DOHA, Qatar - Petra Kvitova took home her 21st title at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy two weeks ago, and already appears ready for WTA title No.22 at the Qatar Total Open, earning a 6-0, 6-3 first round victory over wildcard Cagla Buyukakcay in under an hour.
The two-time Wimbledon champion spent the weekend in Prague, contributing a pair of singles wins to lead team Czech Republic to a 3-1 Fed Cup decision against Switzerland, and extended her winning streak to eight in a row on Tuesday, striking 34 winners to just 15 unforced errors.
"I've gotten some sleep, just a little bit. I'm happy to be here; it was definitely a tough schedule for me, but getting an eighth win is something really nice for me. It's been super really long since I've had such a good run. I'm just trying to continue with that."
Buyukakcay made a career breakthrough in Doha back in 2016, upsetting then-World No.7 Lucie Safarova en route to the Round of 16 - later winning her maiden WTA title at home in Istanbul - and kept things close in the second set, twice exchanging breaks with Kvitova, but the Czech star proved too strong, converting six of seven break point opportunities and hitting four aces to close out the match in 56 minutes.
"It was my biggest motivation to be back playing on the tennis court, competing against the best players," Kvitova said of her five month injury hiatus in 2017, when she recovered from a devestating hand injury incurred over the off-season. "The dream came true, so I'm happy to be in the draw again."
Up next for Kvitova is a fellow former World No.2 and longtime rival, Agnieszka Radwanska. The duo have played 11 times - the first time nearly a decade ago in 2009 - and though Kvitova leads the head-to-head 6-5, Radwanska has won the last three, most recently at the 2016 Connecticut Open in New Haven.
"It's a pretty interesting second round," Kvitova said. "We know each other very well on and off the court. I think I probably saw the end of the last match which she played yesterday when we get to the hotel. But overall I know that she's pretty tricky. And that's all I can really say, nothing more. She can play unbelievable. So I need to be ready for that.
"Here it's a little bit windy. I think it's a little bit her advantage as well. But I need to just play my game and continue in what I played in St. Petersburg and Prague. So that's how it is."
Earlier in the day, St. Petersburg finalist Kristina Mladenovic maintained her return to form with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Peng Shuai. The reigning Australian Open women's doubles champ won all three rubbers in France's Fed Cup tie against Belgium, including a deciding doubles match against Elise Mertens and Kirsten Flipkens.
"Happy isn't strong enough of a word," Mladenovic said of the 3-2 victory. "That was a hell of a weekend and a hell of a trip to get here. I'm probably not the only girl coming from Fed Cup, but I gave my absolute all this weekend, and it was tough for me. Physically, I've had a lot of tennis in St. Petersburg, and Melbourne, and all the processes to adjust to the new arenas, surfaces, balls. It was a very quick turnaround from Fed Cup, which had super intense and quality matches. There was plenty of tension, expectation, and pressure on my shoulders to help the team. Overall, it was very tiring, and I was very exhausted."
But the week was only just beginning for the French star, who needed to turn around quickly in order to make it out to Doha in time for her first match.
"When the tie ends, all this adrenaline leaves the body, but I couldn't rest. I finished on site at 10PM, and we drove back to Paris at 2AM so we could catch a 7:50AM flight to Doha. Luckily I slept on the plane, but I was so jetlagged. When I woke up today, I didn't know what would happen. I did an early warm-up and I felt terrible; I had no energy and was so sore. It was a nightmare, and I was very close to thinking, 'Don't go out there and make a fool of yourself!'" But I had some treatment in between warm-up and match, had another mini-nap, and thought I should give it a try."
Once on court, she was every bit the player who made her Top 10 debut in 2017, employing an aggressive gameplan that saw her strike 21 winners to 22 unforced errors, save the only break point she faced, and serve out the victory in one hour and 17 minutes to book a second round meeting with Russian qualifier Anna Blinkova.
"I had a plan, and I felt if I was solid in that, it would work. Still, I had to execute. I don't think I played so brilliantly today, but the better you play against Shuai, the more she likes it because she loved rhythm. I was trying to play correct tactically, play some slices, higher balls, spins. I served solid, and I still cannot really believe my performance. I spent two weeks indoors, where it's snowing, and here it's completely different conditions. It was a big challenge, and I was joking with the other Fed Cup girls like Petra and [Elise] Mertens, to see who manages to pull through!"