For the third time this year, Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova will meet on the WTA tour in 2016 in a pivotal clash for the qualification race for the WTA Finals in Singapore. The pair will meet in the first of the quarter-finals on Friday at the China Open in Beijing.
Kvitova maintained her superb run in Asia this fall with a eighth consecutive victory, defeating the number two seed and defending champion, Garbiñe Muguruza, 6-1 6-4. Kvitova faced a break point in the first game of the match – the commentator noted that this could be crucial and it turned out to be the case because the Czech player saved it and then didn’t face another one during the entire match. One of the key differences between the two was Kvitova’s return which followed on from recent displays as she battered away multiple return winners.
Muguruza made things much more competitive in the second set for a time. However, serving at 3-3 Muguruza produced double faults on game point… and then break point as Kvitova made the breakthrough. The Czech player was lethal off the forehand side and impressive at the net (8/10 net points won). Kvitova looks so good at the net – there’s a natural and instinctive quality to her forays forward. It’s always an element of her game that i’ve felt is underrated and I hope she continues to do this. Kvitova held onto her break and finished the match with no fuss, serving out to 15. Kvitova finished with stats of 27 winners to 15 unforced errors… once again, super impressive.
Keys also progressed to the quarter-finals in straight sets but had to work hard in the first set, fighting back from 2-5 down and a double break deficit against Svetlana Kuznetsova. Keys made a sloppy start as she failed to string decent points together. Kuznetsova never looked comfortable but kept things solid and hit with good depth. Kuznetsova had a set point serving at *5-2 *40-30 but couldn’t take it with Keys finally roaring into life with three fabulous points to break.
Kuznetsova got a second chance at closing out the set at *5-4 but two double faults didn’t help her cause as Keys settled into the match. Both players saved set points to reach the tiebreak where Keys ran away with it and then the match. Keys’s explosive power overwhelmed Kuznetsova who couldn’t keep it off the American’s forehand side, which grew stronger and stronger as the match wore on. Keys won, 7-6(2) 6-2 in one hour and 36 minutes.
Head-to-head record: Kvitova leads Keys, 3-2 in their head-to-head. Interestingly, no player has managed to win back-to-back matches in this head-to-head. It was Kvitova who won their most recent clash in the Bronze medal match at the Olympics, 7-5 2-6 6-2.
Final thoughts: The head-to-head shows that this match will come down to who gets it right on the day… they’ll both be trying to keep it away from each other’s forehands! Kvitova has commented in press (and hinted on social media) that she is understandably tired so that could be a factor but again, i’d be more inclined to say that she’ll pull through with the confidence she is displaying on court right now. Keys has the weapons there and has been impressively scrapping out wins, but her performances have remained streaky. Kvitova has been hitting the ball beautifully these past weeks and with an alarming sense of consistency. If she can keep up her success on return and coming forward, then she might just keep her hopes of qualifying for Singapore intact…