WTA Stuttgart Semifinal Preview: Angelique Kerber - Petra Kvitova
Second seed and defending champion Angelique Kerber is a win away from returning to the Stuttgart final. Photo credit: Marijan Murat/Getty Images.

Reigning Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber demolished Carla Suárez Navarro in the quarterfinals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix with the loss of just six games. Double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on the other hand played a clean match on her part but overcame a renascent Garbiñe Muguruza to eventually outplay the Spaniard and set up an intriguing semifinal clash with Kerber.

Lead-up

Third-ranked Kerber began the first of her four title defenses in Charleston a fortnight ago where she did a pretty good job by reaching the semifinals but could not continue when she had to retire with a viral illness. The 2015 Stuttgart champion did not disappoint thus far, beating fellow German Annika Beck and Suarez Navarro prior. Significantly, in her match against Spaniard Suarez Navarro, Kerber finished with 35 winners compared to just 12 unforced errors.

Kvitova reaches for a backhand in her quarterfinal match against Muguruza. Photo credit: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images.
Kvitova reaches for a backhand in her quarterfinal match against Muguruza. Photo credit: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images.

Kvitova seemed to have put her early 2016 misery behind her when she scored three consecutive victories for the second time this year over the likes of Louisa Chirico (with a double bagel), Monica Niculescu (saving three match points) and just yesterday, Muguruza (her first top 10 win of the year). The world number seven finally amended her negative 2016 win-loss record (currently at 9-8) when she won her quarterfinal match yesterday. It is worth noting that the Czech won just one of her first six matches this year and hiring a new coach entering this tournament seemed to be given new life to Kvitova.

Head-to-head

The Kerber-Kvitova head-to-head as displayed on WTA's website.
The Kerber-Kvitova head-to-head as displayed on WTA's website.

Coincidentally, both players met on the tour for the first time in 2012 here in Stuttgart which Kvitova won comfortably in straight sets. Although the Czech leads 3-2 in their hard court match-ups, they are tied at one match apiece on the dirt. The German won their most recent meeting at the WTA Finals round robin stage in Singapore last year, it was a match where Kvitova struggled for rhythm and she looked rather lost in the match. 

Analysis

Kvitova who played a long match against Niculescu in the round of 16 did not show any signs of fatigue yesterday but was focused and determined and her efforts paid off. Ranking-wise and surface-wise, it was a well-deserved win for the Czech who has now won 14 of her last 17 clay court matches. She will look to continue this sparkling form against Kerber who should not be underestimated despite having not equipped with the raw power Kvitova possesses. Moreover, her win over Muguruza was not just her first top 10 win of the year but her first since beating Maria Sharapova in semifinals of the WTA Finals October last year.

Kerber is enjoying one of the best moments of her fourteen-year long career. Photo credit: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images.
Kerber is enjoying one of the best moments of her fourteen-year long career. Photo credit: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images.

Kerber has been no-nonsense and pretty routine in her last two matches here besides dropping the opening set to Beck in her first match. The German's variety and defence skills can trouble the Czech and if her opponent is not at playing her A-game, Kerber could find herself with the upper hand like what happened in Singapore last year. However, if both players do show up with their best form, a repeat of the third rubber in 2014 Fed Cup final which Kvitova won in a thrilling three-setter looks set for a repeat.

On a separate note, Kerber has the support of her home crowd, a vital factor of this encounter. They would want to see their fellow German make history this year by assuring Germany a spot in the final for the seventh time in the tournament's history. 

The Czech will definitely have revenge in her sights. Throughout her five appearances at the tournament dating back to 2012, she has prevailed over German opposition thrice (Kerber in 2012 and both Beck and Julia Goerges in 2013). She is also the type of player who tends to perform well towards the latter stages of tournaments. However, at this rate, it looks like there is no stopping for the German number one as she has displayed all week long and she should outclass her Czech opponent in three long grueling sets and move one step closer to defending her title.

Prediction: Angelique Kerber in three sets 

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