Petra Kvitova stunned by Sasnovich in first round at Wimbledon


Kvitova owns two Wimbledon titles and many thought the Czech would add to her haul in just under two weeks given she has tallied the most victories on the women’s circuit in 2018 and collected five titles, including at a prestigious Wimbledon warmup in Birmingham a little over a week ago.

Her stellar form this year away from the majors came after Kvitova was attacked in her home at the end of 2016 and needed surgery on her left, playing hand to save her career. The hand isn’t 100% and probably will never be, according to the 28-year-old.

Despite that horrific ordeal, Kvitova has mostly sparkled this year in what has been a stunning turnaround. Except at the majors.

Her opening reverse at the All England Club — the last time Kvitova fell in the first round came in 2009 — followed a first-round defeat at the Australian Open in January and third-round exit at the French Open last month.

The eighth seed told reporters on the eve of Wimbledon that she struggled to play relaxed during the grand slams this year, wanting success “too much.”

That was a factor Tuesday, she admitted, on another sunny, warm day in England after her 6-4 4-6 6-0 defeat.

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Nerves again

“Probably I wanted too much again,” she told reporters. “I just made a joke that probably I’m going to skip the grand slams for the next years.

“When I was kind of younger, I played better in the grand slams than the other tournaments. Now is the time when I’m playing better on the other tournaments than the grand slams. So I make a promise that I’m going to be very patient and I’m going to try to break it again for the other side.

“It’s just not really working for me right now.”

Sasnovich — a bubbly Belorussian — began the season in impressive fashion, making a final in Brisbane. But since then, her record was only 10-13 and the world No. 50 had suffered five successive defeats on grass stretching to last year.

Maybe Sasnovich likes playing against Czech opposition, since both of her top-10 victories have come against Czech players.

“It was a good match, but I can play better,” said Sasnovich.

Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep cruised in their first matches on grass after winning the French Open.

Nadal — bidding for a first quarterfinal at Wimbledon since 2011 — crushed Israel’s Dudi Sela 6-3 6-3 6-2. At one stage from the middle of the first set to early in the second, the 17-time grand slam champion amassed 21 straight points.

How did the streak end? On a double fault.

Unfortunately for Nadal and away from tennis, his Spain lost to Russia on penalties at the World Cup on Sunday but — a massive Real Madrid fan — he is still watching.

Nadal still enjoying World Cup

“Still enjoying the World Cup,” he said. “I watched two great matches (Monday). I’m going to watch this beautiful match at 7,” he added, referring to England’s game against Colombia at 7 p.m. English time. “World Cup continues without us.”

Halep said she slept a lot after opening her grand slam account following three near misses in major finals and plans on taking a break post Wimbledon.

But first she attempts to make a first final at SW19, having reached the semifinals in 2014 and losing a quarterfinal epic to Britain’s Johanna Konta 12 months ago. The Romanian got off to a good start by dispatching Japan’s Kurumi Nara 6-2 6-4.

The players Nadal and Halep downed in the French Open finals made quick Wimbledon exits. After Sloane Stephens was ousted by Donna Vekic on Monday, Dominic Thiem retired injured Tuesday against Marcos Baghdatis. The Cypriot led 6-4 7-5 2-0 when Thiem called it quits.

Women’s defending champion Garbine Muguruza — toppled by Halep in the French Open semifinals — eased past a big-serving British wildcard, Naomi Broady, 6-2 7-5.

Kyrgios’ aces

Elsewhere, Nick Kyrgios slammed down 42 aces and wasn’t broken in his 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 win over Denis Istomin, while his fellow Aussie, Matt Ebden, knocked out 10th-seed David Goffin 6-4 6-3 6-4. Trying to repel one of Kyrgios’ rocket serves, Istomin was floored — but still made the return.

Feliciano Lopez overtook Roger Federer for the most grand slams played in a row on 66 and did so with a win, too, beating Federico Delbonis 6-3 6-4 6-2 to set up a clash with another Argentine, fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro.

Lopez, 36, said changes to his diet have proved key to his longevity.

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“So I don’t drink Coke,” he told reporters. “I don’t eat bread, only once in a while. No milk. Those three things I don’t take. And the rest I eat everything.”

For Kvitova the search for grand slam success this year goes on.


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