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Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion who has been hoping to build her grass court momentum for a third tilt at the oldest Grand Slam title, instead became the latest big name to lose at the rain-hit Birmingham WTA tournament on Thursday.
Moving gingerly on the lush surface, Kvitova subsided to a 6-4 4-6 6-3 second round loss to Jelena Ostapenko, the world number 38. Erasing a 0-2 deficit in the decider visibly encouraged the 19-year-old Latvian, who pressed harder, hit flatter, and often played the big points better.
“It was difficult to put the pressure on her,” said Kvitova, who played with her right thigh strapped.
“When she dropped serve she became more dangerous. And I wasn’t moving very well today. At the beginning (of the grass court season) it is really difficult for the body. I don’t know that I did anything wrong. But at least I played two matches here, and I hope to get more at Eastbourne (next week).”
Neither player was helped by a slightly late start and a 40-minute interruption in the middle of the match, both caused by incessant showers which have blighted the tournament for four days.
Perhaps unsurprisingly it was the younger player who proved more resilient in dealing with it all.
The most crucial moments came immediately after Kvitova had broken serve to level at a set all, and then surged into a 2-0 lead in the decider.
She followed it with a poor game, failing to land her first serve frequently enough and then playing an even more disappointingly in the seventh game, delivering a double fault and dropping her serve to love.
She earned a break back point in the following game but was denied by a brilliant forehand from Ostapenko and after that the match ended swiftly.
“I’d beaten her before,” said Ostapenko, referring to a victory on hard courts in Doha in the first week of the year.
“So I thought I could do it again.”
She next plays Madison Keys, the top 20 American for a place in the semi-finals. Kvitova was followed to the exit door by Caroline Wozniacki, the former world number one, was who beaten 6-4 6-7 (5/7) 6-2 by Yanina Wickmayer, ranked down at 49 but a former finalist in Birmingham.
Wozniacki has also been struggling with injuries in recent weeks, and had moments when she appeared concerned not to aggravate them in a match that was interrupted three times by the weather.
Two other seeds, Angelique Kerber, the Australian Open champion, and Carla Suarez Navarro were also struggling when rain ended play early for the fourth day in a row.
Kvitova’s and Wozniacki’s exits followed those on earlier days of Agnieszka Radwanska, the top seed, of Belinda Bencic, the youngest world top 10 player, and Karolina Pliskova, the eighth-seeded Czech who won the title on the Nottingham grass last week.