Update 6:35 pm. Second seed Andrea Petkovic has avoided an early exit, outmuscling Israel’s Shahar Peer 7-6(2) 1-6 6-3 in two hours and 17 minutes.
It was the first-ever meeting for the two 24-year-olds who had contrasting 2011 seasons. Petkovic rose from 32 to 10, becoming the sixth ever German to crack the elite top 10 while Israel’s Peer sank to 37 from 13.
Peer – whose only top 10 scalp last year was Italian Francesca Schiavone – broke early then clawed her way back to a 5-4 lead after trailing 1-4.
Keeping herself energised with a bite of a banana and a mouthful of an energy gel every change of ends, Petkovic stopped Peer from serving out the set and forced her opponent to play an error-riddled tiebreak.
Peer found her game in the second set, unperturbed by Petkovic taking a medical time out for chiropractic treatment.
“I was having some problems with my spine, there was a blockage and [the trainer] made it go away and I ate six painkillers and then I was fine,” Petkovic explained later. “I was a little nervous because normally when the muscles are this tight it doesn’t crack.”
The German said she immediately felt more comfortable, but revealed one of her ribs occasionally gets blocked.
A timely forehand crosscourt winner in the decider gave Petkovic a crucial break, and a 4-2 lead, prompting the passionate German to lift her game and the volume of her grunts.
With the end in sight, Peer successfully served to stay in the match and defended a match point before chair umpire Kader Nouni overruled a baseline call, ensuring the point was replayed.
After staying patient in what would be the match’s final rally, the second seed ripped a crosscourt backhand winner out of Peer’s reach, shouting “Idemo!” toward her team of four, made up of coach Petar Popovic, former ATP player Dusan Vemic, her father and physiotherapist.
And did the dancing German deliver a new move for the Australian summer? Indeed. Though not to all four sides of the court, Petkovic shot for an invisible basketball hoop.
Petkovic said she had expected a tough match from the Israeli.
“I know Shahar very well and when she plays well it’s really, really tough because she’s solid from both sides and her backhand is really a weapon so I think she played well throughout the whole match and I’m lucky I got through.”
But the world number 10 showed a little less gamesmanship following her doubles defeat with partner Jelena Jankovic yesterday against American duo Raquel Kops-Jones and Abagail Spears 6-4 6-7(1) [10-7].
“I will not play,” she said, appealing to the chair umpire after the 12th point of the championship tiebreak.
“It was actually an amazing situation, Abigail Spears touched the ball and it completely changed direction and the [umpire] gave the point to them and he had the courage to correct against us on match point,” Petkovic explained.
The German smashed her racquet repeatedly before jogging in to shake hands with her opponents, Jankovic and the umpire.
“The girls played better than us, I think they deserved to win, they are the better doubles players but sometimes it is just not justice. I freaked out … I was really sad and mad at myself that I lost control so much I almost cried,” she laughed, joking that she couldn’t keep up her hobby of learning to play the drums on tour which could substitute as an outlet to let out frustration.
“Unfortunately I cannot bring my drum sets to hotels, I will lose some rage there and I wouldn’t have to break raquets after doubles.”
But the German kept her temper in check Monday, despite contesting a handful of calls that she knew could have changed the direction of the match.
“I talked to my coaches who were sitting right on the line and they told me I was right all the time so at least I haven’t lost faith in myself and my feeling for the ball but I would prefer it to have Hawk-Eye much more,” Petkovic said, noting that when she loses with the technology, she’s comfortable, but in situations without it, she’s haunted by lingering thoughts that the match could have played out differently.
Petkovic added that German expectations have risen for her and her countrywomen, who she tips to be 2012’s most improved players.
Having worked with Angelique Kerber for six weeks in the off-season, Petkovic believes her friend can imitate her 2011 season and rise from 32 in the world.
“I think she’s going to play well if she keeps her head together [but] it’s not easy, expectations are on her also,” she said, acknowledging German support for their players had increased exponentially following standout seasons last year.
“Sabine [Lisicki] and Julia [Goerges] have so much more to improve, I know them so well, I really hope that they’re going to improve and we’re going to win Fed Cup one day, that’s a big dream and a big goal for us,” said the smiling right-hander.
And though Petkovic is excited for London’s Olympics, because she never believed she’d qualify, she said its appeal had slightly declined.
“I hate grass which is a letdown. [It] means I’ll have to play until Rio de Janeiro and try to qualify and then I’m out,” smiled the German, who has previously outlined her plans to retire after the 2016 Games.
The second seed will next meet Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova who took more than two hours to defeat Australian wildcard Olivia Rogowska 6-2 4-6 6-4.
Petkovic has never won against the 25-year-old, losing both as a junior and on the WTA Tour.
“It’s going to be really exciting for me because I feel like I’m a much more stable player now and I’m looking forward to seeing if I’ve really improved,” Petkovic said, labeling the world number 44, like countrywoman Kerber, as a counter-puncher and the type of player she tends to lose to.
“They don’t have the strength themselves to make the ball fast and they use my pace to get into the rallies.”
Ahead of her berth on Pat Rafter Arena tomorrow, Petkovic remained ever the joker. “I’m really looking forward to Hawk-Eye, I’m going to give it a kiss.”