14th seed Petra Kvitova would face off against the resurgent player in Sloane Stephens for a place in the third round of the Rogers Cup, with the win being very important for either player. The Czech was a victim of a home invasion back in December last year and was forced to stay out of the game for a lengthy period of time since her left hand was injured during the invasion.
She made her return to professional tennis at the French Open. Whereas, the American suffered a foot injury which forced her out of action for an incredible 11 months of time. She made her return to tennis at Wimbledon, but finally won her first match of her comeback yesterday against Yulia Putintseva.
Stephens’ recent results
Stephens fell in her first match back at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club to compatriot Alison Riske, but her poor luck proved to be costly as she was drawn to face top seed and world number two Simona Halep in the opening round of the Citi Open. Putting up a tough fight in the first set, Stephens was unable to keep up her high level of play as she eventually fell in straight sets.
Moving onto Toronto, Stephens finally claimed her first win since June 2016 when she overcame a disappointing first set to storm back and prevail in three sets against Yulia Putintseva, playing some impressive tennis to set up a meeting with Kvitova.
Kvitova’s recent results
Kvitova came into Toronto having only played one hard-court tournament this year, the Bank of the West Classic. On her debut appearance in Stanford, she strolled to a comfortable straight sets victory over veteran Kateryna Bondarenko and managed to set up a blockbuster meeting with teen sensation Catherine Bellis.
Unexpectedly, she was blown off the court by the inspired American, and the Czech was unable to find her rhythm and range as she failed to hold serve throughout the match, an occurrence which has only happened once in the history. Kvitova was only able to clinch a mere two games, sparing any more embarrassment for her.
Kvitova was handed a very tough draw in Toronto, with Carla Suarez Navarro slated to be her first round opponent. A statistic worth noting is that the Spaniard had won all four of their previous meetings. With her one-sided loss during the previous week in Stanford coupled with such a tricky encounter, many speculated that it would be another early exit for the Czech. However, she defied all odds and proved everyone wrong by putting in an excellent display to triumph in straight sets.
Stephens would have to play her best tennis to create the huge upset over Kvitova. Her offensive style of tennis is akin to the Czech, but the former Top 10 player usually fares well against players of similar playing styles. Stephens would have to be very solid in her baseline game, ensuring that her forehands and backhands are powerful enough to dictate play against the aggressive Kvitova.
Her serve is also a gem to her all-court game, but her second serves must be consistent enough to challenge the Czech consistently. Stephens would have to take any opportunity given to her as Kvitova can easily find her range with the help of her experience on the court. Alternatively, the American could go up to the net more often, an area of the court she would have no problems at.
Kvitova would have to put up a similar performance to how she outgunned Suarez Navarro in the first round. The Czech must find her range early on and must also try to control the proceedings from start to finish. Her powerful forehands and backhands would inevitably help her fire winners, but she must ensure that her high-risk game does not backfire on her.
She could mix in a variety of shots into her game, adding drop shots and slices to mix up Stephens’ rhythm and to catch her off-guard. The lefty serve is arguably the strongest aspect of her game, and the speed and position of her serve often causes opponents to have troubles returning them.
In a battle between two hard-hitters, Kvitova edges as the favorite in this match-up. Stephens struggled against Putintseva in the first round but regained her composure to close the win out. If she were to have any chance of creating the huge upset, she would have to up her level of play and be more consistent. Kvitova has been generally successful against fellow hard-hitters and usually only struggles against defensive players, and therefore the win should not be much of a problem here.
Match Prediction:  Petra Kvitova d. [WC] Sloane Stephens in two sets