Kvitova comes home strong: Things we learned

The two-time Wimbledon champion is back in the second week of Roland-Garros for the first time in five years.

Petra Kvitova, Roland Garros 2020© Julien Crosnier/FFT
 - Danielle Rossingh

Petra Kvitova staged an impressive recovery in the first set to overcome former junior Roland-Garros winner Leylah Fernandez 7-5, 6-3.

The Czech had trailed 5-1 in the first set, and saved two set points, before turning the match around with some impressive shot-making in a highly watchable contest on Court Suzanne-Lengle.

This is what we learned from the battle of the two lefties.

Cool under pressure

On the brink of losing the first set 6-1 to the youngest player in the draw, Kvitova never panicked. In possession of tremendous power off both wings, the Czech has learned over the years to bide her time before taking her chances.

“I was just waiting, trying to be patient, because I made so many mistakes,” the No.7 seed said after winning her 90th career main draw victory on clay with a vintage forehand. “She played really well and she pushed me a lot. She really gave me the pressure.

“It’s the tennis, it’s about a few points that’s clicking, and I was lucky it clicked on my side, today I really had to fight until the end."

Czech making up for lost time

Having reached the semi-final of Roland-Garros in 2012, where she lost to eventual champion Maria Sharapova, many predicted further deep runs for the Czech left-hander on the Parisian clay.

But despite winning five clay-court titles in her career, the 30-year-old had not reached the second week in Paris since 2015.

“I was unlucky last year when I had to withdraw from [Roland-Garros] because of my arm,” she said. “I’m really happy to be in the second week, for sure I’ve been waiting quite long to be in the second week of [Roland-Garros].”

Next up is China’s 39th-ranked Zhang Shaui. If Kvitova wins that, she will play the winner of the match between world No. 87 Laura Siegemund of Germany and the 66th-ranked Paula Badosa in the quarter-final.

Petra Kvitova, Roland Garros 2020© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Could this be Kvitova's year at last?

“To be honest, I'm not thinking that far,” the No.7 seed said. “I know how many great players are still in the draw and playing great and everything. I'm not a clay player, anyway. I mean, I'm enjoying playing on the clay, I grew up on the clay, but definitely there is more kind of specialists of the clay players here in the tournament.”

Just like most of her colleagues, Kvitova doesn’t like to look too much at the draw.

“After my match, my coach tells me who I am going to play next. That's how it is. I don't want to go that far away. I mean, I was in the semi-finals 2012. I know how it is. I know I can play well here. That's important for me.”

Leylah Fernandez, Roland Garros 2020, third round© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

Fernandez the real deal

The 18-year-old played as if she belonged on the big stage in the first half of the match, racing to a 5-1 lead against one of her idols.

But the momentum shifted when Kvitova saved two set points, regained the initiative in the rallies and won the next six games to take the first set 7-5.

“Very disappointed,” Fernandez said after bowing out in her Roland-Garros debut in the third round. “Today I just made too many mistakes when I was up, gave her momentum going back in.

"Then things happened. I just didn't follow my coach's game plan that they gave me in the beginning of the match. Too many mistakes here and there on key moments.”

Southpaw's move south a masterstroke

Born in Montreal, Canada, Fernandez moved to Florida with her mother, Irene, father, Jorge, and younger tennis-playing sister, Bianca, when she was 16 to advance her tennis career.

The move paid off as Fernandez rose to top spot in the junior rankings, and won the Roland-Garros junior title last year.

At the start of this year, she made the finals at Acapulco, where she lost to Britain’s Heather Watson. At 17 years and 177 days, she had been the youngest Canadian to reach a tour singles final in 34 years. 

She contested the main draw of all three majors held this season.

Room to improve

“I've been improving every Grand Slam,” she said. “I've won one round extra than the last one so it's good. I know what I need to work on. There's obviously a lot of things I got to work on today for the future, which that's what we're going to do in Florida.”

Kvitova is impressed.

“Definitely think that she is really playing great game,” she said. “She's a great mover. She catches a lot of balls, and if she has a chance, she's really going for it. It was really challenging today. I'm really happy I found a way even though it wasn't easy.”