Two players with very different games but at very similar stages in their careers will duel for a place in the quarter-finals of the Western and Southern Open later today.
In 2011, Caroline Wozniacki (Bio) and Petra Kvitova (Bio) were on top of the world. Wozniacki, although still struggling to make an impact at the Grand Slams, won six lower-tier events and was ranked number one in the WTA standings. Kvitova, having charged to the Wimbledon title with a stunning display of aggressive, all-court tennis, looked set to be the next dominant player in the women’s game. After winning the WTA Tour Championships in Istanbul, the Czech finished the year just 115 points behind Wozniacki in the rankings.
Since then, bar a few highlights here and there, both women have been moving in the wrong direction. A string of big match disappointments and head-scratching early round losses have left them fighting to stay inside the top ten. The formerly rock solid Wozniacki has lost in either the first or second round of 11 tournaments this year, while Kvitova has only twice made it beyond the quarter-finals. Their fates aligned even more in Toronto last week, when both lost to Sorana Cristea from winnable positions.
Victory in this third round match would be a major confidence boost to both women. Kvitova hasn’t beaten a top ten player since April; Wozniacki hasn’t beaten a top 20 player since March. In the last eight, the winner will have another huge opportunity against either Magdalena Rybarikova or a rusty Victoria Azarenka. So who will win?
Wozniacki and Kvitova have played each other eight times: Kvitova has won five of those encounters, including the last four (check out the Head to Head). When the pair met in Dubai earlier this year, at a time when Kvitova looked to have climbed out of her slump, the left-hander produced a brilliant display, running Wozniacki ragged and dominating from the back of the court. At her best, Kvitova has simply too much firepower for the Dane, whose phenomenal defence isn’t enough to make up for her weak forehand and unwillingness to move forward.
But Kvitova has been far from top form on hard courts this summer, and she might be suffering physically after her arduous second round battle. Wozniacki, supremely fit in spite of her disappointing season, has been steady and error-free in her first two matches, albeit against less threatening opponents. This match could definitely go either way, but based on current form, we’ll tip Wozniacki to come through in a nervy three-setter.