Tennis: Fan favourite Kvitova relishes greener grass

Czech Petra Kvitova soaking up the adulation from the crowd at the Birmingham Classic. The former world No. 2 has become a sentimental favourite since suffering potential career-ending injuries last December.
Czech Petra Kvitova soaking up the adulation from the crowd at the Birmingham Classic. The former world No. 2 has become a sentimental favourite since suffering potential career-ending injuries last December.PHOTO: REUTERS

Petra is a quarter-finalist again but is just happy to be back on most successful surface

LONDON •Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was cheered as if she was the home player, after a straight-sets win over Britain's Naomi Broady in Birmingham on Wednesday carried her into a first quarter-final in eight months.

The applause was not intended as any slight to Broady, but as acknowledgement of an encouraging performance by the Czech, whose career may still be at risk from the injuries inflicted on her left playing hand by an intruder with a knife six months ago.

Kvitova did serve a few double faults but hit some fine ground strokes and moved better than she used to in a 6-2, 6-2 victory.

Broady, despite hitting six aces, was unable to get into the contest.

"I think I played a solid game, but I still think that I do still have some things that I can improve, which is always good to have," said Kvitova.

"I think I'm still not playing what I probably could play, but it's always taking some time and it will come with the time and with the practices and matches.

"So far, yeah, it was the fourth match after my comeback and I didn't think I'm playing badly."

The 27-year-old seemed taken aback when asked after the match if she knew that she was widely considered as one of the favourites for the tournament.

"I didn't hear that," said the former world No. 2. "I don't really care, it's too early.

"I am here to play tennis and I always love playing on grass.

"I think always in the beginning when I started playing some tournaments and first matches on the grass, it took me some time to get used to my movement and everything. And here, I don't know.

"I just came and I played well from the first practice. So I don't know what is it, but I'm happy for that."

Next up for her is either Kristina Mladenovic, the fifth-seeded French player or Zhang Shuai, the world No. 31 from China.

"Both of them play fast. That's what everyone is saying. I think both of them can play well on the grass with the big serve and with the flat shots," said Kvitova.

She may also find that she is fresher than anyone. Her match against Broady lasted 62 minutes on a day which was reportedly the hottest in the United Kingdom since 1976, with temperatures in the mid-30s.

Ability to withstand such heat may have been a factor in ninth-seeded Australian Daria Gavrilova's victory in 2hr 20min.

She won 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 against Katerina Siniakova, a rising young Czech who already has two wins over top-10 players this year.

Another win each today and Gavrilova and Kvitova would meet in tomorrow's semi-finals.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2017, with the headline 'Fan favourite Kvitova relishes greener grass'. Print Edition | Subscribe