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Sport

Kvitova powering through the clay, says coach Vanek

PARIS (Reuters) - By her own admission Petra Kvitova has never been totally at home on a claycourt despite winning five titles on the surface but this year’s French Open conditions have appeared tailor-made for her powerful game.

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - October 7, 2020 Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova celebrates winning her quarter final match against Germany's Laura Siegemund REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

The 30-year-old Czech’s two Grand Slam titles have not surprisingly come at Wimbledon where the slick grass gives her maximum bang for her buck.

Kvitova is not a natural slider on clay and Roland Garros’s slippery and dusty courts have always tended to negate her firepower, so much so that since she reached the 2012 semi-final she has never been past the fourth round.

Kvitova, seeded seven here, matched that run on Wednesday when she blazed past Germany’s Laura Siegemund to move into the semis without even dropping a set.

While many of the fancied players fell earlier here in the damp and chilly conditions, Kvitova has kept it remarkably simple, using her attacking attributes to full effect on claycourts playing more like slow hardcourts.

Her coach Jiri Vanek says the key has been for her to play just as she does on a hardcourt.

“When I started to work with Petra she was always asking me, ‘look, on the clay I have to slide’ and I said come on play your game and don’t concentrate on playing different on the clay.

“Because if you play your fast game, you are a good server, and you attack every return, then you don’t have to be really running from side to side like the others.

“Just maybe sometime go more often to the net and make the drop volleys. I think she found a way to play like that and she

feels much more comfortable on the clay now.”

Kvitova’s one moment of bother during the French Open this year was when she was 5-1 down to Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez in the third round.

Her answer was to switch on the all-out-attack mode and she managed to avert a growing crisis.

The statistics back up her pro-active approach. She has the most aces (24) and on Wednesday approached the net 14 times, winning 64% of those points. She has also hit 138 winners in her five matches.

Kvitova may never have a better opportunity to win a French Open title than in this extraordinary year when the cards have fallen nicely in her favour, although in Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin she faces a stern test in the semis.

It would be an incredible moment if she triumphs, especially as it was at the French Open in 2017 that she returned to action, six months after sustaining serious injuries to her left playing hand in a knife attack back home in Czech Republic.

“I’m really proud of her. Especially here, the emotions you can see after her last match, all the memories coming back.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis

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