The biggest surprise to date just took place at the BNL Internazionali d’Italia 2021: world number two Naomi Osaka was kicked out of the tournament by Jessica Pegula. the Australian Open champion showed once the little feeling with the surface, but it was also thanks to the great qualities of the American, who used her skills to absorb and redirect the power tennis of the Japanese. Not long afterwards, Vera Zvonareva returned to the R3 in Rome for the first time since 2008 by defeating Petra Kvitova in three sets.
On the iconic Pietrangeli setting, Osaka stepped on court with the right mindset and a good plan, quickly going up of a break. Slowly, however, Pegula started to read the directions of the world number two and managed to use her quality cross-court groundstrokes, especially the backhand, to force Osaka to hit on the move. The uncertainties of the Japanese on clay quickly started find room in her mind and her game started leaking more and more errors. Pegula stayed solid and saved three set points to force the first set to the tiebreak, where she put the foot down on the throttle and took it 7-2.
The American took a boost of confidence from the sudden turnaround and let throughout the second set, while her opponent looked more and more in doubt of her footwork on clay. Osaka tried to increase the weight and power of her shots, but with alternating success. Pegula did not let her come back closer and eventually put together the biggest win of her career so far with a 7-6(2) 6-2 score.
It was a big surprise on a packed women field, but it did not come out of nowhere, as the American has been on the rise in the past year, playing her best tennis ever and proving to be a threat even for the top names of the sport.
Petra Kvitova had also never found a great love with the courts of the Foro Italico, but it felt like a major surprise to see her surrendering to Vera Zvonareva at the end of a gruelling three-set fight. In a vintage match up that had last happened in 2011, the Russian took her first top 10 win in almost three years. Kvitova struggled to keep a high intensity against a very solid opponent.
The qualifier managed to turn things around when in the decider she found herself down 2-0, but by winning 5 games in a row she also managed to have two match points. Kvitova fought back and even had three consecutive chances to tie on 5-5, but Zvonareva did not give up and at her third chance she took the win 6-4 3-6 6-4.