Petra Kvitova kicks off Stuttgart defense, ousts Jennifer Brady

Petra Kvitova kicks off Stuttgart defense, ousts Jennifer Brady

The 2019 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix champion won a fifth straight match in Stuttgart, knocking out Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady in straight sets to book an intriguing second round with Maria Sakkari.

Petra Kvitova kicked off her long-awaited 2019 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix title defense with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Australian Open runner-up Jennifer Brady.

“I left here two years ago with the trophy and it was just an unbelievable,” Kvitova said on the court. “Playing indoors is my favorite. It’s clay and a little bit slippery, but on the other hand, it’s the same for everyone, so I just try to keep it going with my aggressive game plan.”

The No. 7 seed was unable to return to Stuttgart last year due to COVID-19 and the tour-wide lockdown, but even in the face of a Top 15 first-round opponent, continued to prove effective on indoor clay to clinch victory in 92 minutes on Center Court.  

“When the draw came out, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a good first round, for sure!’ The field here is unbelievable. It was like a quarterfinal or semifinal of a Grand Slam, so definitely this is a huge tournament for everyone.”

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Though Brady had lost her two previous encounters with Kvitova, the American has made massive improvements since the two faced off at the 2020 Brisbane International, reaching the US Open semifinals in addition to the final in Melbourne two months ago.

Consistency has nonetheless evaded the unseeded Brady of late, and she came into the clay-court season having lost her last three (now four) matches.

"Four losses in a row? Whoopdie doo," Brady said after the match. "Big deal. I'm not really thinking about that. It's the first match on clay, and if I were to look back at my performance at Roland Garros compared to my match here, I feel I've made drastic improvements in my game on clay, and I'm looking forward to my next opportunities."

Kvitova enjoyed more solid results after the Australian Open—winning her 28th career title at the Qatar Total Open—and adjusted more quickly against Brady on Tuesday, saving three break points (two in the fifth game, one in the seventh) before winning eight of the final 10 points in the opening set.

“I was struggling on my serve many times," Kvitova said. "She had a few break points and somehow, I just kept going. I had an opportunity in the last game of the first set, and I really took it. From then, I started playing much better than in the beginning.”

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A marathon fourth game defined the second set; spanning six deuces, Brady had four chances to hold, only for Kvitova to keep pressing and ultimately secure the decisive break.

The world No. 14 made a last stand as she served to stay in the match, fighting off a pair of match points, but only postponed the inevitable as Kvitova served out the contest on her fourth opportunity.

In all, Kvitova played the cleaner match with 27 winners to 25 unforced errors, and saved all three break points faced over two sets. Brady’s first serve lacked the necessary potency—making just 60% of them—and ended the match with 14 winners to 20 unforced errors.

Things won’t get easier for the two-time Wimbledon champion, who will next face Maria Sakkari after the Greek No. 1 eased past former world No. 9 Andrea Petkovic in straight sets Monday.

The two have split their last four meetings, and all but one has gone to a deciding set. Kvitova rallied from a set down the last time they played at the 2020 Australian Open, but was forced to retire from their only clay-court clash at the 2019 Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

“I thought I had a day off tomorrow, but good. We’ve played many times. I played her on clay, as well, but these are different conditions, so I’m looking forward to playing her. She’s a great girl and a great player, so I’m definitely looking forward.”

Earlier in the day, 2017 champion Laura Siegemund won a German derby with countrywoman Mona Barthel to book a second round with world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who will be making her Stuttgart debut later this week. Anett Kontaveit reached the final in 2019 and was also victorious in her return, dispatching German qualifier Julia Middendorf in straight sets.