Fifth seed Kvitova open the day’s play in fine form as she sped right through qualifier Chirico on Tuesday.
She said, after her match: “I didn’t expect that [to be so quick]. Two years in a row I lost in the first round here. It’s always the first match on the clay that is not really easy for me. So, I’m very glad how I handled it today. I spent two weeks on the clay already. I practiced before Stuttgart. I didn’t play Fed Cup because of it as well. And I’m glad that everything worked out today.”
Last year she tasted success after another disappointing exit in Stuttgart by going on to win the title in Madrid, but she always maintained she was not going to adapt her game to the surface, but rather pay her own game.
She continued: “For me, the beginning on clay is always difficult. The movement is tough for me. So, I need a lot of time to be on the court and slide a lot and the bounce of the ball is different as well. But I think I kind of like the clay game, I just need to play my game as always and putting the pressure on the opponents.
“In Madrid it’s not that different than here. You know the big courts in Madrid are almost like indoor with the roof and with the altitude. I think it really suits my game. The game is not like the proper clay which is in Rome for example. So, I think Madrid really suits me with all the conditions.”
Having parted company with long-time coach David Kotyza earlier this year, the Czech enjoyed freewheeling for a while, but has now teamed up with Frantisek Cermak, and it is off to a good start.
“I don’t think that [Cermak] wants to change anything. I just think that he wants to build what is inside, like aggressive play, serving well, going forward and doing a little bit drop shots and slice. I think the last few week we were working on staying near by the baseline and being a little bit quicker.”
Kotyza had been with her since 2008, but the two-time Wimbledon champion felt it was time to go their separate ways, as she felt she was not improving.
“I’m glad about what I did, definitely. I have no regrets. It was a nice time as well to be a free person without a coach to do whatever you want. But on the other side, I think a coach is important, to have someone to help you with all the things on the court and off the court as well. But I think I was okay through the weeks without a coach. And I’m glad that I found Franta [Cermak].”
She explained that any stress at this stage of the season is more related to the movement and the playing:
“Before the match, I’m kind of stressed and nervous and everything but when I start to play and I’m playing a little bit longer the nerves are going away.”
So, that’s why it often takes her three sets to put away a win?
“At the end of the third set I’m feeling finally good! (laughs)”
The Serbian, probably adopted by the crowd with the presence of footballing hero and fiancé Bastian Schweinsteiger, found herself on the flip side as the German qualifier started off at a flyer.
The German broke the former French Open champion to love and was serving for the first set, before Ivanovic dug in to break back to keep her hopes alive. Witthoeft stuck with her, to force a tie-break but once Ivanovic edged ahead with a mini-break she surged ahead to take the first set convincingly, after threatening to stall at the start.
From that point, it was foot down, job done, as she roared through the second set, breaking Witthoeft three times in a row, and serving it out to love to book her place in the second round, after the 2014 finalist crashed out last year in the opener.
She said, after the match: “I wanted a little bit to feel her game because I didn’t know her much. She played really well, deep heavy, she was not missing so I struggled a little bit to find my rhythm. I was always a step too far, and then when my coach came on court, he actually asked me to step in a little more and be more aggressive and I felt that made a difference and once I was aggressive, then she started to aim for more, and also I could get more free points so I think that was the key.”
While Kvitova and Ivanovic had their pedals to the metal in their opening rounds, when it came to the Porsche Parallel Parking challenge, it was a different story for the Serbian!
Mortified, she laughed: Oh my god. Did you see the video come out? Oh My god, I paid them a lot not to publish that. That was really bad. OK, so I was really cold, plus I don’t really drive much, but I know there is no excuse. And I can’t parallel park, I told them. I can’t [laughter].
“I was hoping no-one saw that. There is even one picture where they post(ed), I saw, and you can just see the fear in my face. I need to take in my off-season, that’s going to be my main focus.”
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