Two-time former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova begins her quest for a first French Open title against Paraguay’s Veronica Cepede Royg. For Kvitova, by her own admission, every tennis match she is able to compete in is a dream come true after her career nearly came to a shocking end due to a knife attack. Since her return, she has had some excellent moments and will be hoping that more are on the way in Paris. Or will Cepede Royg pull off a big upset?
Kvitova and Cepede Royg have never before met on Tour, but there is a big difference in their respective levels of experience. Kvitova, the older of the two at 28, has 24 WTA singles titles to her name and 473 career wins. This year alone she has 30 wins and four titles. Cepede Royg is yet to win her first WTA singles title, and has 175 wins to her name. Whilst Kvitova has reached at least the quarterfinals at every Major, Cepede Royg has only ever been past the first round at the French Open, although she did reach the fourth round in Paris last season.
Last time out
Kvitova’s clay court season did not get off to the ideal start after back-to-back defeats in Charleston and Stuttgart, but the Czech managed to turn her form around in impressive fashion, first in front of her home fans in Prague and then in Madrid where she delivered some stunning performances to run all the way to the title, defeating Kiki Bertens in the final in three-sets. With her performances in Madrid having taken their toll, Kvitova withdrew from Rome in order to approach Roland Garros as ready as possible.
Cepede Royg’s ranking wasn’t high enough to earn her entry into the Premier WTA tournaments this clay court season, and as a result the Paraguayan has played most of her tennis away from the spotlight. It has not been a clay court swing full of success, although she did reach the final at an ITF event, losing in three sets to Viktoria Kuzmova. Last week in Nuremberg, she got the better of Kozlova, before losing in straight sets to eighth seed Katerina Siniakova in the second round.
How do they match up?
Central to Kvitova’s success throughout her career has been the devastating power she can call upon. The Czech epitomises the shift towards power-players that has arguably defined the past two decades on the WTA Tour. She has never managed to maintain the same level of consistency as the likes of the Williams sisters. That is doubtless the result of how much she goes for off both her forehand and backhand. But when she is in form, she can be unbeatable.
Cepede Royg does not have access to the same sort of power as Kvitova, and will be relying instead on consistency from the baseline to wear down her opponent and take the win. She will need to serve well, as neither her first nor second deliveries are particularly powerful, and thus can be attacked by aggressive returners, such as Kvitova. Cepede Royg would do well to bring Kvitova forward from the baseline as much as possible, as allowing the Czech too much rhythm will likely be costly.
Cepede Royg has yet to show in her career that she has the quality required to beat a player like Kvitova, although she did impress last year in defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round in Paris. But with the sort of form that Kvitova displayed in Prague and Madrid, this would seemingly present a sterner challenger still for the Paraguayan. Expect the eighth seed to reach the second round in straight sets.