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Elina Svitolina vs Petra Kvitova Qatar Total Open tennis live: Kvitova has won six matches in a row against Svitolina

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 14 Feb 2018
  • Elina Svitolina face Petra Kvitova, who is on a nine-match winning streak, in the third round of WTA Doha on Thursday
  • Svitolina vs Kvitova Qatar Total Open tennis is live from Doha on Thursday at 7pm local/4pm GMT
Elina Svitolina (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Will world no. 3 Elina Svitolina be the one to end the nine-match winning streak of Petra Kvitova when they meet in the third round of the Qatar Total Open on Thursday?

Physical freshness might be the key for world no. 3 Elina Svitolina as she tries to end a six-match losing streak against Petra Kvitova at the Qatar Total Open on Thursday.

Svitolina, one of nine top-10 WTA Tour players who was in the field at the start of the week – all of them still remaining at the time of writing – has established herself a serious force at the Premier-5 level, winning all three of the Premier-5 events she contested in 2017 (Dubai, Rome and Toronto). This year it’s the Qatar Total Open’s turn to be rated Premier-5 – it alternates for that honour with the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships – and Svitolina extended her winning streak at Premier-5 events to 15 matches when she opened her Doha campaign with a victory over Marketa Vondrousova. The last player to beat her at a Premier-5 event? None other than Kvitova, at the Wuhan Open in 2016. 

The Ukrainian, who had won just one match in three previous appearances at the Qatar Total Open, has every reason to feel great about her chances at the 2018 edition of the event. She comes into Doha at a career-high world no. 3 ranking after a career-best season in 2017, and a very bright start to 2018, winning her first ten matches of the year to claim the tenth career of her title at the Brisbane International (defeating top-10 players Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta) before making her first quarterfinal at the Australian Open. Svitolina might not feel too good about that Australian Open run, given that it saw her beat just one player ranked inside the top 100 and then crash out 4-6, 0-6 to the unseeded Elise Mertens in the last eight, but the Ukrainian was struggling with an injury which should mitigate that defeat. 

Moreover, Svitolina has had plenty of time to recover from that injury and that defeat – unlike many of the players in the Qatar Total Open field, including Kvitova, she didn’t play Fed Cup and hadn’t played a match since the Australian Open before Tuesday’s straight-sets victory over Vondrousova, which saw the third seed turn in a self-assured performance to defeat the talented Czech 6-2, 6-4.

Kvitova, meanwhile, has had a much heavier workload of late. The Czech crashed out of the Australian Open in the first round, losing 8-10 in the third to Andrea Petkovic to cap a disappointing January which saw her win just one match. But the two-time Wimbledon champion took a wildcard into the Premier-level St Petersburg Ladies Trophy the week after the Australian Open ended and made full use of it, beating Elena Vesnina, Irina-Camelia Begu, French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and the very in-form Julia Goerges to reach her first final since Birmingham last June, where she dropped just three games against defending champion Kristina Mladenovic to claim her twenty-first career title.

Kvitova, always a formidable indoors player and an excellent Fed Cup player, went on to extend her winning streak to seven matches when she stepped up to lead her country’s squad in singles when world no. 5 Pliskova suffered from a stomach illness, beating Viktorija Golubic and Belinda Bencic as part of a crushing victory for the Czech Republic over Switzerland.

Qatar Total Open 2018 live stream: WTA tennis live from Doha

With no first-round bye thanks to being ranked world no. 21 and hence seeded sixteenth in such a packed field, Kvitova had to make an extremely quick turnaround from indoor hard courts in Prague, where she played on Sunday, to her first match on the outdoor hard courts of Doha on Tuesday as she took on wildcard Cagla Buyukakcay. It seemed to work to her advantage as Kvitova came out swinging, playing the kind of instinctual, deadly tennis she excels at and recording a 6-0, 6-3 victory – but back on court the very next day, Kvitova had an extremely tough task against Agnieszka Radwanska, the Pole whose crafty game and superlative defense is simply a nightmare match-up for the Czech. Radwanska had won their last three matches and looked on the way to another victory when she took the first set 7-6(3) despite Kvitova having been up a break three times and serving for it once. But Kvitova orchestrated an excellent comeback, dominating the second set and then battling her way through the third to win 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4 in over two and a half hours. Her commitment to aggressive serving and going for her shots paid off, as she finished the match with 68% of points won behind her first serve and a total of 63 winners to 54 unforced errors. 

It was really a great victory for Kvitova and extended the three-time Qatar Total Open quarterfinalist’s winning streak to nine matches – but has the length and difficulty of the match hurt her chances of beating Elina Svitolina, especially when she has played so much tennis recently?

Kvitova has a superb record against Svitolina, having lost their very first match in Cincinnati in 2014 but won all six subsequent matches – five of the six in straight sets. But they haven’t played since the final of the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai at the end of the 2016 season, which was before both Kvitova’s career-threatening, surgery-requiring hand injuries and Svitolina’s elevation into first a top-10 and then a top-five player throughout 2017. Neither are the same player they were when Kvitova built that 6-1 record vs Svitolina, with the Ukrainian a much improved and more aggressive player as well as much more experienced at beating top opposition on big stages. Kvitova is perhaps more of an unknown quantity, both physically – she still doesn’t have full feeling in her left hand – and mentally. I think she’ll find Svitolina much more willing and able to dictate points than before, which means that unless Kvitova can dictate points herself – which relies on an excellent serving performance – from first to last, she’ll find herself on the back foot, and I’m not sure Kvitova has the energy after so many recent matches to win this Qatar Total Open contest from there. 

Svitolina vs Kvitova Qatar Total Open tennis is live from Doha on Thursday at 7pm local/4pm GMT

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Elina Svitolina vs Petra Kvitova Qatar Total Open tennis live: Kvitova has won six matches in a row against Svitolina

Physical freshness could be key for world no. 3 Elina Svitolina as she tries to end Petra Kvitova’s nine-match winning streak and reach the quarterfinals: WTA Qatar Total Open tennis live from Doha

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