Coming into Melbourne a year ago Kvitova was the reigning Wimbledon champion and on the cusp of taking over the world No.1 ranking. But the year didn’t go as planned for the Czech, who made two Grand Slam semifinals and a quarterfinal, but couldn’t produce the goods that brought her a major in 2011.
Strengths: Besides Serena Williams, no one is hitting a consistently bigger ball than Petra Kvitova. At 6 feet tall the left hander can pummel the ball, sending it sizzling into her opponent’s backcourt and giving her offensive opportunities to finish points. When Kvitova’s on, she’s on, meaning she can beat anyone in the game. Her first serve can be a weapon that not only wins her points, but also gives her the extra assurance that if she breaks, she’ll be a step ahead.
Weaknesses: The two things Kvitova gets picked on by commentators and opponents alike are her consistency and her movement. If she’s not keeping the ball in play, then she’s losing ground against tennis’ safer, softer hitters. Similarly, if she’s not moving well on a particular day, she tries to go for winners a bit earlier than she should, driving up the risk of her shots. When things go bad for Petra, they can go really bad, but if her game is on, she’s as dangerous as they come.
Opportunities: The off season may have meant more to Petra and her game than any other player inside the top 10. After withdrawing from the WTA Season Ending Championships, she helped her country win the Fed Cup trophy, but fought through a cold to do so. If she spent her time resting up, regenerating and finding the sort of physical shape she was in 12 months ago in Australia, Kvitova most certainly could be a top contender to win it all at Melbourne Park.
Threats: Kvitova will need to shake off a sputtering finish to 2012 where she went 5-5 after winning two titles and going 12-1 during the US Open Series. Players like Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Sara Errani like to play back against her, keep the ball deep and wait for Petra to make the mistake. And against bigger hitters like Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka, if she gets behind in the point early, her sub-par movement puts her at a disadvantage to win the point.
Mary Joe Fernandez, former world No. 4 and tennis analyst:
"I was surprised that Petra wasn’t more of a factor at the majors last year; I thought she was going to be more of a threat. But coming off of her Wimbledon win, she had a target on her back. Confidence comes quickly but it can go away, too. She lost a lot of confidence midway through the season. But Petra is the one player that can really play with Serena toe-to-toe. She has a big lefty serve and has the firepower from both the forehand and backhand sides. For her, it’s about going back to a consistent form and not spraying balls."