It was the clash of the Grand Slam champions when Petra Kvitova and Italy's Francesca Schiavone clashed in the first round on Tuesday, the Czech coming up trumps, 6-4 2-6 6-2 at Australian Open 2013.
A year can be a long time in tennis – just ask this pair of Grand Slam champions who are both battling through ordinary form.
This time last year Kvitova was the Wimbledon champion, the second seed at the 2012 Australian Open and within striking distance of the world No.1 ranking. Schiavone, the Italian veteran, was seeded 10th and defending a quarter-final appearance from the 2011 Australian Open.
Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion, finished the 2012 season ranked 35, her lowest year-end mark since 2002, and has lost in the first round in six of her past seven tournaments.
Kvitova retained her top 10 ranking, finishing 2012 at No. 8, but failed to reach the level of her breakthrough 2011 season. Her form early in 2013 has been scratchy, winning just one match in tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney.
It was a cruel draw for both players. There are 10 grand slam champions in the draw, with Schiavone and Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova the only unseeded two, making the odds of two champions going head-to-head in the first round low.
Kvitova got the early advantage in front of a packed crowd at Margaret Court Arena, breaking Schiavone’s serve in the fifth game and serving out the opening set 6-4 in 42 minutes.
The No. 8 seed had several opportunities to break the Schiavone serve early in the second set, but in a display of grit the Italian has became known for, it was Schiavone who held firm and got a break of her own, taking a 4-1 lead.
From there Schiavone levelled the match at one-set all, taking the second set 6-2. She cut down her unforced errors, committing just five compared to 11 in set one, while at the other end of the court Kvitova was struggling with consistency, striking 15 unforced errors for the set.
In a match characterised by twists and turns, Kvitova found her range and dominated the final set, taking it 6-2. Her fire power was too much in the end for Schiavone, who was playing in her 50th consecutive Grand Slam main draw.
“It’s always a big fight against her. I knew what to expect,” Kvitova told the crowd after the match.
Kvitova will play Great Britain’s Laura Robson in the second round.