World #5 Petra Kvitova heads into the US Open hoping to improve on her quarterfinal run last year. That showing was the second time in the last three years that she has reached the last eight, but, having made at least the semifinals at the other Grand Slams, she will be keen to go a step further. Her first opponent is Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer, the world #94. Wickmayer reached the semifinals in New York in 2009, but has otherwise struggled to get past the early stages. Who will come out on top?
This will be the ninth match between the pair, with the head-to-head tied at 4-4. The last of these matches, however, came over five years ago in 2013. They have twice played at a Major, one of these times being during Wickmayer’s run to the semifinal in 2009, during which she defeated Kvitova in three tight sets in the round of 16. Two years later they met at Wimbledon, and that time it was Kvitova getting it done easily with a 6-2 6-0 win.
Last time out
Kvitova heads into the tournament after a relatively strong start to the hard court season. Her last tournament saw her defeat Agnieszka Radwanska and Zarina Diyas on the way to a quarterfinal in New Haven, though she was forced to retire after just one set against Carla Suarez Navarro. A week earlier, she made the semifinals in Cincinnati, beating Serena Williams in three sets along the way, but will have been frustrated by her defeat to Kiki Bertens there.
Wickmayer has had a very different lead into the US Open. Her last event was the ITF event in Vancouver, in which she beat world #163 Julia Glushko before losing to world #287 Rebecca Marino of Canada in the second round. She did, however, compete at Wimbledon last month, and managed to make it through to the third round, her best Grand Slam performance since 2015, though she took a heavy loss there at the hands of Donna Vekic.
How do they match up?
Expect plenty of big-hitting in this match up between two tall, powerful women. Kvitova, in particular, is renowned for her aggressive style. She has a strong serve, and as a left-hander is able to force opponents out wide regularly. She can summon plenty of power from both wings, but is particularly aggressive on the forehand side. That shot is her biggest weapon and the one that has twice taken her to a Grand Slam crown.
Wickmayer will need to serve well and return aggressively. She has the ability to do both, and she is confident in taking second serves on early. Kvitova will have to avoid allowing her too many looks at second serves. But both will be aware that the Czech has the advantage off the ground and as a result expect Wickmayer to attempt to keep the points short and rely on first-strike tennis to pull off the upset win.
Kvitova will be too strong in this one. Wickmayer is a talented player and has shown her quality at this tournament in the past, but her semifinal run in New York was almost a decade ago now. She is no longer the player she was when she made that memorable run and a repeat of it seems exceedingly unlikely. Kvitova, however, has been performing well at the top level so far this hard court season. Kvitova in straight sets.