The Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova will look to book her place in the last eight in Cincinnati when she takes on Kristina Mladenovic, once ranked as high as 10th in the world, in the third round. Kvitova’s excellent year has fallen into something of a slump of late, but a good performance in Ohio would do much to get it moving in the right direction once more. Mladenovic, however, has the quality to cause a shock. Who will come out on top?
Kvitova and Mladenovic have met five times on Tour so far in their careers. Mladenovic won the first, beating Kvitova 6-3 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Paris Indoors. Since then, however, Kvitova has dominated the head-to-head, winning four on the bounce without dropping a set. That run includes a 6-1 6-0 win in the first round of the US Open four years ago and a 6-3 6-4 win in Fed Cup action. Kvitova won their most recent meeting, in the St Petersburg final earlier this year, 6-1 6-2.
Path to the third round
Kvitova’s Canadian Open ended in a disappointingly one-sided third round loss to Kiki Bertens and so the news that her opening opponent in Cincinnati was to be none other than Serena Williams cannot have been welcome. Even less so after the American demolished Daria Gavrilova 6-1 6-2 in the first round. But Kvitova is rather more powerfully equipped than the Australian, and battled past Williams in three sets, 6-3 2-6 6-3, to reach the third round.
Mladenovic began her Cincinnati campaign against Germany’s tenth seed Julia Gorges, who recently made the Wimbledon semifinals (lost to Williams). Mladenovic began well against a Gorges who looked to be struggling physically and the German retired when trailing 4-6 2-3. That set up a second round clash with Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia. Mladenovic delivered one of her best performances in recent memory to crush Kuzmova 6-3 6-0.
How do they match up?
This match should provide an entertaining contest between two big-hitters. There are very few who can strike a bigger ball than Kvitova, who is comfortable dictating on both her forehand and backhand side, though it is the former that is her most impressive weapon. She is also equipped with a powerful serve, though it lacks the consistency of the more elite servers such as the Williams sisters. Where Mladenovic may be able to expose her is in her lack of mobility.
Mladenovic, though able to inject plenty of power into her groundstrokes, will not last long in this contest if she tries to match Kvitova blow for blow from the back of the court. Doing so will invite Kvitova to get into a rhythm she will find hard to break. But, Mladenovic may well be able to use her ability in the forecourt to her advantage. The Frenchwoman has twice been crowned a Grand Slam champion in doubles and is amongst the best volleyers on the WTA Tour.
Kvitova looked very impressive in defeating Williams in the second round. She also clearly enjoys the match up with Mladenovic having beaten her without dropping a set four times since 2013. Kvitova’s attacking style will also be favoured by the relatively fast courts in Ohio. Though she has struggled with consistency over the past couple of months, expect the Czech’s Cincinnati challenge to gather pace with a straight sets win.