Kvitova Makes Winning Return To Grass In Bad Homburg

Petra Kvitova (photo: Bad Homburg Open, Paul Zimmer/Daniel Maurer)

BAD HOMBURG/WASHINGTON, June 21, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The WTA grass court season continues this week with the inaugural Bad Homburg Open presented by Engel & Völkers on the southern slope of the Taunus mountains in central Germany.

The final tune up for next week’s Wimbledon Championships features two former Wimbledon champions in the main draw, No. 1 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and No. 4 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany.

Both were in action on the Centre Court of the bucolic TC Bad Homburg Monday.

The World No. 12 Kvitova faced 387th-ranked qualifier Katarzyna Piter of Poland, while the No. 28 Kerber was featured against 478th-ranked qualifier Ekaterina Yashina of Russia.

While it took a set for Kvitova to get on track in her first grass-court match of the season, once she did, the Czech star was fairly steady in most facets of her game – save for her six double faults,  two of them which came on match points in her final service game. She defeated Piter 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in one hour and 52 minutes – completing the task with her 10th ace of the match to advance to the second round against No. 70 Ann Li of the United States.

Then, Kerber delighted the German audience with a crisp 6-1, 6-1 victory over Yashina in just 51 minutes as the sun began to fade over Centre Court. The Bremen native dominated her opponent by winning 78 percent (25 of 32) of her first-serve points, saved three of three break points she faced, and converted all five of her break-point opportunities against Yashina. She outpointed her opponent 53-25 to move into the second round against another Russian, No. 90 Anna Blinkova.

“For me, this is a special tournament. Playing in front of the home crowd is always very nice,” said Kerber, who won Wimbledon in 2018. “Seeing all the fans coming and supporting me is a really great feeling. I really enjoyed my match tonight.”

As for Kvitova, who was playing on grass for the first time in two years, she served 10 aces and won 73 percent (37 of 51) of her first-serve points. She converted five of eight break points against Piter and outpointed her opponent 87-69, in her first match since pulling out of the French Open with a freak ankle injury sustained from a fall during media commitments after her first match in Paris.

“It was a tough one, she played yesterday so it was an advantage for her,” Kvitova said of Piter during her on-court interview. “It was my third time playing after my injury [in Paris]. In the end, I’m pretty glad I managed to win even if I didn’t play my best.”

With an eye toward next week in London, Kvitova drew comparisons between Bad Homburg and Wimbledon, where she won the ladies’ singles title in 2011 and 2014.

“The grass [here] is very similar to Wimbledon,” she said. “I’m glad I have the opportunity to play here. It’s great to be in the second and have at least one more match.”

Kvitova’s second-round opponent on Wednesday will be the American Li, who defeated 399th-ranked qualifier Anna Zaja of Germany, 6-0, 6-4.

Pegula coming on strong on grass

Meanwhile, No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula advanced with a 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 264 Amandine Hesse of France. The 25th-ranked Pegula won 85 percent (17 of 20) of her first-serve points and saved the only break point she faced while breaking Hesse four times during the 57-minute match. Pegula, a quarterfinalist last week in Berlin, outpointed Hesse 59-31 in advancing to Tuesday’s second round against No. 76 Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, who on Sunday won her first-round match over No. 88 Varvara Gracheva of Russia, 6-3, 6-2.

“I had never played [Amandine] before, it’s always hard not really knowing what to expect,” Pegula said during an on-court interview. “It was one of those ‘I’m going to go play my game and adjust if I needed to.’ I thought I did a pretty good job of that today.

“I felt really kind of awkward on the grass last week in Berlin. I’m definitely feeling way better this week. It’s probably a little bit of an advantage. I’m glad I’m getting a lot of matches in, especially before Wimbledon next week.”

Also, No. 7 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, ranked 54th, defeated No. 98 Martina Trevisan of Italy, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, to set up a second-round match against No. 83 Misaki Doi of Japan, who advanced on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 307 Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan.

Around the Bad Homburg Open

• No. 8 seed Laura Siegemund of Germany advanced with a 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1 win over No. 362 Rita Bhatia of India, a lucky loser, who was making her WTA main draw debut as a replacement for the injured Sloane Stephens of the United States.

“The first round is never easy, especially when you switch surfaces,” Siegemund said during her post-match interview on Centre Court. “You have to find your groove with the court a little bit.

“It’s not easy to come out first match [of the season] on grass, but I managed. Sometimes, it’s just important to manage.”

• 2015 Wimbledon junior finalist Anna Blinkova of Russia, ranked 90th, earned her first WTA main draw in since February with her 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-2 win over No. 93 Clara Tauson of Denmark.

• No. 56 Alizé Cornet, who was a semifinalist last weekend in Berlin, rallied for a 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 win over No. 84 Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, outpointing her opponent 95-79. She will face the winner between No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka and 271st-ranked qualifier Yuliya Hatouka, both from Belarus, who play Tuesday.

Monday’s Bad Homburg Open results

Tuesday’s Bad Homburg Open order of play

First impressions about the Bad Homburg Open

• Jessica Pegula: “It’s beautiful, the club is really beautiful. This is a really nice Centre court. It’s really pretty being in the forest. I really like. I definitely want to come back for next year.”

• Laura Siegemund: “It’s great to have more tournaments in Germany with Berlin and here. They’re doing a really great job. I have never been here before. Everyone is super friendly, nice hotel, nice facility, very professional for being the first time. I think that’s really something to mention. I’m happy that I get the opportunity to play here.”

• Petra Kvitova: “It’s been great to play in front of people. I really love it. I love all the grass courts. It’s a new tournament in a beautiful city. It’s very quiet, very similar to Wimbledon. There’s no big show. It’s pretty easy and quiet.”