WATCH: A former champion in Dubai Kvitova lost only two games to advance in little over an hour.

Tennis crowds have long loved Petra Kvitova, and the former Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner returned that love after a 6-2, 6-0 win over rival Camila Giorgi—saluting those who stuck around for their Monday evening encounter.

“Playing in front of you guys is much, much, much better than to be without you,” she exclaimed to cheers from the remaining fans. “Being in the bubble is pretty tough, especially mentally.

“Without people, [matches] are like practice,” she concludes, crinkling her face at the unappetizing thought. “I don’t really enjoy that.”

Unassuming though she can be, Kvitova’s game unlocks her more extroverted instincts and is one paired best with the oohings and ahhings of a packed stadium. But even with fans back in the stands, something has been missing for much of the last year. Unseeded in Dubai, the 31-year-old has clearly been in search of her famed “X” factor, arriving in Dubai yet to win consecutive matches all season.

She showed some signs of improvement at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy only to bow out in her next match against Irina-Camelia Begu, making this week all the more important for the former world No. 2 as the Sunshine Swing looms on the horizon.

Her hopes of an elusive first-quarter reset were nonetheless in doubt when she drew Giorgi, who speaks just as softly but carries an even bigger stick. Giorgi didn’t drop a set in her last two matches against Kvitova, and beat her last summer en route to her biggest career title in Canada.


“I played Camila in Montréal and that was something from a different galaxy!” the one-time astronomy expert noted during her on-court interview. “I expected a tough match on a fast surface, and with her it’s always tricky. I tried to stay low and be aggressive first.”

In a match defined by first-strike tennis, fortune unsurprisingly favored the stronger server. Giorgi was only making half of her first serves, leaving her in Kvitova's path of totality. The Czech managed a cool 65% and saved her best deliveries for break points, saving all four faced in the 68-minute match.

Steady serving also allowed Kvitova to take more risks off the ground, converting five of seven break point opportunities while making 11 winners to 17 unforced errors. Giorgi ended the match with 27 errant shots in total.

Luckily for the practice-averse Kvitova, Monday's match would be ideal preparation for possible next opponent: top seed Aryna Sabalenka. Though the Belarusian won their last match a few years ago in Doha, the two share an even head-to-head and Sabalenka’s own season has been blighted by serving woes. Should she get past qualifier Marta Kostyuk, the Wimbledon and US Open semifinalist may be the catalyst Kvitova needs to kickstart her year.

Regardless of her next opponent, the crowds will undoubtedly be back to cheer her on, patient in the knowledge that watching her get it right is always worth the wait.