Birmingham - Two-time Wimbledon champion
Petra Kvitova renewed her love affair with grass on Tuesday with a
near-perfect start on Tuesday to the Birmingham WTA tournament, a
Wimbledon warm-up event.
Her fine serving and deceptive flat
hitting earned a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Lucie Safarova, who is a
childhood friend, fellow Czech, fellow left-hander and even a hitting
partner at their home club in Moravia.
Mentally the match was not
much of a contest - even though Safarova ended 2015 in the world's top
ten for the first time - but it did become a stage for Kvitova to show
that she might still be a leading contender on this surface.
"I always feel great on grass," Kvitova said after a purring, high-speed performance.
love grass. My style of game just works on it. I like being here and at
Wimbledon. I have great memories, and I just wish the grass court
season could be longer.
"This was almost perfect for me today. I
think I served well and timed the ball well. Normally I have problems
with my movement at the beginning on grass, but today I felt I was good
with that as well."
Kvitova's speedy success also enabled her to
finish before the arrival of the rain, which soon afterwards interrupted
two other matches for lengthy periods.
Kvitova was quick to
emphasise that she needs many more matches on this surface, both here
this week and at Eastbourne next week, before being confident of
challenging for a third Wimbledon title.
However, health issues, personal problems, and an absence of titles for ten months, means that doubts will linger.
smooth start was emphasised by the stop-start beginning for the
titleholder, Angelique Kerber, who trailed Peng Shuai, the former top 20
Chinese player, by 3-4 before an angry-looking cloud sent them running
to the club-house.
The second seeded German has not found life
easy after her stunning Grand Slam triumph in Australia at the start of
the year, with five first round losses, and the three and a half hour
interruption was one of the last things she needed.
Kerber had difficult moments in a pivotal tie-break but was
sufficiently consistent to complete a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 success without
ever being at her best against a tricky opponent.
on grass are not easy," Kerber said. "Returning after the rain I was
careful with my movement because it was slippery in the corners.
I tried to stay focussed, and I'm pleased with the win. I get down low
well and I think my game adapts well to this surface."
another Czech, the eight-seeded Karolina Pliskova, lost 6-4, 7-6(9-7) to
Barbora Strycova, in another rain-blighted contest.
was not such a surprise as Pliskova had five matches last week in
winning the Nottingham title, and was far from fresh. Strycova is also a
former finalist in Birmingham.
It was a patience-testing day for
Agnieszka Radwanska, the top seed, who could get through only eight
games against CoCo Vanderweghe and had to tolerate three interruptions.
seed Belinda Bencic, fifth seed Carla Suarez Navarro and Caroline
Wozniacki, the former world number one, all waited steadfastly but
failed to get on court.
Results from the WTA Birmingham tournament on Tuesday (x denotes seeding):
Petra Kvitova (CZE x5) bt Lucie Safarova (CZE) 6-3, 6-2
Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) bt Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) 6-4, 6-2
Barbora Strycova (CZE) bt Karolina Pliskova (CZE x8) 6-4, 7-6(7-3)
Angelique Kerber (GER x2) bt Peng Shuai (CHN) 7-6(7-3), 6-3
Andrea Petkovic (GER) bt Magda Linette (POL) 6-4, 6-2