Why, draw gods, whyyyy?! In a blockbuster first round match-up at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham, the number five seed, Petra Kvitova takes on fellow Czech, Lucie Safarova. Originally, Safarova was due to play Simona Halep but Kvitova was moved to Halep’s place in the draw reshuffle after the Romanian player pulled out due to an achilles injury.
Kvitova and Safarova were both competing at the WTA Championships in Singapore at the end of 2015. Just six months later, here they are meeting in a befuddling first round match-up. While it does highlight the quality of the draw, it also points to Safarova’s significant rankings drop. After only reaching the third round of the French Open in her pursuit of defending finals points, Safarova fell to number 29 in the world. Despite the drop, Safarova seems to be in a good place right now and actually played some decent ball in Paris. She played two excellent matches, defeating Vitalia Diatchenko and Viktorija Golubic in straight sets, before losing out in a tight three setter to Sam Stosur that could have gone either way.
Kvitova’s year has been a wild one; she played her best tournament of the year in Stuttgart where she reached the semi-finals with notable victories over Monica Niculescu and Garbiñe Muguruza. Since then, it’s all gone a little downhill with an abdominal injury seemingly affecting her progress in both Madrid and Rome. At the French Open, Kvitova edged a really tight first rounder against Danka Kovinic where she played very well. However, her defeat to Shelby Rogers in the third round was a surprise, not least the scoreline where she was dropped two bagel sets in a 0-6 7-6 0-6 loss. Moving onto grass, this is Kvitova’s best surface by some distance. As long as she’s healthy, anything is possible…
Head-to-head record: Kvitova leads Safarova, 8-0 in the head-to-head. Three of their last six encounters have gone the distance. However, it’s becoming more and more mental for Lucie so it’s going to be a tough one! Kvitova won their last match in round robin action in Singapore, 7-5 7-5.
In 2014, they played twice on grass with Kvitova needing a third set tiebreak to win in the first round of Eastbourne. In their most high profile match to date, Kvitova won 7-6(6) 6-1 in the semi-finals of Wimbledon.
Interesting stat: This is the highest ranked opponent that Safarova will have played all year. Both players will be seeking to win their first ever match at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham with both having 0-1 records in singles.
Final thoughts: The head-to-head is pretty demonstrative in favour of Kvitova. Safarova though, has kept a handful of their recent encounters close. Playing Kvitova in the first round is also better (compared to later on in the tournament) as it’s their first match of the 2016 grass court season so Kvitova is unlikely to be on it from the start. Yeah, let me clutch at straws!
Lucie’s in a different position now playing top players from the get go, but I think her mindset will be positive; after all the health problems she has had with the bacterial infection and then the rheumatic fever, being fit and healthy, and playing tennis again still trumps any results, thus hopefully allowing her freedom to play her game. Now that the French Open has passed, this may have alleviated any pressure that Lucie felt. Kvitova’s the favourite for sure but I am clutching onto hope from somewhere that Lucie can squeak out a win. I’ve got a more positive feeling for Lucie compared to some of the previous times they’ve played but i’m still fearing the worst. I love both players but rooting for Lucie in this one!