Petra Kvitova has fond memories of her Rogers Cup victory six years that she thinks about when preparing to do it all over again this year.
Kvitova, who won in 2012, will look to claim her second career title in Montreal when the women’s tournament officially gets under way on Monday.
“It feels like it was a long time ago,” said Kvitova, who was just 22 at the time. “Six years is a lot actually. That day was just amazing. I do remember I was here alone, just me and my PR manager, no coaches, so it was a pretty free tournament for me. Obviously I played great tennis.
“Different things have happened in my life and in tennis since.”
Back in 2012, the Czech native was ranked No. 6 in the world and had never made it past the third round at the Rogers Cup. She defeated China’s Li Na in the final for her first-ever tournament win on a hard court, and her first win that year.
Fast forward to this year’s edition, where the 8th-ranked Kvitova is one of the tournament favourites. She has a first-round bye and will face either Ekaterina Makarova of Russia (ranked No. 30) or Anett Kontaveit of Estonia (No. 31) in the second round.
Kvitova is off to a fast start this year, as a victory in Montreal would be her sixth title of 2018. She’s already won the Birmingham Classic, Madrid Open, Prague Open, Qatar Open and St. Petersburg Open.
The 28-year-old hopes to have the same kind of success in the second half of the season, starting with Montreal.
“Consistency was always my problem in my season, in my game,” said Kvitova at the newly named IGA Stadium on Sunday. “I’ve never played a whole season well. I’m glad I played well the first half of this season. That’s what I’m trying to improve, my level of the game, to play a little bit higher all the time.”
Kvitova said she’s feeling relaxed and focused after taking a short break from tennis. She has not played since losing in the first round of Wimbledon last month.
“It was brilliant,” she said of her self-imposed hiatus. “I even had 10 days without tennis, without fitness, without anything. It was very important for my mind as well that I just shut off. I’ve played lots of tennis in the last couple of months. But now I get to get back on the tennis court, back to work.”
Canada’s Rebecca Marino feels she belongs with some of the best tennis players in the world, despite failing to qualify for the main draw at the Rogers Cup.
The Vancouver native lost 7-5, 6-4, to 53rd-ranked Qiang Wang of China in her second match of the qualifying event at the women’s tournament in Montreal on Sunday.
“I’m looking at this as a platform for the rest of the year,” the 27-year-old said. “Matches like that give me hope that I can compete at that level again. It gives me a lot of motivation to continue.”
There are still three Canadians in the first round. Montreal’s Eugenie Bouchard, who’s making her 11th appearance at the Rogers Cup, takes on 15th-ranked Elise Mertens of Belgium. Carol Zhao of Richmond Hill, Ont., will face Kiki Bertens (No. 18) of the Netherlands, while Montrealer Françoise Abanda plays against Belgian qualifier Kirsten Flipkens (No. 45). Bouchard, Zhao and Abanda were all granted a wild card in the main draw.
It won’t be an easy task for Kvitova, as all of the top-10 WTA players are competing in the Rogers Cup this year.
Fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine is the defending champion. She beat this year’s third seed Caroline Wozniacki in last year’s final, while world No. 1 Simona Halep won it all the year before.
This year’s world No. 3, Sloane Stephens, isn’t deterred by all the strong opponents.
“There’s plenty of tournaments all year long where all the top players play,” Stephens said. “Whoever is playing the best that week, whoever gets it right all week long is normally who wins.”
The 25-year-old Stephens sees the Rogers Cup as a good tune-up for the US Open at the end of the month, where she’s the defending champion.
“Super excited to be back here,” she said. “I love hard court. It’s one of my best surfaces. Happy to be back on hard court. Definitely hoping to get some good matches here and also next week leading up to the US Open.”
Stephens could face Abanda in the second round.
“I see her around the tournaments,” said Stephens of the young Canadian. “I don’t know much about her game. But obviously, I can’t really discuss it until she plays her first-round match. We’ll have to see what happens.”