Playing catch-up the entire match, Czech qualifier Petra Cetkovska pulled off the comeback of the day in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 upset of seventh-seeded Angelique Kerber. Mixing deep forehand drives and a devious slice backhand to the German's forehand, Cetkovska stormed back from a one-break deficit in the second set and was twice a break down in the third, but defended with tenacity to deflate Kerber.
The 2012 Rome semifinalist seemed to be in command when up 4-3, 40-0 in the third set, but the 69th-ranked Czech dug in and won four points in a row, including a mad scramble to reach a drop shot that set up her smash to break for 4-all.
Kerber walked around the baseline muttering "40-Love, 40-Love" after losing the lead, briefly hanging her head in misery. Then, with rain starting to fall and dozens of umbrellas opened in the crowd, Cetkovska hit a slick backhand drop shot winner to hold for 5-4. She used the slice to coax another forehand error from Kerber, converting her second match point and gaining a measure of retribution.
Kerber had dropped just two games to Cetkovska in two prior WTA meetings, including a 6-1, 6-0 quarterfinal thrashing in Doha in February. Cetkovska is now 13-13 against Top 20 opponents.
Aiming to extend his title run in the Eternal City, reigning champion Rafael Nadal warmed up for Rome with some pre-tournament racing.
The seven-time Rome champion typically looks more comfortable on Rome's red clay, where he's surrendered just two sets in the last two years, than the higher altitude and faster track of Madrid. Six of the seven years Nadal has won Rome, he's gone on to rule Roland Garros.
See Wednesday’s Order of Play here.
(7) Andy Murray vs. Marcel Granollers: The Wimbledon champion tries to rebound from the straight-sets shellacking Santiago Giraldo administered last week. This could be another danger match: Granollers won their most recent clay-court clash when Murray retired after the second set in Rome last year. But since reaching the Casablanca final last month, the 31st-ranked Spaniard is 2-4.
(1) Serena Williams vs. Andrea Petkovic: The world No. 1 has more weapons and scored a 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 win over Petkovic in Rome four years ago, but will her mobility be impaired by the left thigh injury that forced her to withdraw from Madrid? Petkovic is one of the fittest woman in the game and won Charleston on Har-Tru last month, but since then she's won one clay-court match.
(6) Jelena Jankovic vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Margins can be miniscule when the former No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion meet. They have split their six career meetings as well as two meetings in Rome: JJ beat Sveta in the 2007 Rome final before the Russian avenged that loss with a 2009 quarterfinal win. Kuznetsova owns more variety and a bigger serve and forehand, but Jankovic is the smoother mover, a more accurate returner, and more dangerous off the two-handed backhand.
Ever wonder exactly what happens to tournament champions right after they raise their title trophies in Rome?
Check out this behind-the-scenes view of 2013 champions Serena and Rafa—and crank up the David Bowie classic that's a fitting tribute anthem: