The case for: Petra Kvitova
Title contenders Petra Kvitova and Elina Svitolina are building momentum after straight-sets victories.
Straight-sets triumphs were done and dusted almost simultaneously on Wednesday before they strolled into press minutes apart with an air of calm as though they’d both spent a morning taking a casual stroll along the Seine.
Not to get too far ahead of themselves, Kvitova and Svitolina have firmed as Grand Slam favourites before and fallen short. But after both extended their clay-court winning streaks – Kvitova now out to 13, Svitolina to seven – there was no doubt these were the two who had set the Roland-Garros benchmark high early on in 2018.
Kvitova was first to stamp her mark and what a turnaround it was from her laborious opening-round assignment, in which she trudged through a two-hour-plus three-setter against Veronica Cepede Royg.
On Wednesday, Spanish baseliner Laura Arruabarrena was on the receiving end of a 6-0 6-4 walloping.
“I'm happy I saved some energy compared to the first round,” Kvitova beamed. “But on the other hand, I think sometimes it's really important to get through a very tough match, even when I was in the first round, but I was a game away from losing and going home. So sometimes it's just more relief. I played better today.”
Kvitova is enjoying a career-best run on the red dirt after titles in Prague and Madrid leading in to Paris this year.
She next meets Estonian 25th seed Anett Kontaveit for her first appearance in a Roland-Garros fourth round since 2015.
“I don't think I have any secret,” Kvitova said of her unbeaten run. “I just worked pretty hard to get ready physically, not only for the clay. It's been already from the offseason. Obviously on the clay it's a little bit different, and I had a great preparation, as well. I wasn't injured, so I really could go for it. So far it's really working well.”
Svitolina, meanwhile, entered Roland-Garros with an 8-2 record on the clay this season, after her first-round comeback from 1-5 down in the opening set to deny Ajla Tomljanovic and the successful defence of her Rome title.
Her coach had touted her 20-year-old opponent, Viktoria Kuzmova, as a future top-20 player and after a win over former champion Francesca Schiavone in the opening round, Svitolina was not taking the Slovak lightly.
Her 6-3, 6-4 victory booked a third-round assignment against Romanian 31st seed Mihaela Buzarnescu.
“I think I'm doing good, handling the pressure of early rounds,” Svitolina said. “She really was returning well and all the credit is to her. But in the end I'm very happy I could break back and then finish the match in two sets.”
Should Kvitova and Svitolina continue their stellar form they could cross paths in the semi-finals. It would be uncharted territory for the 23-year-old Svitolina, and if she was to reach a maiden slam final there is one fan sure to be cheering her on – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
“It's very nice of him that he follows the sport. I know he likes tennis, so it's something really nice,” she grinned.
“Definitely representing the Ukraine and doing something for my country is very, very special. When I was growing up, it was definitely my dream to do that in front of so many people.”