The case for: Petra Kvitova

She may not believe she's a favourite, yet Petra Kvitova rides an 11-match clay-court winning streak into Paris.

Petra Kvitova in action at Roland-Garros in 2017.© Philippe Montigny / FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

The prospect of Petra Kvitova modestly fending off questions regarding title favouritism for Roland-Garros 2018 would have been impossible to fathom 12 months ago.

The fact the two-time Wimbledon champion was able to set foot on a tennis court again in Paris was a triumph in itself last May.

Just six months after a knife attack in her home in Prostejov, the affable Czech was still struggling to feel the racquet in her left hand when she beat Julia Boserup.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands ended the fairytale return in round two in a pair of tie-break sets but amid the outpouring of praise in the wake of her comeback, life and work had already taken on a whole new approach for Kvitova.

Any match wins were a bonus from here on in.

“I will enjoy it more than previous years,” she said as her focus shifted to making her Wimbledon return.

Kvitova’s rehabilitation was as much mental as physical and it is an outlook that seemed to have carried over to her recent run of success on the clay, on what was typically her least-preferred surface.

Even now, after she hoisted her fourth trophy of the season in Madrid, she laughed dismissively when pressed on whether winning the season’s second major was a sane proposition or completely crazy.

“It’s crazy,” she grinned.

Don’t read too much into this deflection of favouritism. Deep down the self-effacing Kvitova has the big-match mentality to win a maiden Roland-Garros crown. And she knows it.

Two Grand Slam titles in the bag from as many finals and an imposing 24-7 career record in tour finals are testament to the 28-year-old’s status.

“I think I've been in [a] semifinal one year,” she said, almost flippantly of her Roland-Garros record. That was in 2012, when she bowed to eventual champion Maria Sharapova.

“Probably I can play well there. But … I know how tough it is. Winning Prague and here [Madrid], it made me very happy. On the other hand, a Grand Slam is a different story. It’s different attitude, different balls.

“For me, I'm going there trying to play better than the last time. I don't know, I don't want to put any pressure on me in a way. I think there are maybe better players playing on the clay. We'll see what happens over there.”

The fact is there really aren’t too many others playing as well, let alone better than the Czech on the clay right now. She beat higher-ranked compatriot Karolina Pliskova and proven dirt-baller Kiki Bertens back to back on her way to a record third Madrid title earlier this month. It came on the back of the Prague Open trophy on home soil a week prior.

A well-earned break was called for as she withdrew from Rome and it meant she would arrive fresher in Paris, riding an 11-match winning streak and boasting four titles in the first five months of the season.

Given the endless merry-go-round of women sharing the big titles in recent years and with slam-winning peers Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka still in the early stages of their comebacks, an in-form Kvitova has never been better placed for a title run in Paris.

It's certainly not as crazy a proposition as the Czech makes out.