ISTANBUL, Turkey - Agnieszka Radwanska got her TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul 2012 challenge off to the perfect start on Tuesday with a surprisingly one-sided win over defending champion Petra Kvitova.
The previous three matches between the two had all gone Kvitova's way - the most recent coming at the same stage at last year's tournament - but this time it was Radwanska making the early running.
Radwanska's precise groundstrokes and intelligent mixture of spins and angles had her opponent chasing shadows in the early stages as she surged into a 3-0 lead.
A loose service game midway through the set offered Kvitova a route back into the match, but it was only a momentary respite as Radwanska re-established her authority with another break before confidently serving out.
Kvitova's frustration continued to grow in the second set as she could find no way past the Radwanska-shaped brick wall at the other end. A flurry of unforced errors gift wrapped a couple of early breaks and before long Radwanska was closing out a 63 62 win with a perfectly placed ace out wide.
"I'm just very happy about my performance," Radwanska said. "The first match is always tough and adjusting to a new surface is never easy, but I was playing really well from the beginning to the end of the match.
"It was still up and down today. There were a lot of breaks in the match - the serve should be a big weapon, and it wasn't in this match! But I just stayed focused and closed this match out."
Radwanska was also pleased to be back in Turkey. "It's always great to be back here," she added. "We get such great support here every day. I hope this year I can make the semifinals, at least."
Defeat for Kvitova ended a 25-match indoor win streak and leaves her with an uphill battle if she wants to make it out of the White Group and into the semifinals.
"The nerves were there, for sure - I was nervous the whole match," Kvitova said in her post-match press conference. "I'm disappointed in myself. I made a lot of errors in the match today; it wasn't good tennis from my side. But it's the WTA Championships, and I have another chance."
In the group's other match, Maria Sharapova weathered an early storm to see off Sara Errani in straight sets.
Errani knew her best chance was to make the match a baseline war of attrition, and for the first four games that is exactly what she did, pinning Sharapova to the baseline with her heavy topspin groundstrokes and scraping and scrambling for all she was worth.
However, the tide began to turn in the fifth game when Errani failed to convert either break point at 15-40 on the Sharapova serve. Buoyed by this escape, the Russian promptly broke serve before closing out the set a few games later.
Now in the ascendency, Sharapova was not about to surrender the initiative, breaking immediately in the second and not long afterwards completed a 63 62 victory with a trademark inside out forehand winner - her 39th of the match.
"It was a slow start - I gave Sara a lot of time, and that's what she likes," Sharapova said. "Her variety is what has won her so many matches this year. She loves to open the angles. I think the points were going a bit too long - I just tried to step in and be more aggressive after that, and it really helped me."