Petra Kvitova’s winning streak came to an end as the Czech suffered a 6-2, 6-4 loss to 16-year-old Amanda Anisimova in the Indian Wells third round on Sunday.
Kvitova entered the contest having won her 14 previous consecutive matches, a stretch that included two title runs in St. Petersburg and Doha last month and one that matched the longest winning streak of her career.
But the world No. 9 was shocked by her American teenage opponent, who is ranked No. 149 in the world and is the youngest player to reach the fourth round at Indian Wells since Viktoriya Kutuzova in 2005.
“It feels so crazy. I’m shaking right now. This is the biggest stage I’ve ever played on against the strongest player I’ve ever faced,” Anisimova said on court after her triumph.
“She’s an amazing player, she was on a winning streak. I was just trying to stay focused but at the same time I was like ‘Oh my God’.”
Anisimova, who has got missiles for groundstrokes on both the forehand and backhand sides, raced to a one-set lead before Kvitova halted her progress and went up a break early in the second. But the New Jersey-native pegged Kvitova back, drawing level at 3-all then broke for a 5-3 lead.
Serving for the match, Anisimova was broken by a battling Kvitova, who stepped into the court and upped her aggression.
But that only delayed the inevitable as Kvitova quickly fell behind 0-40, handing her opponent three match points and Anisimova converted on her first opportunity on a netted backhand from the Czech.
Serena Williams is barely two matches into her comeback from maternity leave but she already has to face her sister Venus in the Indian Wells third round on Monday.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion posted a second victory in as many matches in her first tournament since the 2017 Australian Open, overcoming a stern challenge from Dutch No. 29 seed Kiki Bertens 7-6 (5), 7-5 in the second round on Saturday.
A champion at Indian Wells in 1999 and 2000, Serena is bidding to become the first woman to win the trophy here three times but the 36-year-old’s thoughts are far from that at the moment as she attempts to build back her stamina and form following a 13-month absence.
“I have a long way to go. I have such a long way to go,” Serena said after her one-hour 52-minute win over Bertens.
“It definitely felt better than the first round, but, I mean, I’m still a little rusty. I’m still making errors that I don’t normally make. But I call this a trial run. Even with the baby, like, a trial run of traveling with the baby and all of this is just so new to me. Yeah, I’m getting there.”
The Williams sisters will face off for a 29th time on tour and for the first time at Indian Wells. The meeting comes 17 years after they were supposed to clash in the semi-finals of the 2001 edition but Venus withdrew with tendinitis, giving Serena a walkover into the final.
The aftermath of that day has been recounted countless times, and the Williams sisters, who suffered abuse from the crowd due to Venus’ withdrawal and received accusations that their father fixed their matches, boycotted Indian Wells from 2002 until they returned to the event in 2015.
It is close to two decades later and the Williamses will finally square off at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
“I honestly never thought about it,” said Serena about the fact the match against Venus never happened until now.
“I would prefer to play someone else, anybody else, literally anybody else, but it has to happen now. So it is what it is…
“I really abhor every time we play, but I do enjoy the battle when I’m out there. It’s just afterwards I don’t like it as much.”
Venus booked her place in the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 success over Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
The older Williams sister, seeded N0. 8 this week, was in the stands for Serena’s opening round win over Zarina Diyas on Thursday and was impressed by what she saw.
“She looked like she never lost a step, really, and was controlling the match. Her opponent played really, really, really well, to be honest. Probably produced maybe the best tennis of her career. For Serena to win against someone that inspired and free is a great, great way to come back,” said the 37-year-old Venus.
Serena admits it feels like it’s too soon to play someone of Venus’ calibre in just her third match back but the ex-world No. 1 is hoping she’ll be ready for it. Serena is playing under a protected ranking of 22 and is unseeded in a tournament for the first time since Cincinnati in 2011.
“I have to play a seed regardless, sooner than later most times for the next couple of tournaments. So I have to be ready, you know. Whether it’s Venus or anyone else, it’s going to be someone,” said Serena.
“Obviously I wish it was anybody else in the draw, literally anybody, but that’s okay. Just have to go out there and see how I am and do my best.”
Serena, who delivered her first child, Olympia, last September, said she “almost cried” before her first round last Thursday because she was missing her daughter. She handled that better in her second match on Saturday.
“I’m doing much better today. I left pretty early, left like around 11:00. It’s 6:00, and I haven’t come close to tears today, so that’s good,” said Serena. “I definitely miss her. I might start coming to press on time now, because all I can think about is wanting to get back as fast as I can.”
US Open runner-up and No. 15 seed Madison Keys crashed out of Indian Wells in her opening match, falling to world No. 117 Danielle Collins in straight sets on Saturday.
Keys, who was playing for the first time since her first round loss in Doha, where she was struggling with the flu that forced her to withdraw from the Dubai tournament, fell 6-3, 7-6 (1) to Collins in the second round.
The 24-year-old Collins, a two-time NCAA champion, was facing a top-20 player for just the second time in her career and passed the test with flying careers to set up a third round with 18-year-old Russian Sofya Zhuk.
“I think the biggest thing is I don’t think I managed my nerves very well. Coming into this tournament I always feel like I’m a little bit nervous. I think I put a lot of expectations on myself this time around. I think the biggest thing was feeling nervous, not moving very well and it just showed itself in big moments,” said Keys after her defeat.
Indian Wells has never been a place that brought the best out of Keys. The farthest she has gone in the California desert was reaching the last-16 here in 2017.
“I think I always want to do well and I’ve never really done great here so I think it’s always just trying to be better and have that good Indian Wells tournament and I think sometimes I put too much pressure on myself playing here,” explained Keys, who received a coaching violation during the match with Collins.
“I definitely think these slow, high-bouncing, gritty courts don’t completely play to my favour, and especially days like this where it’s heavier and kind of rainy. It’s not perfect and I think it’s just one of those things where I have to be so good mentally about staying in points and building points and not going for things too soon and on a day like today where I’m nervous and not handling things perfectly, it’s just kind of a bad combination.”
Collins, who excelled on the college tennis circuit playing for University of Virginia, earned a wildcard into the main draw as the best performing player at the Oracle Challenger Series of WTA 125k events, having won Newport Beach in January and reaching the quarter-finals at Indian Wells last week.
“I think she’s very crafty, she gets a ton of balls back, she was serving pretty well. More than anything she’s just really good at resetting the point over and over again,” Keys said of her fellow American.
Indian Wells has witnessed multiple surprises so far this week, with a host of teenagers enjoying breakthroughs on both the women’s and men’s sides.
Keys, now 23 years old, was one of those rising teens not too long ago herself.
“I do laugh a lot of the times because they’re always talking about the teenagers on tour and I’m just like ‘that was me once’. But it’s great and I think women’s tennis you see it so often, I think we’re seeing a little bit more on the men’s side, but women’s tennis there’s always this great group of teenage girls who are figuring it out and having some big wins and I think a lot of them are going to be around to stay,” she said.