Petra Kvitova survived a day filled with upsets which saw Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Roberta Vinci among the top seeds shown the way out at the Mutua Madrid Open. She goes up against Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina in round two who has been on a roll in 2016 thus far. In her opening match, the 29-year-old Russian overcame a slow start to eventually see off her Latvian Jelena Ostapenko with a second-set bagel. The fifth-seeded Kvitova will look to continue the defence of her title.
The Czech, Kvitova, has only defended a title once in her eleven-year career which happened to be at her favourite hunting ground, the Connecticut Open in New Haven last year. She will look to raise that tally to two in Madrid this week. Boosting an 18-5 record in the Spanish capital, it is clear that the high altitudes and fast conditions bode well with the two-time Wimbledon champion. She scored a straight-set routine win over wildcard Lara Arruabarrena and will look to carry that momentum coming into this match-up against Vesnina.
2016 has been rather fairytale-like for Vesnina. After upsetting Simona Halep to reach the last eight in Doha, she saw her ranking return to the top 100 for the first time since the fall of 2015. The Russian carried on by upsetting Venus Williams in the second round of Miami. She then reached the final at the Volvo Car Open but came up short to Sloane Stephens. She was impressive in her first round match against Ostapenko. Despite starting out slow, she soon gathered her rhythm enough to see off the Latvian and secure her spot in the seocnd round.
This will be the first meeting between the Czech and Russian.
It will come as a surprise if Vesnina is hungry to score the upset win. With three top 15 under her belt already (Halep, Williams and Belinda Bencic), she will look to have another great result in 2016. Playing the hard-hitting Ostapenko could be a good lead-up for the Russian going into this encounter against the similarly-powerful Kvitova. It is worth noting that the Russian came through qualifying as well and therefore has played more matches than Kvitova here.
The Czech must be aware that playing an in-form Vesnina who is a doubles specialist as well, she must be 100% and play clean first-strike tennis against her as her opponent will look to employ her crafty net skills to take the pace away from the defending champion. Kvitova had a slow start against Arruabarrena yesterday and it could happen again in this match. Expect the Russian to take at least one set off the defending champion but henceforth, Kvitova should be able to solve the puzzle and steamroll her way into the round of 16 here in Madrid.
Prediction: Petra Kvitova in three sets