I don’t know how many times I dealt with the situation in the WTA during the American swing in Indian Wells and Miami. The absence of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, and Petra Kvitova definitely made the draws as open as ever. There were chances for almost everyone to perform well. Hence, it’s not a surprise that both tournaments ended up with a first-time Premier Mandatory winner: Russian Elena Vesnina in Indian Wells, and Brit Johanna Konta in Miami.
However, I thought, clay court tournaments would have almost all of the players cited above competing in it.
Though, life’s happenings proved me partially wrong. Serena Williams’ pregnancy, Azarenka still not ready to be back on court after her pregnancy, and Kvitova’s mysterious comeback date; the only of the above who competed in all of the three WTA Premier on clay was Maria Sharapova.
However, as almost everyone knows, the French Tennis Federation denied her a Wild Card for Roland Garros. In the mean time, Azarenka set Mallorca in late June as a comeback tournament, so that Roland Garros would have had – just like Indian Wells and Miami – none of those four women in the draw.
And once again, life’s happenings proved me wrong! With a big and contagious smile upon her face, Petra Kvitova announced she was ready to be back on tour competing in the Parisian Slam. And honestly, one couldn’t but being happy for her.
After a mediocre 2016, with just a bronze medal at the Olympics as a big result until September, Kvitova had a tremendous ending of the year. Indeed, she won the title in Wuhan, demolishing her opponents displaying powerful shots, fighting spirit, and mental strength. Though not able to qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore, she went in Zhuhai for the WTA Elite Trophy, conquering the title there, too, and claiming herself as one of the most in-form player to watch out for in 2017.
Nevertheless, life’s unpredictable, and that’s not just a commonplace. Petra Kvitova knows it very well. On a cold December day, a crazy man who was robbing her home in Prostejov, Czech Republic, ended up hitting her left hand with a knife, while the player was trying to defend herself. Ligaments of the hand were badly damaged, and she needed surgery. However, the pain was not only a physical one; the toughest ghost to fight against was the mental one.
Showing an enviable mental stability, Petra Kvitova came back on court practicing, ready to compete again. When that’s going to happen, it remained uncertain… until this week!
WTA’s situation described above clearly created an unique opportunity for a lot of players to win a Slam in Roland Garros. Indeed, the three WTA Premier on clay crowned three different winners: Laura Siegemund, who’s not going to take part of the Slam because of a bad injury; Simona Halep, whose physical condition is still in question, after she rolled her ankle in Rome’s final; and Elina Svitolina, the young Ukrainian who’s going to be 5th seed at Roland Garros and who’s going to face for the first time the pressure of being one of the odds favorite for the title.
There are at least 15 players with a real chance of winning the Slam: apart from Halep and Svitolina, let’s say Kuznetsova, Mladenovic, Konta, Pliskova, Kerber, Muguruza and, why not, given the situation… Petra Kvitova!
Of course, since it’s going to be her first tournament of 2017, expectations aren’t that high. Though, I’m sure that if she felt like Roland Garros was the tournament for her comeback, then she’s definitely ready to face it. Among her 19 titles, only two were conquered on clay, both in Madrid, where courts are faster because of the height of the city, so she’s able to hit more winners. In the Parisian Slam, she has never made it past Round 4, except for 2012, when she reached the semifinals.
As far as 2017 Roland Garros is concerned, Kvitova is going to open against American Julia Boserup, definitely a good first round, given the high number of unseeded dark horses spread throughout the draws. Her potential second round is going to be against either Evgeniya Rodina or Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and the latter couldn’t be the easiest opponent on clay. If seeds are respected, her potential R3 matchup is going to be against Sam Stosur, a clay court specialist, former finalist, semifinalist last year, and current finalist in Strasbourg. I mean, it’s not the easiest draw at all. However, it’s a good way to test her level and draw some conclusion on it.
I admit it, I’m very surprised Kvitova chose Roland Garros as a comeback tournament. I was sure she’d choose Wimbledon, her favourite tournament, who crowned her winner twice, or at least a tournament played on grass, the surface that suits her game the most. But, for the third time in this article and more or less the 1345th in my life, life’s happenings proved me wrong!
However, I think that the reason for this choice is to try to gain confidence and to play as many matches as she can before Wimbledon, where her chances to claim the title are going to be far higher than now. With Azarenka, Sharapova – if she overcomes qualies – and many others (Former finalist Sabine Lisicki is set to make her comeback from injury in Wimbledon too!) in the draw, the field is going to be tougher, and Kvitova will need not only confidence, but also a good attitude and some matches already under her belt.
Conclusions drawn after Roland Garros are certainly going to be different, and maybe more substantial. As for now, I wish Petra Kvitova best of luck. Screaming her famous “pojd” once again after a good winner is definitely going to be a victory for her. And, I’d add, a well-deserved victory.
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