Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic collide in top 10 showdown at the China Open on Wednesday as the pair battle…
Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic collide in top 10 showdown at the China Open on Wednesday as the pair battle it out for a place in the quarter-finals.
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World No. 7 Petra Kvitova brings a 3-1 record over World No. 10 Belinda Bencic into their China Open Round of 16 encounter in Beijing on Wednesday – but the Swiss won their last clash in Dubai earlier this season. Who emerges triumphant in this star-studded top 10 contest in the Chinese capital on Wednesday evening?
Kvitova, a former China Open runner-up in 2014 and a further two-time semi-finalist at the Premier Mandatory event, got off to a relatively comfortable start in her opening match, winning her ninth match in 10 meetings against Kristina Mladenovic, prevailing 6-4 6-4 to move into the third round. It was Kvitova’s third straight sets win over Mladenovic this season as she broke serve three times in the one hour and 25 minute victory.
The Czech is looking to finish off the year strongly and qualify for the WTA Finals in Shenzhen after an up-and-down season. Kvitova began 2019 with a bang as she won the Apia International title in Sydney and advanced to her first Grand Slam final outside of Wimbledon, falling to Naomi Osaka in a tight three-setter at the Australian Open. Kvitova would go on to finish runner-up in Dubai, make the quarter-finals in Miami and become the WTA’s first multiple-time champion of 2019 when she took home the title in Stuttgart, but after reaching the quarter-finals of Madrid, the Czech suffered a forearm injury that subsequently caused her to withdraw from Roland Garros and the Rogers Cup, and while she managed to play Wimbledon (making the R16), Cincinnati and the U.S. Open, she was still struggling with the problem.
Taking nearly a month off after a second round U.S. Open exit to Andrea Petkovic, Kvitova returned to action last week in Wuhan and scored some good wins over Polona Hercog, Sloane Stephens and Dayana Yastremska before going down 5-7 5-7 to Alison Riske in the semi-finals. It was a positive return for Kvitova – can she continue to build on it when she meets a fellow top 10 star on Wednesday?
Belinda Bencic will be aiming to reach the China Open quarter-finals for the first time in her career after two contrasting wins so far this week. The Swiss cruised past Hsieh Su-Wei in straight sets in the opening round, but was forced to save two match points in a dramatic three-setter against Venus Williams in the second round, coming back from a set down to emerge victorious by a 3-6 6-3 7-5 scoreline.
After working her way back into competition last year following years of injury setbacks, Bencic has been back playing her best tennis this season, putting together an incredible 12-match winning streak between February and March, helping Switzerland to a Fed Cup victory before going on a magical run at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, conquering four top 10 players on the trot, including Aryna Sabalenka, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Kvitova in the final. Bencic went on to reach the semi-finals of the Premier Mandatory BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells at her next tournament, claiming the scalp of defending champion Osaka in the fourth round and Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals before she was eventually stopped by Angelique Kerber.
That run saw Bencic shoot back into the top 20, and after making the semi-finals in Madrid, finishing runner-up in Mallorca and making her first Grand Slam semi-final at the U.S. Open last month, defeating Osaka for the third time in 2019, she returned to the top 10 for the first time since 2016.
But can Bencic repeat her Dubai triumph over Kvitova and make a first China Open quarter-final? Kvitova won their first three matches in straight sets, but Bencic played some of her best tennis in that Dubai final to prevail in three. It’s a tough match to call, but I’m liking Kvitova on Wednesday – the Czech was in good touch last week and has continued her upward trend so far in Beijing, while Bencic was pushed to the brink against Venus. I think Bencic needs to be at the peak of her powers to beat Kvitova, and for me, she isn’t at that level right now.