former doubles star Paola Suarez, as they prepare for the Olympic Games. Pennetta's partner in Indian Wells was Anabel Medina Garrigues. Dulko and Suarez are wild cards.