Seedings have held up in the second quarter of the 2016 BNP Paribas Open women’s draw to produce a fascinating first quarter-final between Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova. This will be the pair’s tenth career meeting having last played in the final of the WTA Finals in Singapore at the end of 2015.
Petra Kvitova reached her first quarter-final of the year with three battling wins in the desert; the Czech player came from a set down in her fourth round match to defeat the qualifier, Nicole Gibbs, 4-6 6-3 6-4. Kvitova led *3-1 *40-15 in the first set; a combination of Kvitova’s rapidly rising error count (25 for the first set) and Gibbs growing in confidence saw the American player win four games in a row and earn her first set against Kvitova.
Kvitova was generally clutch in the second set; she lost her early break of serve, but then came back from 0-30 and 0-40 down in consecutive games, before forcing the decider. In the third set, Kvitova was playing quite patiently and moving especially well. The former Wimbledon champion looks fitter than ever and it’s showing on the court as she was getting to so many balls. In her press conference, Gibbs joked about how well she served in her third round win and how that was unusual… unfortunately, it was the serve, with just 53% of first serves in, that let her down at times against Kvitova. This was a super effort from Gibbs and all in all, an excellent tournament from her…Onwards and upwards!
Radwanska maintained her record of reaching the quarter-finals at every tournament she has played in 2016 with a 6-3 6-3 fourth round win over Jelena Jankovic. In fact, the last tournament she failed to reach the quarters in was in Wuhan. The win over Jankovic was much closer than the scoreline suggested but Radwanska owned the big points – the pair each had ten break points with Radwanska converting six to Jankovic’s three. Jankovic was twice pegged back from a break up in the first set before Radwanska got a crucial hold to 4-3. She then rolled through the final two games of the set.
Jankovic failed to convert on three break points up 2-1 in the second set. The Serb threw in a wobbly game at 3-3, double faulting twice and muttering away to herself. Jankovic saved a trio of match points at the very end, the third on arguably the point of the match, but Radwanska sealed the win in one hour and 21 minutes.
Head-to-head record: Kvitova leads Radwanska, 6-3, in their head-to-head. The pair have split their last four matches with Kvitova winning at the WTA Championships in Istanbul (6-4 6-4, 2013) and New Haven (7-5 6-4, 2015) and Radwanska prevailing at the WTA Championships in Singapore for the last two years, 6-2 6-3 in 2014 and 6-2 4-6 6-3 in 2015.
Interesting Stat(s): Kvitova was 0-3 in three set matches in 2016 but has leveled it up at 3-3 with three consecutive three set wins in Indian Wells. Via @fogmount on Twitter, Radwanska’s win over Jankovic improved her record over the Serb on hard courts to 6-0. A win over Kvitova will see Radwanska rise to world number two in the rankings come Monday.
Final thoughts: This match-up is a tricky one to call. Kvitova’s best is always capable of overwhelming Radwanska… but you just never know what level Kvitova is going to bring to the table. I’m not sure if the surface suits either player, but Kvitova will find it harder to outhit Radwanska in these conditions. While Radwanska has had strapping on her leg all week, she’s had two quite comfortable wins after the brutal second round victory over Cibulkova where she saved a match point. Kvitova’s form has certainly been encouraging this week but for me, it’s a case of head over heart as i’m leaning towards an in-form and mostly consistent Radwanska coming through…