Petra Kvitova – Rio Olympic Medal Could Save Season

Petra Kvitova hasn’t had the best 2016 season. However, she’s a match-win away from a medal at Rio 2016.

The quarterfinals in the women’s singles draw were all played on Thursday and the tournament’s field has winnowed down to semifinalists. The four remaining players in the event are Angelique Kerber, Madison Keys, Monica Puig, and Petra Kvitova. The semifinals in the women’s singles for the Rio Olympics will be played on Friday ahead of Saturday’s medal matches.

The bottom half of the draw will feature a showdown between Kerber and Keys. The two players have a fairly-limited history with one another, however Kerber is still way out in front of the five-match series. The German is 3-0 against the American on the hard-court surface and 4-1 overall. The two players met earlier this season, with Kerber downing Keys in a home-country tournament at Indian Wells 6-3, 6-2.

On the top half of the draw, Kvitova will look to continue her current resurgence as she faces Puerto Rico’s Puig. Kvitova, of the Czech Republic, has not enjoyed a strong season to date in 2016, losing to lower-ranked players on numerous occasions through the first seven months of the season. Heading into the Olympics she did not appear to be a medal threat, not even for the bronze.

However, with an inexperienced opponent in the semifinals, Kvitova does look strong to make the gold-medal final now – something that would guarantee her at least a silver medal. That would be an achievement that would definitely re-invigorate her 2016 season and perhaps it signifies a longer-termed return to form.

Kvitova and Puig have yet to meet on tour. However, the former is certainly the player with the big-match experience. With two Grand Slam titles to her credit, Kvitova is far less likely to be nervous in the Rio semifinal. Given what’s on the line, that should be a huge edge.

But all players remaining in the tournament will have a chance to play for a medal. The format is such that the semifinal losers move to the bronze-medal match to decide the third-placed winner. That feature separates the Olympics from tour events.

In projecting the favorites, at this point you would have to like Kerber’s chances of making it to the final match. She has had some bad patches in 2016, noting a slump after the Aussie. However, she put things back together at Wimbledon and appears to have things together in Rio now. Keys is dangerous of course, but the American still has some trouble closing out the big events.

With Kvitova a clear favorite on top of the draw, a gold-medal final between the Czech player and the German could be brewing. That would also set up a bronze-medal final between Keys and Puig, a match-up that Keys would be favored in.

 

Shane Lambert