An all-seeded semifinal encounter at the Brisbane International is set and it sees fifth seed and 2011 champion Petra Kvitova is due take on eighth seed and familiar foe Madison Keys in what promises to be a big-hitting encounter. Kvitova is seeking to avenge her loss to the American at the China Open back in 2016 while Keys is looking to become the first player in their head-to-head to score back-to-back wins, and take the lead for the first time.
2020 marks the first time in Brisbane since 2011, when she won the title, where Kvitova has made the quarterfinal stage of the tournament. Her two subsequent appearances since then, 2013 and 2019, were not fruitful ones as she fell in the second round on both occasions. The Czech number two won two titles in 2019 in what was a weird year, winning two titles and recording two runner-up finishes but a forearm injury stalled her season progress, which culminated in a winless outing at the WTA Finals for the second year.
Kicking off 2020 in Brisbane, Kvitova scored a couple of wins over Russian opponents in Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Liudmila Samsonova, coming back from a set down against the former, to secure a quarterfinal berth, where she dispatched Keys’ compatriot Jennifer Brady in straight sets. The win over Brady sent Kvitova into her third semifinal row in Australia, also a career first for the Czech.
In contrast to Kvitova who has won this tournament before, Keys, competing in the Queenslander capital for the fourth time in her career, is in the quarterfinal stage or better here for the first time. The eighth seed only had one win here prior to 2020, in her opener against Dominika Cibulkova in 2015.
The American whom, like Kvitova, was a tournament winner twice last year, however, had a more straightforward run to the semifinals, not dropping a set in her wins over Kvitova's compatriot Marie Bouzkova, local player Samantha Stosur and compatriot Danielle Collins. This semifinal appearance is also Keys’ best result on Australian soil outside the Australian Open since Sydney 2014 where lost at this same stage to Angelique Kerber.
Both players are currently tied at three wins apiece in their head-to-head. Their rich history dates back to 2013 when they first clashed in third round of Tokyo, which Kvitova won in straight sets, this remains the sole straight set win Kvitova has over Keys to date. Keys then scored her first win over the Czech in the third round of 2015 Australian Open in straight sets only for Kvitova to exact revenge later that year in the second round of New Haven, coming back from a set down to see off the American.
Their next three encounters all took place in 2016. Keys came out on top in straight sets in their first meeting on the dirt, in the opening round at the Italian Open in May, and also scored a tight three-set win in quarterfinal clash in Beijing at the back end of the season. Kvitova, on the other hand, was victorious in their bronze medal match at the Rio Olympics, which she won in three sets.
If history is anything to go by, expect another close contest between the pair, as time has shown both players always bring out the best in each other, both possessing similar game styles. Kvitova is in familiar territory, having won this tournament before, and is looking to execute this experience to her advantage. However, Keys who will be more of the underdog between them, has nothing to lose and will go all out to give the Czech a stern test of her game and perhaps, score another epic win.
Kvitova has done a good job in her first tournament of the year here. The Czech has managed to play consistent tennis all week so far, cutting down on unnecessary errors, but against a former top 10 opposition in Keys, it will be whole different ballgame altogether. The American knows what it takes to counter Kvitova’s powerful shots and even overpower the Czech.
The match should live up to its hype, with another three-setter going down the history books in the pair’s head-to-head and this time, in favour of the younger player, Keys, as she sets her eyes on a first ever final in Australia of her career.
Prediction: Madison Keys in three sets