Petra Kvitova laughed when asked about her first-round match at the Connecticut Open.
Kvitova, the champion in 2012, 2014 and 2015, will face the 2016 champion Agnieszka Radwanska on Monday night at the Connecticut Tennis Center.
“It’s a very tough one,” she said, smiling. “I’m not sure who did the draw.”
Tournament director Anne Worcester, from the back of the room, said, “Julia.”
That would be Julia Goerges — the fifth seed who won her Sunday match against Magdalena Rybarikova — who drew Radwanska’s name on Friday at the tournament draw to play third-seeded Kvitova.
“We both know we can play well here,” Kvitova said of herself and Radwanska. “It’s a great first-round match. We know each other well, off and on the court. We played many times already. She’s coming back from the injury as well. I played her this year in Dohat, and it was a very tough match.”
Radwanska, ranked 38th in the world, is coming off back and hip injuries that knocked her out of play for two months at the start of the season. When she could play, she was tough – beating No. 1 Simona Halep in Miami — but she missed the French Open. She made it to the semifinals at Eastbourne, beating Kvitova on the grass in the round of 32, before Wimbledon, then won a three-setter over qualifier Elena Gabriela-Ruse at Wimbledon before losing in the second round to Lucie Safarova. She hasn’t played since.
Kvitova, meanwhile, has been on a roll, beating Serena Williams in three sets in the round of 32 in Cincinnati before losing to eventual winner Kiki Bertens in the semifinals. The two-time Wimbledon champion is ranked sixth in the world and has won five tournaments this season — in Birmingham, Prague, Madrid, Doha and St. Petersburg — less than two years after an intruder broke into her apartment and slashed her fingers, including those on her dominant left hand, as she tried to fight him off.
“When I had the injury, I could imagine I wasn’t going to play tennis anymore,” Kvitova said. “For me, just being back on the tennis court and playing was already kind of victory. I didn’t really think how I was going to play — I mean, I wanted to be on the higher level and compete with the best, but not having five titles already and being in the top 10 in a year. That’s kind of like a dream for me.”
Halep still expected in New Haven: Simona Halep, the WTA’s No. 1-ranked player who won the Rogers Cup in Montreal on Aug. 12, advanced to the final at the Western & Southern Open in suburban Cincinnati on Sunday but lost to Bertens, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 2-6.
Both players are scheduled to play at the Connecticut Open this week. Bertens is the seventh seed and is slated to play Anett Kontavett in the first round Tuesday.
Halep, the top seed, won the tournament in New Haven in 2013, beating Kvitova in the final, but hasn’t played in the event since 2014, when she lost in the second round. It will be her fourth time playing in New Haven.
“I have her arrival information tomorrow, her hotel information, her coach’s assurance over and over again all week long, as recently as this morning, that she’s coming,” Worcester said. “Darren Cahill, her coach, is probably sick of me. I think they’re glad she doesn’t have start until Tuesday night.”
CoCo out: Despite leading her first-round match 6-2, 4-6, 3-2 Sunday against Magdalena Rybarikova, CoCo Vandeweghe, who received a wild card into the tournament, retired due to an ankle injury that’s been bothering her since Wimbledon.
“I’ve played three to four full days since Wimbledon, so it’s been six weeks of not really putting much stress on the ankle just because I couldn’t. The injury was that bad,” said Vandeweghe, the WTA’s 24th-ranked player. “This is a little bit of a setback, but at least there’s a little bit of time before the U.S. Open to kind of adjust and see where things are.”
Pliskova sisters to play doubles: Karolina Pliskova, who was No. 1 in the world last summer and a U.S. Open finalist in 2016, will play Ekaterina Makarova in the first round Monday afternoon on Stadium Court, followed by a doubles match with her sister Kristyna against Kirsten Flipkens and Alison Van Uytvanck on Court 1.
Karolina played with Kristyna once this year but hadn’t played doubles with her for three years before that.
“We have a great relationship off court,” Karolina said. “We are not that much together anymore as we used to be. Now we are even sharing a room. It’s great to be around her. We just have fun. I said I want to play doubles only with somebody just to have fun and to practice a little bit. Not to be stressful and care about the results.”
Karolina, ranked eighth in the WTA, is the fourth seed in New Haven. In the past two months, she’s gotten married to her agent Michal Hrdlicka and changed her coach from Tomas Krupa to Rennea Stubbs after Montreal.
First seeded player falls: Barbora Strycova, ranked 22nd in the world, became the first seed ousted Sunday, losing to Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-7 (6), 4-6. The two had never faced each other on a hard court surface, but Navarro had beaten Strycova the last six times they met, mainly on clay and once on grass. The last (and only) time Strycova beat Navarro was 2009 on clay in Acapulco, Mexico. … Goerges beat Dominika Cibulkova, last year’s tournament runner-up, 6-3, 6-1 Sunday. “It was a very solid match from my side. Every game was pretty tough. The rallies against Domi are always tough because she’s a big mover and she reads the court well,” Goerges said. Goerges, ranked 10th in the world, made a run to the semifinals at Wimbledon, where she lost to Williams 6-2, 6-4 but doesn’t feel any different after her accomplishment. “That doesn’t give me any extra pressure. I just try to enjoy what I’m doing,” said Goerges, who last played in New Haven in 2013. … Defending tournament champion Daria Gavrilova, the ninth seed, opened the tournament with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Irina-Camelia Begu on Sunday afternoon.