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Kvitova vs Sabalenka tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Shenzhen champion Sabalenka faces Kvitova in Sydney first round

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 7 Jan 2019
  • Petra Kvitova faces Aryna Sabalenka in the first round of the Apia International Sydney on Tuesday
  • Kvitova vs Sabalenka is live from Sydney on Tuesday at 12pm local/1am GMT
Petra Kvitova (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Former Apia International Sydney champion Petra Kvitova faces a mammoth challenge from fast-rising Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the first round on Tuesday.

Can Petra Kvitova avenge her US Open defeat to Aryna Sabalenka as she takes on the Shenzhen champion in the first round of the Apia International Sydney?

Kvitova won the Premier-level WTA Sydney title in 2015, defeating compatriot Karolina Pliskova in the final, but did not return to the tournament until 2018, when she suffered a straight-sets defeat to Camila Giorgi in the round of 16 after Mirjana Lucic-Baroni retired against her in the first round – preparation that proved less than ideal for the Australian Open, where Kvitova was defeated in the first round by Andrea Petkovic in a mini-epic that ended 8-10 in the third set.

The left-hander would go on to have a very successful 2018 season on the WTA Tour, winning a quintet of titles in St Petersburg, Doha, Prague, Madrid and Birmingham and reclaiming her place in the top 10, an incredible achievement after having suffered career-threatening injuries to her playing hand during a knife attack at her home in late 2016. She also qualified for the WTA Finals Singapore among her achievements, but at Grand Slam level there was a noticeable drop in her results, with Wimbledon joining Melbourne on her list of locations where she had suffered first-round defeats, while her French and US Open campaigns were ended in the third round – on both occasions by powerful, in-form younger players who succeeded in knocking her out in straight sets: Anett Kontaveit at Roland Garros and Sabalenka herself in New York.

Unable to participate in the Fed Cup final due to illness (the Czech Republic still won), Kvitova posted cheery updates from her off-season and got off to a winning start in Brisbane when she overcame the tricky Danielle Collins in three sets, 6-7(6), 7-6(6), 6-3. But her campaign came to an end at the hands of one of those players who had beaten her at Grand Slam level in 2018 as she lost 5-7, 6-7(1) to Kontaveit. Will the same thing happen in Sydney?

Sabalenka comes into the Premier-level Apia International Sydney on a high after making a dream start to her season in Shenzhen, where she captured her first WTA Tour title of the season. The campaign was not without its challenges – Sabalenka dropped a set to Tatjana Maria in the first round, then after beating Ekaterina Alexandrova had to face Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, and due to rain congesting the schedule she had to play her semifinal and final on the same day, beating Wang Yafan and Alison Riske on Saturday to claim the title.

Aryna Sabalenka in action in Shenzhen (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
But Sabalenka also didn’t face the same calibre of opponent as those who pack the Sydney draw – Sharapova should have been her toughest opposition, but the Russian, suffering from a left thigh strain and with her shoulder heavily taped, retired trailing 1-6, 2-4. So Sydney, and this first-round clash with Kvitova, will be another great opportunity to see where Sabalenka is ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year. 

Currently ranked world no. 11, Sabalenka won eight of the 12 matches she played against top-10 opponents in 2018 – the majority of them from August onwards, as the powerful Belarusian beat seven of the eight top-10 opponents she faced during her spectacular second half of the season surge which saw her follow runner-up finishes in Eastbourne and Lugano with her first WTA title at the Premier-level Connecticut Open in New Haven, then a second at the Premier-5 level Wuhan Open, as well as reaching the round of 16 at the US Open before losing to Naomi Osaka.
Sabalenka’s audacious brand of power tennis and her on-court expressiveness quickly caught the imagination of the tennis-watching world and although she narrowly missed out on qualifying for the WTA Finals and on breaking into the top 10 for the first time, the perception is that both those things can only be a matter of time. 

Sabalenka has had to make a swift transition from Shenzhen, where it was cold and rainy, to Sydney (where it has also been a bit rainy, but not cold) and with five matches on her legs already, including the exertion of two in one day. Against that has to be off-set the fact that she is much more match-fit than Kvitova.

Kvitova and Sabalenka have played twice – in Miami last March, when Kvitova won in three sets, and the aforementioned US Open match, in which Sabalenka edged the first set before running away with the second. This Sydney clash should be much closer to the Miami one, without Kvitova’s Grand Slam nerves getting in the way. The conditions in Sydney are great for Kvitova, she should be fresh and fit and she should have learned plenty from her last encounter with Sabalenka. If the Czech can produce a strong serving performance, she should have the opportunity for some US Open revenge – and to book herself a place in the second round in Sydney.

Kvitova vs Sabalenka tennis is live from Sydney on Tuesday at 12pm local/1am GMT

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Kvitova vs Sabalenka tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Shenzhen champion Sabalenka faces Kvitova in Sydney first round

Petra Kvitova vs Aryna Sabalenka live streaming, preview and predictions for the WTA Apia International Sydney first-round match on Tuesday 8 January: Kvitova lost to Sabalenka at the US Open – can she get revenge in Sydney?

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