Petra Kvitova, seeded sixth at this year’s US Open, is safely through to the 20th Grand Slam second week appearance of her long career, her sixth in total at the Big Apple. Across the net from the double Wimbledon champion in the round of 16 will be a familiar foe in American Shelby Rogers, who, in contrast to Kvitova, is into the second week of a Grand Slam for just the second time in her career, her first here on home soil.
Both women are scheduled to play on Louis Armstrong Stadium, the third match of the day on Sunday afternoon. The winner will progress to the last eight where the winner of the other last 16 match between fourth seed, former champion and heavy favourite Naomi Osaka or 14th seed Anett Kontaveit awaits.
2020 has been a season of several firsts for Kvitova. Starting the season strong in Australia where she stormed through to the Brisbane semifinals, her best result here since her 2011 title run, the Czech then went on to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. The latter result saw her record consecutive quarterfinal results at the same Grand Slam event for the first time since winning Wimbledon in 2014, having finished runner-up in Melbourne last year.
A couple more deep runs followed with a quarterfinal showing in St. Petersburg where she recorded her first win on indoor hardcourts in 12 months, her last coming here the year before. She then made her second final in Doha few weeks later where she finished second best to Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka. These results meant Kvitova has managed to reach the quarterfinal stage or better in her first four tournaments of the season, a career first.
Returning from the tour suspension at the Western & Southern Open last week, Kvitova showed signs of rust as she succumbed from a set lead to compatriot, Marie Bouzkova, her first loss to a Czech not named Pliskova since May 2012. En route to her last 16 showing at the year’s second Grand Slam this week, she looked in control once again, recording straight-set wins over Irina-Camelia Begu, Kateryna Kozlova and Jessica Pegula to reach this stage.
Rogers is in the midst of what looks like a career resurgence as the former top 50 player is back in the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time since returning to tour after undergoing knee surgery in 2018. The American, a former Grand Slam quarterfinalist herself and two-time WTA runner-up, returned to tour April last year at her hometown in Charleston where she won her opening match in straight sets. She then made the second round of the French Open, and recorded an ITF title win in September before making another ITF final the next month.
The American started 2020 in Shenzhen where she lost to Garbiñe Muguruza in the second round. She then successfully qualified for the Australian Open but was defeated by eventual runner-up Muguruza in the first round. She then scored another title win, this time at the ITF event in Midland. She played the Top Seed Open in Lexington, her first appearance after the tour suspension, where she scored her third top-10 win when she Serena Williams from a set down in the last eight.
The pair’s prior meeting, the third round of the 2016 , was an unusual. Rogers, then ranked 108th, took the first set of Kvitova without the loss of a game only for Kvitova to come back from a break down in the second to win it in a tiebreak. Rogers eventually regrouped as she would drop just five points on her serve in the decider to secure a 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-0 win.
Both players have yet to drop a set here, and Kvitova is no doubt the more experienced of the pair. Rogers, however, is also one of the current form players and her upset win over 11th seed Elena Rybakina in the second round earlier is a clear indicator of that. Rogers is also no stranger to beating seeded players at the Grand Slams, having tallied eight such wins hence she clearly loves the underdog status.
Another huge factor against the Czech is that this will be an afternoon match under the sweltering New York City summer heat which has shown to wear her down in the past. Thus, the Czech would need to bring out her best game and be consistent. However, against an in-form big-hitting opponent like Rogers who has beaten her before, and is also playing on home soil, this could all prove too much for the Czech to handle.
Expect Rogers to start the match tight, but once she discovers her rhythm and gets her game going, she should not face much issues sending the Czech out of the tournament to secure her spot in her second Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Prediction: Shelby Rogers in straight sets