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Kvitova's coach says 'bigger heart' will win the Australian Open final

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 25 Jan 2019
  • Petra Kvitova takes on Naomi Osaka in the 2019 Australian Open final
  • Kvitova's coach Jiri Vanek says 'bigger heart' will be crucial in battle of two powerful hitters
  • First meeting between Kvitova and Osaka
Petra Kvitova is bidding for her first Grand Slam title in five years at the Australian Open (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Petra Kvitova's coach says the 'bigger heart' will triumph in the Australian Open final.

Jiri Vanek believes courage and determination will be critical as his charge Petra Kvitova faces off with the equally powerful Naomi Osaka in the 2019 Australian Open final on Saturday.

Speaking to the media on Friday, Vanek - who has been Kvitova's coach since the end of the 2016 season - gave his take on an enticing but unpredictable Australian Open final as Kvitova and Osaka face off for the first time.

'Naomi of course is a great player, and she plays similar game like Petra,' Vanek said. 'She go for winners. Petra go for the winners.

'You don't have the time to make some great tactics. Especially Petra, it's not like the runner who is pushing the balls back. Both of them are playing so fast. I think who is going to have bigger heart and she can do it.'

Kvitova with Vanek after she won the Qatar Total Open in Doha in February 2018 (KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Both women are exceptionally powerful ball-strikers who like to play attacking tennis and end points quickly with a combination of a big serve and a powerful forehand. Osaka has hit more aces - 50 to Kvitova's 26 - but Kvitova has been winning more points behind her first and second serve. 

Kvitova has had an easier route through the draw and has spent less time on court, going a perfect 12-0 in sets and dropping a combined total of 28 games, while Osaka has had to battle through three-set matches against Su-Wei Hsieh, US Open semifinalist Anastasija Sevastova and seventh seed Karolina Pliskova. Kvitova should have more energy thanks to her easier route through the draw, but that is offset by the fact that Osaka is seven years younger than the Czech and that Kvitova played five matches the week before the Australian Open, too, winning the title at the Apia International Sydney.

Kvitova has an excellent record in finals, having won 26 of the 33 she has played throughout her career, including the Wimbledon finals in 2011 and 2014 when she demolished Maria Sharapova and Eugenie Bouchard respectively. She has also won the last eight she has played, a winning streak stretching back to the autumn of 2016. 

Osaka has only played a handful of finals, but the biggest ones - Indian Wells and the US Open in 2018 - she came through in superb style.

'Naomi was once in the final and Petra was twice, so it's not too much more experience in the Grand Slam final,' Vanek said.

'I told her before that I'm not gonna prepare her something different. Just enjoy her game, think about yourself. Don't look who is on the other side, with opponent. Just play yourself and believe yourself and believe your power. Then that's it.

'We just try to put her to her bubble. Then she find her killer instincts.'

The winner of Saturday's final will also become the world no. 1. If Kvitova wins, at 28 she will be the oldest woman to rank world no. 1 for the first time - and she will have crowned what is already an incredible comeback from the botched burglary at her home in December 2016 which left the Czech with career-threatening injuries to her dominant hand after she was attacked with a knife by the intruder.

Since returning in May 2017 even before her surgically-repaired hand was back to full strength - which it may never be - Kvitova has won six WTA Tour titles and climbed back into the top 10, but she struggled for wins at Grand Slam level. A quarterfinalist at the US Open in 2017, in 2018 Kvitova went 6-4 at the Grand Slams, crashing out in the first rounds of the Australian Open and Wimbledon and in the third rounds of the French and US Opens.

Kvitova after losing to Petkovic at the 2018 Australian Open (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
After losing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round at Wimbledon, Kvitova said that her nerves were sometimes her biggest opponent on the court when it came to Grand Slams, and she elaborated on that on Friday.

'I think was one of [the toughest moments was] just last year when I lost to Petkovic in my first round here, which I felt really terrible,' Kvitova said on Friday. 'Of course, losing in Wimbledon was hurting a lot, as well, at the time.

'I think those two losses were really tough for me. Was especially in the Grand Slams, of course. The feeling how I felt wasn't really nice. Sometimes I'm probably too stressed and it's not really great.'

Vanek thinks that Kvitova has been putting too much pressure on herself to get big results to reward her team, because of the gratitude she feels for them sticking with her after she was attacked and during the long, painful process of rehabilitation.

'Before she was, like, so many people around her, and she said, Yeah, for them, I want to come back for them and I want to do for them,' Vanek said.

'Sometimes she [cares too much] about other people than herself. So I just [keep] telling her every day, It's your tennis. It's up to you. You are a two-time Wimbledon champion. Nobody else can judge you. Just play for yourself.

'In the beginning, she was still, like, Yeah, You were so nice to me, my fitness coach was nice to me, my parents, everybody around. She was too much focused on some other people than herself. So I think this just changed. She's now taking much [more] seriously about herself.'

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Kvitova's coach says 'bigger heart' will win the Australian Open final

Petra Kvitova's coach Jiri Vanek believes courage and determination will be critical as his charge faces off with the equally powerful Naomi Osaka in the 2019 Australian Open final on Saturday

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