Last year, Petra Kvitova lost her very first match in Stuttgart, falling to eventual semifinalist Madison Brengle. Twelve months later, however, the Czech got off to a significantly better start, not dropping a single game en route to a 6-0, 6-0 victory over American qualifier Louisa Chirico. As a result, it wasn’t a surprise that the Czech was in a rather cheery mood in her post match press conference and talked about working with her new coach, her decision to skip the Fed Cup tie and a lot more.
Over the course of her career, Petra Kvitova has learned to expect the unexpected. Sometimes, however — just like Tuesday in Stuttgart — she’ll surprise even herself.
“Yes, [today] was quick, I didn’t expect that!” Kvitova said with a smile after handing out a double bagel to American qualifier Louisa Chirico — a match in which she hit 29 winners.
Over the past two years, Stuttgart hasn’t yielded the greatest results for the Czech lefty, losing to Madison Brengle and Alisa Kleybanova early on in 2014 and 2015. Both times, Kvitova played Fed Cup the weekend ahead of Stuttgart, but this year she decided to change things up.
“I think two years in a row I lost in the first round here. It’s always the first match on the clay that is not really easy for me. So, I’m very glad how I handled it today. I spent two weeks on the clay already. I practiced before Stuttgart. I didn’t play Fed Cup because of it as well…I wanted to be ready for clay. That’s why I did this schedule.”
Still, the 26 year old was a little cautious when it came to her overall chances on the red dirt — a surface that’s yielded mixed results for her in previous years.
“About the expectations, I’m not sure,” she said. “I don’t want to put any pressure on myself. Of course, the main goal is to play well in Paris, as always. But it’s still few weeks and I have to defend the title in Madrid and the beginning of the season wasn’t really great. So, I knew that I have to put a lot to the practice session, working on it. So, we’ll see.”
Last week, Kvitova announced that she’s now working with a new coach: former Czech doubles expert Frantisek Cermak. The 39-year-old reached the final of the Australian Open and won the French Open in mixed doubles alongside compatriot Lucie Hradecka in 2013 — now he has joined Kvitova’s team and is scheduled to work with her at least until the end of 2016.
“Well, I don’t think that he wants to change anything,” the Czech said when asked about the first few weeks with Cermak. “I just think that he wants to build what is inside me, which is like aggressive play, serving well, going forward and doing a little bit drop shots and slice. I think the last few weeks we were working on staying near by the baseline and being a little bit quicker.”
Following her split from David Kotyza, the two-time Wimbledon champion decided to travel by herself and enjoy the freedom for a little while. Kvitova maintains that the time on her own served her well — but she’s also happy to be back in the rhythm and working environment of having a coach by her side.
“I’m glad about what I did, definitely. I have no regrets. It was a nice time as well to be a free person without a coach to do whatever you want, but on the other side, I think a coach is important, to have someone to help you with all the things on the court and off the court as well. I think I was okay through the weeks without a coach, and I’m glad that I found Franta [Frantisek Cermak].”
Throughout her weeks of solitude on tour, Czech media reported that Kvitova was specifically looking for a male coach, preferably someone calm — and she confirmed that was a criteria.
“If it’s a Czech journalist, they are always right!” she said half-earnestly, half deadpan and then broke into laughter. “I was looking for a male coach, yeah, especially a Czech one. I wanted kind of of course a calm, not a stressful person. The tour is stressful already, so I don’t need anybody around to be more stressed than me — and…that’s it!”
While the start to her season wasn’t what she expected, her series of subpar results to begin 2016 haven’t put the Czech on edge. Considering her instinctive and clean shot-making, it might not come as a complete surprise that 26-year-old isn’t prone to overthinking, regardless of good or bad results — and feels she’s probably better off for it.
“I think less thinking is the best, of course, it’s not easy,” the Czech laughed. “I have a feeling if you are thinking too much about the things around or about the game or whatever, you are not focusing as much as you really want. It wasn’t really easy and the matches afterwards, I had to fight really hard and I still lost — for example in Fed Cup when we played Romania. It was difficult for me but I felt okay, but it wasn’t the happy end. I think that if you are putting everything into the practices and everything what you’re are doing, one day [it] should pay off.”
Unlike the other players, including Garbiñe Muguruza, Kvitova is unable to partake in the Porsche parking challenge — due to a slight conflict of interests.
“I like driving, but I can’t do the test because I have a BMW….” Kvitova explained, with a smile before quickly adding, “…but I like the cars — they are very nice cars!”
If Kvitova keeps hitting the ball the way she did today, maybe she’ll have to entertain the thought of owning the lava-orange car parked in the corner of Centre Court. Before that, however, the No. 5 seed in Stuttgart will have to get through her second round match on Thursday — where she’ll face either Monica Niculescu or Caroline Garcia.