In a strange twist of fate, Petra Kvitova opened up her 2016 Australian Open campaign in the first round against the same player that had knocked her out at this stage back in 2014. In her first completed match of the year, Kvitova avenged that defeat to Luksika Kumkhum, progressing into the second round with a 6-3 6-1 victory. Understandably, Kvitova revealed she had felt nervous before this match. Her AO preparations were halted by a nasty stomach bug picked up in Shenzhen which meant she had played just one competitive set of tennis so far this year.
While Kvitova’s first round match turned out it to be routine, she will need to have her wits about her for a second round encounter with Daria Gavrilova. The Aussie prevailed over another Czech player, Lucie Hradecka, 7-6(3) 6-4 in a match that featured just one break of serve and TEN missed break point opportunities for Hradecka. After the breakthrough year, Gavrilova is facing the dreaded second season. The pressure goes up and everyone will know about her now… the early signs though are good with Gavrilova teaming up with Nick Kyrgios to win the Hopman Cup, winning singles matches against Elina Svitolina and Sabine Lisicki. While the ab injury that wreaked havoc at times in 2015 forced her to pull out of Sydney as a precaution, Gavrilova looks good to go in Melbourne.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match-up, Kvitova beat Gavrilova in Wuhan at the end of last year, 6-3 4-6 7-5. Gavrilova had served for the match in the third set before Kvitova mounted an impressive comeback.
Analysis: When I originally wrote down my picks I went for Gavrilova in this one, but I changed my mind at the last minute. Gavrilova has the tenacity to make this a real slog for Kvitova and she proved in Wuhan she can run the Czech player close. While Gavrilova is certainly capable, I have a small question mark about whether she can stay calm and focussed if she gets into the winning position again. The crowd could give her a real hand in this one. A little on the fence, but giving the small edge to Kvitova…
Prediction: Kvitova d. Gavrilova in 3 sets