WATCH: Sakkari closed out singles action on Sibur Arena with a hard-fought win over Anastasia Potapova.

Petra Kvitova and Maria Sakkari each posted statement wins on Tuesday at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy to secure spots in the second round. Kvitova, who accepted a wild card into Russia having won just one match in 2022, scored an emphatic 6-2, 6-1 win over German qualifier Jule Niemeier. Sakkari closed out singles action on Sibur Arena with a more closely contested encounter with hometown favorite Anastasia Potapova before advancing, 6-4, 6-4.

Kvitova lifted the St. Petersburg trophy in 2018, making the indoor event potentially fertile ground for the Czech to grow momentum out of what has largely been an unsatisfying campaign since reaching the Qatar Total Open final last March. The two-time Wimbledon champion has made just two WTA semifinals since, most recently at home in Ostrava where she fell to eventual champion Anett Kontaveit.

After a disappointing first-round exit at the Australian Open, the 31-year-old resolved to keep improving with an inspiring message on Instagram:


“Life doesn't stop when results don't go your way,” she wrote. “We aren't defined by winning and losing. The work continues, we come back and try again.”

The work seemed to pay off against Niemeier, breaking serve five times while striking 30 winners and eight aces in just under 70 minutes. One game featured four aces in a row.

"I didn’t have the best first month of the year so it’s always tough to come to a tournament and you never know what to expect," she said on court. "[Jule] passed through qualies with three wins, so that’s really something. I expected a tough match and that she would serve very well; I just tried to hold my serve and wait for my chances."

Seeded No. 6 in St. Petersburg, Kvitova’s next challenge will come against either Zhang Shuai or Irina-Camelia Begu.

"If I had to say today, I would say ‘No,’" she initially said of her trophy chances, "but every day is different and I always play better as a tournament continues. I’m just here to play and enjoy the tennis, and that’s what I did today."

Kvitova anchors the top half of the draw alongside Sakkari, the top seed looking to erase her own disappointing finish Down Under. The Greek star was seeded fifth in Melbourne but, after rolling into the second week without dropping a set, found herself out of answers against an in-form Jessica Pegula.

Sakkari is coming off a career-best season, one that featured two major semifinals at Roland Garros and the US Open and culminated with a semifinal run at the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara.

Backing up a phenomenally big year carries its own challenges, particularly against unseeded and looming players like Potapova, who made the quarterfinals as a qualifier in St. Petersburg two years ago.


Potapova lost most of the 2020 season to a combination of COVID-19 and a traumatic ankle injury, but rebounded to start the following year with a run to the third round of the Australian Open. Though inconsistencies have held her back in recent months, she has proved plenty dangerous against the game’s best, pushing Kvitova to three sets last fall in Ostrava.

Up a quick 4-1 in the opening set, Potapova soon found herself overawed by Sakkari’s superior steadiness and lost the next seven games—racking up 52 unforced errors overall.

Sakkari continued battling in the second set, holding off a late surge from Potapova to save three break points in a tense eighth game to ultimately edge through in an hour and 43 minutes.

"I had quite a bad start, and in general it wasn’t a great match, but I found a way to win and that’s the most important thing," Sakkari said. "I came up with some good shots and some more stability in these games and I’m happy I was able to do it."

Standing between Sakkari and another WTA quarterfinal is former St. Petersburg semifinalist Ekaterina Alexandrova, who won a battle of big-hitters against Camila Giorgi on Monday.