By Ros Satar, in Stuttgart
- After facing and losing to Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova at home in the Fed Cup, two-time Porsche Tennis Grand Prix champion Angelique Kerber faces the tricky lefty again
- We also get a quick look ahead as Kerber forsakes the fabulous (!) British weather for Mallorca
STUTTGART, GERMANY – For the second time in as many weeks Angelique Kerber will come face to face over the net with Petra Kvitova and this time wants to change the result.
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One of the peculiarities that plagues the WTA tennis calendar at this time is the staging of the Fed Cup semi-finals on the eve of the start of the European clay court season. All too often since covering the tournament, we have seen the bleary eyes of the German team flying in from the other side of the world to compete in their home tournament.
Often it took a toll on their performances, but the last two years Germany have played host to their opponents, and despite the heroics of current German No. 1 Julia Goerges, the tie was won by a super-sharp Petra Kvitova taking advantage of a tense and nervy Angelique Kerber and sealing victory for the Czechs for the sixth time in eight years.
Fast forward to Wednesday and they will be doing battle once more, in the first round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, where first round matches often feature the players you would expect to find at the business end of the tournament. Can Kerber change the script?
Well she can certainly change her hotel (and to give her credit, she did at least find that amusing from this whole scenario), but what can she do to kick on a little from what has, to be fair, not been a bad year – by maybe anyone else’s standards.
Having reached the pinnacle of World No. 1 following a tremendous year with two Grand Slam titles and a Wimbledon final to her name, the pressures incumbent on a newly minted No. 1 took its toll. Kerber struggled to find form, her ranking spiralled.
Fast forward though to 2018 and a run to the Australian Open together with what many felt was actually the de-facto final between Kerber and current World No 1 Simona Halep and it looked as though normal service had been resumed.
Meanwhile for Kvitova, last year heralded her return almost a year ago from an horrific knife attack in her home that could have ended her career for good. This year it very much feels as business as usual, and her year has seen her win back to back finals in St. Petersburg and Doha already.
Their results have been quite competitive, and we hope to see more of the same because it remains a sense of bafflement why Kerber would be struggling when you look at her results this year. She has reached quarter-finals or better in each of her events this year.
Maybe mentally she feels like clay is just not her thing, but even that can’t explain her kind of block seeing as she is now the proud owner of two Porsches.
The slick surface will favour first strike tennis, and when Kvitova is on, she is unstoppable. Conversely though, when she has an off day, she has a very off day. We would suggest that maybe Kvitova utilises her ‘leftiness’ a little more subtly than Kerber, who has long used it just to start a point. Yet in Australia – it was her increased potency of serve that carried her though to that nail-biter against Halep.
Kerber said: “I know it’s always tough against Petra. I played against her yesterday and for me I have a nice chance to play against her in a few more days. I will try and take the challenge, go out there and try to change a few things and try to do it better than I did [on Sunday].
“I changed my hotel – so this is the one thing that I changed now (laughs). I’m still in the same place and it’s not the first time that I have the situation. A lot of times before we played the Fed Cup ad the day after I start the tournament so it’s nothing new. For me it’s actually nice, I’m at home, I play in front of my home crowd, I have friends and family hear with me, it’s a nice feeling.”
What we will not see this year sadly is Kerber back for another crack at the (now) Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham. A couple of torrid years since her win in 2015 thanks to the British weather sees Kerber head for sunnier shores and the (literally) warm up tournament in Mallorca – while the rest of us gamely battle with trench foot in the heart of the country.
“For me it was important to have a good preparation before Wimbledon. I know in Mallorca the weather is a little bit better than in England (laughs) so this was why I choose to play there. I know that I can go there a little bit earlier to practice preparing n the grass court. I never played there. I decided to play different tournaments and in Mallorca there are also a lot of German fans so that’s why I choose to play instead Mallorca.”
Kerber and Kvitova play on Wednesday, not before 6:30pm (5:30 pm BST)
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