Petra Kvitova insists she is not too concerned about her world ranking, but the two-times Wimbledon champion is in danger of losing her place in the game’s top 10 if her form does not pick up soon.
Kvitova, who has been dogged by health issues for the last year, arrived here at the Qatar Total Open with only one victory from her first six matches in 2016 and will leave it with just one more win to her name after going down 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 to Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko.
Having enjoyed an encouraging victory over her doubles partner and fellow Czech, Barbora Strycova, the previous day, Kvitova appeared to run out of steam against Ostapenko, an energetic 18-year-old who climbed 229 places in the world rankings last year. The world No 88 mastered the windy conditions much better than her opponent.
Kvitova, who pulled out of the doubles later in the day, admitted afterwards: “I felt a little bit tired. In the middle of the second set I had a game where I lost my serve and I think that was kind of the breaking point. I was suffering a little bit with the wind. It was not as easy to play today, for sure. It was mentally tough for me, especially when I lost that game. It was difficult for me to come back.”
The last year has been a testing time for Kvitova. She was unwell last spring and was eventually diagnosed with glandular fever. Last month her Australian Open preparations were disrupted by a stomach virus, which she said had not been connected with her earlier troubles.
Nevertheless, Kvitova feels she is now on an upward curve. “It has definitely been a good week for me,” she said. “I played several matches if I'm counting doubles. And for sure I was better than Dubai last week. I think that I improved my game. I think I'm physically a little bit better than I was before, and my serve was OK as well.”
She added: “My health is getting better every day. Last year, when I was struggling during the summer, was a really difficult time. I was glad I was able to handle it somehow. And the beginning of this season was not really easy with my stomach virus. I lost a little bit of weight and energy.”
Kvitova has slipped to No 8 in the world rankings and is likely to fall further in next week’s updated list but she insisted: “I’ve always said that the numbers aren’t really important for me. Of course I don't want to drop too much, but last year and the beginning of this year have been difficult.”
Ostapenko, who in the previous round beat another former Grand Slam champion in Svetlana Kuznetsova, impressed Kvitova with her game. “She goes for every shot - backhand, forehand, it doesn't matter,” Kvitova said. “She's playing a little bit flat. She reminds me a bit of my game when I was very young.
“She moves well from side to side. She almost never misses her backhand cross-court and the forehand is good as well. Sometimes I feel that you never know if it's going in or out, but most of the time it was in, unfortunately. Her serve has a good kick.”
Ostapenko, who beat Carla Suarez Navarro at Wimbledon last summer, has a good chance of further progress in the quarter-finals, where she will face China’s Saisai Zheng, who beat Eugenie Bouchard 7-6, 6-1, having previously knocked out Angelique Kerber, the Australian Open champion.
With Kerber and Simona Halep, the top two seeds, both failing to win a match here, the highest ranked player left in the tournament is Agnieszka Radwanska, who maintained her fine run of form by beating Monica Niculescu 7-5, 6-1.
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