Thursday’s news from the Olympic Games hit Petra Kvitova hard.
“Honestly am still speechless after being told about this,” the Czech Republic champion wrote on Instagram. “I will carry that flag with so much pride tomorrow.”
It was punctuated with a heart emoji and the red, white and blue Czech flag.
Kvitova, along with basketball player Tomas Satoransky, was voted to carry the flag in Friday’s Opening Ceremony in Tokyo. It was an appropriate honor for the two-time Wimbledon champion – and the only woman in the field with an Olympic singles medal (bronze, 2016 Rio de Janeiro).
“I’m very proud to represent my country and I’ve always been part of the Czech team,” Kvitova told the International Tennis Federation website. “I really love it and I’m very happy when I can play under the Czech flag.”
In recent years, the Czech Republic women have dominated international competition. They’ve won six of the past nine Billie Jean King Cup (nee Fred Cup) titles; Italy, France and the United States have one apiece.
Kvitova, the No.10 seed, is joined by No.5 Karolina Pliskova and No.8 Barbora Krejcikova, the newly minted French Open champion. No other country has even two Top 10 seeds. Krejcikova and partner Katerina Siniakova are the top seeds in doubles. Pliskova and Marketa Vondrousova could also do some damage.
Kvitova – who plays Jasmine Paolini of Italy – and Pliskova are among those in action Sunday in Tokyo (Saturday, beginning at 10 p.m. ET).
The thing Kvitova’s looking forward to most? Being part of that Czech Republic team. There’s also a personal matter on the line.
“I’m very happy that I already have a medal – unfortunately bronze – but I have it, so it’s less pressure,” she said.
Here are some highlight matches from Day 2:
No.1 Ashleigh Barty vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo
No one has accomplished more this season than the genial 25-year-old Australian.
Barty has won 35 matches – Aryna Sabalenka and Krejcikova each have 34 – and four titles: Wimbledon, Stuttgart, Miami and the Melbourne 500. Tokyo, though, feels a little different.
“I think representing your country is the highest honor,” Barty told the ITF. “For an Aussie, it’s the best thing you can do, and I can’t wait to have an opportunity to wear the green and gold.
“You’re playing for something bigger than yourself, you’re playing to make people proud, and that’s not just with the results, that’s with the attitude.”
Sorribes Tormo, a 24-year-old Spaniard, is having a breakthrough season. The World No.48 won her first career title in Guadalajara back in March and reached two WTA 250 semifinals and the Miami quarterfinals. The record for 2021 is a stout 20-12.
No.2 Naomi Osaka vs. Zheng Saisai
Perhaps no athlete at this Olympiad will rival the anticipation, the attention – and the expectation – Osaka will create.
She hasn’t played since May 30, when she beat Patricia Maria Tig in the first round of the French Open. Osaka withdrew the next day, citing a need to focus on her well-being.
Half of her 14 match-victories came at the Australian Open, where she won her fourth major singles title in the past eight tries. Those all came on hard courts, the same surface in Tokyo.
In an Instagram post by Japanese teammate Misaki Doi, Osaka looked happy flashing a peace sign in a photograph taken in the main stadium.
Zheng, 27, from China, won three straight matches back in February to advance to the quarterfinals in Doha, but that represents half her total for the season.
Head-to-head: 2-1 Osaka (most recently, 2020 Australian Open second round).
No.3 Aryna Sabalenka vs. Magda Linette
Sabalenka’s confidence is soaring after reaching her first career major semifinal at Wimbledon.
The 23-year-old Belarusian also has wins over Barty (Madrid final) and Simona Halep Stuttgart semifinals) this season.
Linette, 29, reached the third round at the French Open and Wimbledon. She’s also in the doubles draw with Polish teammate Alicja Rosolska.
Head-to-head: 1-0 Sabalenka (2018 Tianjin).
No.5 Karolina Pliskova vs. Alize Cornet
Pliskova has showed elite versatility lately, reaching the final on clay in Rome and on grass, where she pushed Barty to three sets in the Wimbledon final.
Now, it’s hard courts, another surface on which the 29-year-old excels.
Cornet is enjoying a successful summer. The 31-year-old from France beat Bianca Andreescu and Garbiñe Muguruza back to back in advancing to the Berlin semifinals, then defeated Andreescu again in the first round at Wimbledon.
Head-to-head: 3-1 Pliskova (won three straight).
No.7 Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Veronika Kudermetova
Based on rankings, this is one of the best first-round matches. Muguruza, the two-time major champion, is ranked No.9, only 24 spots ahead of Kudermetova.
Muguruza is 27-10 for the year, with a title in Dubai. Kudermetova is 26-15 and won at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston.
Head-to-head: 2-0 Muguruza (2020 Dubai, 2021 Doha).
Ons Jabeur vs. Carla Suarez Navarro
The ascent of Tunisia’s Jabeur has been one of the most delightful aspects of the 2021 season.
She’s ranked a career-high No.23 after reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and, in between, winning Birmingham – the first title of her career. Jabeur has a quirky, diverse game that gives most opponents lots to think about.
Suarez Navarro, 32, returned to the tour after overcoming Hodgkin lymphoma, which required months of chemotherapy. This will be her fourth Olympic Games.
Head-to-head: 1-0 Suarez Navarro (2019 Doha).
Jelena Ostapenko vs. Elena Vesnina
Both these players have a successful history at Olympic events.
Vesnina won the doubles for Russia four years ago in Rio de Janeiro with Ekaterina Makarova, and this year she’ll try to defend with Kudermetova. Ostapenko won doubles bronze seven years ago at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing.
A 34-year-old Mother, Vesnina will be a tricky out for Ostapenko after winning three of five matches at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Ostapenko, ranked No.30, won the title last month at Eastbourne.
Head-to-head: 2-0 Vesnina (2016 Madrid, 2018 Dubai).