July 3, 2018 / 6:21 PM / 16 days ago

Former champion Kvitova makes early Wimbledon exit

LONDON (Reuters) - Twice former champion Petra Kvitova blamed increasing Grand Slam nerves after she slumped out of Wimbledon in the first round on Tuesday, beaten by inspired world number 50 Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-4 4-6 6-0.

Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 3, 2018. Petra Kvitova of the Cezh Republic reacts during her first round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus. REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

Eighth seed Kvitova, who withdrew from the Eastbourne tournament last week with a hamstring injury, appeared to be moving well but looked pale and drawn particularly in the first set.

“I just didn’t feel well obviously. Was a first round. The nerves were there again. I don’t know. I just tried to kind of fight with myself. Probably was the biggest opponent which I have,” the Czech said.

“I tried. I changed it in the second set when I got an early break. In the third, I think it was just too quickly when she was on the board, and I just couldn’t handle it any more.”

Kvitova, 28, has worked hard this year, winning five titles. The Czech, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, won back to back tournaments in Prague and Madrid, and successfully defended her title on grass in Birmingham last month.

“When I was younger, I played better on the Grand Slams than the other tournaments. Now is the time when I’m playing better on the other tournaments than the Grand Slams,” Kvitova said.

Sasnovich, 24, kept her cool throughout the two hour 14 minute match. She went for her shots, served with pace and variety and played big points apparently without nerves.

That was until the 10th game of the second set, when, serving to stay in the set, she started to feel the pressure.

She served two double faults to give big-hitting Kvitova set point and though she saved that one, she lost the set with a forehand out wide.

The wobble seemed to galvanise the Belarusian, however.

She came out fighting in the third set, capturing game after game with steady defence and exquisite shot-making, including drop-shot winners and getting the better of a volley rally at the net.

“When I didn’t really put the pressure on her, she could just do whatever she wanted. She did great dropshots as well. I don’t think I won any one of them,” Kvitova said.

The Czech, by contrast, showed only flashes of her old grasscourt brilliance and produced 36 unforced errors. She sent down aces but missed simple forehands and was troubled by the wind as well as her own lack of composure.

Sasnovich completed victory with two aces in a fitting end to a fine performance.

“It was a good match but I can play better as well,” Sasnovich said. “I was just warming up when the match was 5-0.”

Reporting by Clare Lovell, editing by Ed Osmond and Clare Fallon

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