Two-time former champion and eighth seed Petra Kvitova begins her campaign to regain the Wimbledon title against Belarus’ Aliaksandra Sasnovich. There were fears that Kvitova’s career was over after a home invasion ended with the Czech sustaining serious injuries to her hand. But she has not only returned to competitive action but re-established herself as one of the game’s best. But will she take the first step towards glory against Sasnovich or fall victim to an upset?
Kvitova and Sasnovich have never previously met competitively. But a significant gulf in experience does exist between the two. Whilst Kvitova has 25 career titles to her name and 481 match wins, Sasnovich has yet to win a title. The Belarussian does have a respectable 245 match wins, but comparatively few of those have come at the highest level. She has also only once been to the third round at a Slam, doing so earlier this year in Melbourne. Kvitova has made the quarters or better at every Major.
Last time out
Kvitova arrived in Roland Garros as one of the favourites after winning titles in Prague and Madrid but crashed out in the third round at the hands of Anett Kontaveit. She bounced back on the grass in Birmingham, defending the title she won last year by defeating Magdalena Rybarikova in the final. She also played in Eastbourne, defeating Bondarenko in the first round, but withdrew ahead of a second round clash with Radwanska so as not to jeopardise her Wimbledon chances by playing through injury.
Sasnovich also lost early in Paris, falling in the second round to 18th seed Kiki Bertens. She began her grass court season with a 2-6 6-7 first round loss in Rosmalen to top seed Coco Vandeweghe, before heading to the Mallorca Open. There she was originally scheduled to play Kirsten Flipkens, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2013, but the Belgian withdrew. That left her facing Germany’s Antonia Lottner who beat her comfortably 6-4 6-0.
How do they match up?
Kvitova is amongst the most powerful players on the WTA Tour, and is equipped with penetrating groundstrokes and a huge serve. She also has a real affinity for grass court tennis as evidenced by her two impressive runs to the Wimbledon title in 2014 and 2015. That is no surprise as grass courts typically reward first-strike tennis, and there are few as capable at taking control of a rally as the Czech star. Her movement is also good, although she is not one of the best defenders in the game.
Sasnovich, in contrast, is not blessed with a huge amount of natural power. The 24-year-old does, however, excel at using her opponent’s power against them, particularly off the backhand side, which is a rock-solid shot. When going on the attack she tends to rely more on accuracy than pace, and will likely look to come into the forecourt often in this match. She generally defends the net well and will need to against Kvitova.
Kvitova may have flattered to deceive somewhat at the Slams so far this year, losing first round to Petkovic in Melbourne and as mentioned above to Kontaveit in the third round in Paris. But, both Petkovic and Kontaveit are dangerous opponents and Kvitova was hardly brushed aside in either match. Nor were either at Wimbledon where she has enjoyed the most success of her career. Expect her power to overwhelm Sasnovich and for the world #8 to advance in straight sets.