PARIS: Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova survived a big scare against Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen in her opening round of the French Open, having to save a matchpoint en route to a 6-7(3) 7-6(5) 6-1 win on Sunday.
Kvitova, who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2012 and last year, struggled with her serve from the start and suffered service breaks in her first two games.
The 11th seed fought back valiantly to take the opening set to a tie-breaker under slightly windy conditions on the Suzanne Lenglen court only to lose it by serving three double faults.
The Czech was down 30-40 at 6-5 in the second set and staring at a first-round exit at Roland Garros for the first time since 2010 but saved the matchpoint with a crosscourt backhand winner and then levelled things in the tiebreaker.
Her confidence soared in the decider and she jumped to a 5-0 lead in no time, losing just three points on serve in the third set.
"I would say that from my side it wasn't really good from the beginning," the former world number two said. "I was struggling, I was missing a lot, I was double faulting a lot.
"I didn't really feel myself that well. I was pretty tight. And, yeah, it was really tough. I mean, I was fighting not only with her but with myself as well.
"I'm glad that in the end I beat myself as well and beat her, so that counts."
World number 125 Minnen had lost both her previous meetings with Kvitova in straight sets. She looked the stronger player for most of the match but her resistance faded once Kvitova reined in her errors and found her range with her crushing forehands.
"I was just hoping that some point would just turn the match... I was just playing point by point," said Kvitova, who had 44 unforced errors.
"I started to serve a little bit better in the second set, and that was pretty important."
Kvitova will next meet Russian Elena Vesnina, who strolled past Belarusian Olga Govortsova 6-1 6-0.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Berhampore, India; editing by Clare Fallon)