Qualifier Jennifer Brady has taken out Maria Sharapova and Ashleigh Barty to set up a quarterfinal clash with world no. 7 Petra Kvitova, a former Brisbane International champion.
Petra Kvitova vs Jennifer Brady is live from Brisbane on Friday 10 January at 12.30pm local/2.30am GMT
Kvitova claimed the Brisbane International title in 2011 when she defeated Andrea Petkovic in the final, but was unable to win back-to-back matches on two subsequent appearances, a streak she has now ended by reaching the quarterfinals of the 2020 edition with three-set victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ludmila Samsonova.
With a hefty amount of points to defend over the next few weeks, having won the Apia International Sydney and gone on to reach the Australian Open final, Kvitova is under some pressure to do well in Brisbane, especially because the brilliant first half of the season she recorded in 2019 – titles in Sydney and Stuttgart, finals reached in Melbourne and Dubai – gave way to an injury-decimated second half of the season. After retiring against Maria Sakkari in Rome, Kvitova pulled out of the French Open with a hand injury and would only play six more events before the end of the year, including the WTA Finals Shenzhen where she went 0-3 in the round-robin.
Kvitova had a tricky first round in Brisbane against Pavlyuchenkova, who had won their only remotely recent encounter, but after dropping the first set she only lost one more game, going on to record a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory. She had a simpler time of it on Thursday against qualifier Ludmila Samsonova, taking 61 minutes to defeat the world no. 129 6-3, 6-2.
Kvitova only lost five points behind her first serve and six behind her second serve, served seven aces and did not face a single break point while breaking Samsonova three times – an all-round very solid performance from the powerful Czech left-hander.
Kvitova’s quarterfinal opponent Jennifer Brady is, like Samsonova, a qualifier in Brisbane, but all indications are that the American will prove a much tougher out.
Brady is enjoying an absolutely sensational week at the Brisbane International, where she came through qualifying without dropping a set, winning five of her six sets by 6-2, 6-1 or 6-0 scorelines. Against Maria Sharapova in the first round, Brady dropped her first set of the tournament but surged back to win 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(3), and lest anyone think that was a fluke win over a player who recently underwent shoulder surgery, the American backed it up by beating world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 7-6(4).
It was Barty’s first match of the season, but this wasn’t a defeat she suffered because she was rusty or lacking in match fitness (she has been playing and winning in doubles in Brisbane, which has undoubtedly helped). It was one which was handed to her by very impressive play from Brady. The American changed up her usual off-season training routine this winter, spending five weeks in Germany instead of in Florida, and has a different team in place; it’s working wonders. She looks much fitter, her serve has improved, and she returned brilliantly against Barty, who saved three of the break points she faced but was unable to manufacture one herself.
It was a fantastic win, especially considering that Barty had won their previous matches in straight sets.
‘The last two times I played her, she was pretty dominant. I think today, I knew what to expect and I was hoping not to lose three times in a row. She’s obviously very solid and reads the game so well. I was fortunate enough to win a lot of free points on my serve and hold throughout the match.’
It was Brady’s first win over a player ranked inside the top 10 in eight attempts.
Now on a five-match winning streak in Brisbane, the 24-year-old is going to be very tough to beat – and she already played Kvitova hard in their one previous encounter, which came in Dubai almost a year ago. Kvitova won 7-5, 1-6, 6-3, but she had to work very hard for it, and this Brady is a much better version of herself than that one.
To beat Kvitova when she’s playing fairly well, it’s crucial to return very well against her and prevent her from starting the rally on the front foot; Brady returned so well against Barty that it looks to me that she stands an excellent chance of adding Kvitova to her list of scalps. It should be a three-set battle, but don’t be surprised if Brady prevails to reach the Brisbane semifinals.