2021 WTA Stuttgart, Tuesday R1 Highlights: Clutch Kvitova d. Brady in star studded opener

Day 2 of main draw action at the 2021 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix is in the books. I feel like you notice the absence of fans more indoors and particularly in a tournament like Stuttgart where it was always well attended. Trying to be positive that there is even a tournament this year! Tuesday’s diary focuses on the star-studded all-top 15 clash between Petra Kvitova and Jen Brady.

Day 2️⃣ Highlights

(7) Petra Kvitova d. Jen Brady, 6-4 6-3

This match was all about the first set and quite simply, Kvitova played the big points better. The key stat from the first set – Brady went zero for three on break point opportunities while Kvitova was one for one. Brady was the better player in the first set and got to deuce in three of Kvitova’s five service games including carving out break points in two of those games. Kvitova held on. Serving at *4-5 with scoreboard pressure, Brady missed first serves and Kvitova stepped up on return. From there on, Kvitova was irresistable.

Brady hasn’t won since Melbourne and this was her fourth consecutive loss. Should we be worried? No. I thought Brady’s level was decent and it overall it was a good match. If only Brady had taken one of her first set opportunities and this may have played out differently. Brady just needs a bit of luck with the draw (hosed here in Stuttgart) and a chance to build some momentum again.

Ekaterina Alexandrova d. Karolina Muchova, 4-6 6-2 6-3

I was delighted to see Muchova back in action for the first time since her semi-final run at the Australian Open due to a spell on the sidelines to recover from an abdominal tear. Sadly, there are still question marks surrounding Muchova who took a medical time-out between the second and third sets of this match for a side/back issue? Hopefully not abdominal!

When watching Alexandrova, I always think she makes a lot of what looks like quite basic errors. I think it’s because she hits so flat? That was the case in the first set with just too many unforced errors. In the longest game of the match with Alexandrova serving at *4-2 in the second set, she made some shocking misses trying to close out the game. However, Alexandrova kept plugging away, somehow got the hold and then never really looked back from there as she was dominant behind the first serve as Muchova faded.

Laura Siegemund d. Mona Barthel, 6-4 3-6 6-1

Barthel and Siegemund have both had some wonderful results in Stuttgart and played some very memorable matches over the years. Barthel reached the quarter-finals in 2012 with top 20 wins over Ana Ivanovic and Marion Bartoli, while Siegemund reached back-to-back finals in 2016 and 2017.

You could see both players were comfortable on the unique Stuttgart clay and there were some promising moments in this match. It was the 2017 champ, Siegemund, who advanced in three sets. The pair won exactly the same percentage of points behind their first serve (65%) and second serve (52%). However, it was Siegemund who maintained a much higher percentage of first serves in play (70% to Barthel’s 40%) which was ultimately the difference. Siegemund was the more consistent player and, as you would expect, had much more variety.

Siegemund’s reward is a date with the world number one, Ash Barty. On Siegemund’s favourite surface, should be a fun one!

Best of the rest 🎾

Anett Kontaveit opened her Stuttgart campaign with a 6-2 6-3 victory over German wild card, Julia Middendorf. Kontaveit has improved her performance in Stuttgart year-on-year with quarters, semis and final showings between 2017 and 2019. Title incoming?!

In her first match in Stuttgart, the number five seed, Aryna Sabalenka cruised past Zhang Shuai, 6-2 6-2. Zhang has lost her last six matches in straight sets 😞.

In a clash between two players ranked outside the world’s top 100, Anna-Lena Friedsam beat Ulrikke Eikeri, 6-2 6-0.

Press musings 📰

Highlights from the pre-tournament press in Stuttgart from WTA Insider. Halep is pain-free after the shoulder injury in Miami and Pliskova is still working with Bajin. Liked Barty’s quote about form.

Recommended media 📺

I’d recommend the new one-on-one series with Chris Evert which has just debuted this week on the WTA’s YouTube page. The premiere includes a roundtable interview with Martina Navratilova, Martina Hingis and Caroline Wozniacki. There’s also excellent interviews with Ash Barty and Simona Halep looking back at their careers so far. The WTA have advertised that Evert has done ten interviews with former world number ones so more to come!

Wednesday watchlist 📺

(7) Petra Kvitova vs. Maria Sakkari – Kvitova’s draw doesn’t get any easier. Both were impressive in their openers. I see this as a 50-50 match, could go either way.

(1) Ash Barty vs. Laura Siegemund – Marquee match of the day. The crowd would have lapped this one up!

(3) Sofia Kenin vs. Anett Kontaveit – Is the upset alert too obvious?!

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