x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Kvitova finding her feet among women's elite tennis players

The Australian Open would be an ideal setting for her to discover what it takes to be world No 1.

Petra Kvitova, left, could potentially face Caroline Wozniacki in the Australian Open final.
Petra Kvitova, left, could potentially face Caroline Wozniacki in the Australian Open final.

A year ago, Novak Djokovic announced the dawn of a new era in men's tennis by tearing through the Australian Open. He dropped only one set in seven matches, dispatched Roger Federer in the semi-finals and crushed Andy Murray in the final. Five months later, he was the world No 1.

Petra Kvitova seems primed to make a similar leap to the top: if she can make the Australian Open her second slam victory, after winning at Wimbledon last year, she will move from No 2 to No 1 before she leaves the Antipodes.

Kvitova, 21, has much to recommend her as a player. She is powerful, accurate, tenacious and left-handed, and lefties often discombobulate right-handers.

And in Melbourne she can address the lingering doubts about her: whether she is agile enough to bring her power to the fore, and whether she has the emotional make-up to be No 1.

A reticence on her part was reinforced ahead of the WTA tournament in Sydney last week, when Kvitova was asked if being No 1 were important to her. "Not really," she said. "My goal is only focus on my improving game."

Players, however, can come to terms with the notoriety of No 1.

"Petra's still growing into the idea she's a champion," said Mary Carillo, an American tennis analyst, in an interview with ESPN.

"She seems to me to be very shy. Now, Steffi Graf was private, but not exactly shy. She wanted to be No 1 and win majors. Petra's a self-conscious big girl. Just guessing here, but she seems shy about her carriage. That could all change if she starts liking this stuff. I hope she does. There's a lot to like."

Caroline Wozniacki remains No 1, and many have noted she seems comfortable in that role.

No fewer than six women could displace her as No 1 by the end of the month, with Kvitova already nipping at her heels.

The Czech won six championships last year, as many as did Wozniacki, but Kvitova won on grander stages, including the WTA Championships, where she defeated Wozniacki in group play, and at the All England Club.

She may not be tested in Melbourne until the quarter-finals, where she could face Marion Bartoli. Later, Serena Williams or Vera Zvonareva could be waiting in the semi-finals.

A final with Wozniacki, who also is 21, would be a fitting stage for deciding the world No 1 and perhaps heralding a new duelling duo at the top of the women's game.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae


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