Petra Kvitova could be excused for feeling some urgency at Wimbledon 2014. In her previous two Grand Slams she suffered a first round upset in Australia and made a third round exit in Paris, and the Czech arrived with the added concern of a right thigh injury that forced her withdrawal from Eastbourne.
But with a title, a semi-final and two quarter-finals in six previous appearances, there is no doubt that Kvitova rises a level at the All England Club and that was again the case as she recorded a 6-3, 6-0 win against her countrywoman Andrea Hlavackova.
While she was still a way from the form that would be required to replicate any of those standout results, Kvitova did enough to remind observers of how she defeated Maria Sharapova to become the Wimbledon champion in 2011.
“I'm glad that I'm through,” said Kvitova, who took 75 minutes to advance against the world No.118. “I mean, it’s the first round of the Grand Slam. Always tough for me, especially here when I feeling really like I’m at home.”
Competing against a countrywoman added to the challenge for Kvitova, who practised with Hlavackova during the Fed Cup semi-final in April. “It’s not easy to play Czech girls on the Grand Slams, on the tournaments,” said
Kvitova, the winner of their only other professional meeting at an ITF event in Prague seven years ago. “So definitely I was expecting a tough match. I'm just glad that I won the last point.”
Ultimately that was a case of the higher-ranked Czech countering some erratic patches – she hit 20 unforced errors and converted only four of 12 break point opportunities – with 29 winners, her power game providing an edge when pushed by Hlavackova in the first set.
Hlavackova is best known for her doubles success, winning the 2011 French Open and 2013 US Open with Lucie Hradecka, who watched some of this first round match from the terrace above Court Three.
A lower back injury that required treatment midway through the second set was undoubtedly an added disappointment but Hlavackova could take heart in contesting her first Grand Slam main draw since the same time last year, having failed to qualify for the US, Australian and French Opens that followed.
While Kvitova played with her thigh heavily strapped, she says that her injury is “much better now” and she appears mentally ready for her second round match with Mona Barthel, a straight sets winner over Romina Oprandi.
It helps that Kvitova feels so at home here in London, even if her previous good form also produces some pressure. “I don't think that it's pressure like 2012,” the Czech said, referencing the year in which she attempted to defend her Wimbledon title and lost to eventual champion Serena Williams in the quarter-finals. “But, I mean, I put pressure by myself (on) to me.”
With the prospect of a third round meeting with five-time champion Venus Williams looming, Kvitova noted that “the opponents that I'm playing knows that I can play good here. They are more motivated to beat me, definitely.”
At the same time, there is nothing quite like returning to the venue that’s produced her most memorable tennis moments so far. “Of course I am feeling pretty comfortable here,” she said. “But still I know I can play really good tennis here, so I'm trying to play that.”
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