Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kvitova: the game's great mystery

So before I get into the subject of the headline, let me make this post disclaimer:

I don't like to see top 10 players, or those that can make a run at a Major, in action the week before a Slam.

It's deep-rooted from watching Andre Agassi dominate the summer of '95, winning everything up until the eve of the U.S. Open, then falling short in the final. What if he'd dropped New Haven from his schedule? Would he have been sharper for the Open? Plus, the fact that he had to work hard in that New Haven final might've sapped him however minutely for New York. I guess you can't tell, but why chance it?

And to today's players: If Double-A couldn't do it...

Anyway, fast-forward more than 20 years later to now, switch tours and surfaces, and you have the WTA stop in Eastbourne, the last warmup for the women before Wimbledon. There's more top 10 women there than there are in the top 10! (Just kidding, obviously: That's what we writers call "a witty line.") Seriously, though, there are four of them in the draw and one right outside of it, two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova.

Now if there's any player I'll ever give a free pass to playing the week before a tournament, it's Kvitova. She could win Eastbourne then get bounced in the first round at the Big W. Or vice versa. You just never can tell.

She has to be on anyone's short list to hoist the Venus Rosewater dish at the end of the fortnight, and that's despite the fact she's only reached one semifinal on the season so far. 2016 has seen her fall to the likes of  Saisai Zheng, Daria Gavrilova, Shelby Rogers, etc.

This year is almost a near-mirror of what she went through in 2014: Back then, pre-Wimbledon, it was Alisa Kleybanova, Luksika Kumkhum and Heather Watson among the players notching victories against the potential Hall of Famer. At Wimbledon, she breezed through her first two matches, then got into an epic struggle with Venus Williams before just escaping. After that, the rest of the tournament was a breeze.

Aside from Serena Williams, it's hard to tab anyone as a favorite for the title this year. Maybe last year's finalist Garbine Muguruza? It'll be interesting to see how the Spaniard follows up her French Open title. Kvitova should be in the mix, too.

Or not: You just can't tell.

(Photo: AP)

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