Petra Kvitova, who is trying to work her way back into the top three after illness and injury, suffered a blow when the defense of her Dubai Open title lasted no more than one match on Wednesday.
The former world No. 2 from the Czech Republic was beaten by Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro, who spent much of the match trailing, but her refusal to give up was rewarded with a 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) win and a place in the quarter-finals.
Navarro’s consistently heavy ground strokes and superior movement prospered more as the conditions grew slower, and she recovered first from a set and 2-4 down, then from 2-4 down in the deciding tie-break.
Kvitova made one good recovery herself, coming from 2-4 in the final set to lead 5-4 before attempting to close the match out on her serve.
However, her flat-hitting game increasingly lacked consistency and gradually the proximity of defeat began to apply its own pressure.
Navarro now plays Alise Cornet, the in-form French No. 1 who followed her conquest of Simona Halep, the seventh-seeded Rumanian who won in Qatar last Sunday, by winning 6-3, 6-4 against Kirsten Flipkens.
Another seed to fall was Sara Errani, the fourth-seeded Italian, who lost early in the Middle East for the second successive week, beaten 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 by Sorana Cirstea, the world No. 27 from Romania.
Earlier on Wednesday Serbia’s former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic claimed that Venus Williams was close to her best again.
The 33-year-old American was certainly impressive in the second-round clash which saw her romp to a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Ivanovic and a place in the quarter-finals.
Sister Serena’s next match promises to be a high-voltage affair as she is to face another Serbian former world No. 1 in Jelena Jankovic, who beat the useful Czech Lucie Safarova 7-5, 6-4.
The last meeting between Jankovic and Serena Williams was close and contentious.
It saw Jankovic almost prevent Williams from winning last year’s WTA Championships year-end title in Istanbul, and later appearing to question her sportsmanship.