Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova hopes 2018 will be the year she springboards back into the top 10, but is facing the deepest talent pool women’s tennis has produced in several years.
The world No.29 Czech is working her way back into the elite of the game after she suffered career-threatening injuries during a home invasion in late 2016.
Kvitova was forced to miss last year’s n Open due to severe hand injuries sustained in the incident, but has returned to one of her favourite countries looking to build off a quarter-final appearance at last year’s US Open, her most recent grand slam.
She withdrew from this week’s Brisbane International with a virus, but is hoping to take her place in the Sydney International where she is the 19th-highest-ranked of the listed female players in the tournament beginning on Sunday.
Standing between her and success in the January 13 final are world No.5 Venus Williams, fellow top-10 player Jelena Ostapenko and rising n star Ashleigh Barty.
It precedes what shapes as one of the strongest tennis grand slams in recent years on the women’s circuit, which produced four different grand slam winners last year.
Serena Williams is back to defend her n Open crown, her first grand slam since having a baby more than four months ago.
Maria Sharapova is set to return after missing last year’s tournament while she served a drug ban, while former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka has been granted a wildcard despite contesting just one of the past six grand slams, although whether she takes her place remains to be seen.
“I’m kind of curious how it will look at the end of this season when Maria is coming back and maybe Vika [Azarenka], Serena, it will be interesting,” Kvitova told Fairfax Media.
“Simona [Halep] in the top 10 for a very long time. She’s the No.1 right now which is great for her.
“I just wanted to focus on myself and my game. Obviously I would like to have a great year in the grand slams then I think it’ll show in the rankings.
“For sure I do have my own goals, but I’m going to keep it for myself.”
Kvitova’s lower-than-usual world standing has already had unfortunate ramifications, slowing her plans to race up the rankings.
She missed qualification for last year’s WTA Elite Trophy and may be forced to face a higher-seeded opponent at the Open as early as the third round.
The flip side of that are the ranking points on offer should she derail an opponent with a superior ranking, and Kvitova feels she can produce some of her best tennis in 2018.
“After everything that happened I am very happy to be playing tennis, that’s a great thing,” she said.
“Definitely I did not want to come back just to play tennis, I just wanted to be good, be able to compete with the top players on the tour.
“I really want to show not only to the people around me but to show myself that I’m still able to compete well and beat some top players, in the US Open for example, winning the title in Birmingham. For me the highlight of the year was the US Open for sure.”
She need not look too far for inspiration.
Venus Williams looms as a possible opponent at the Sydney International, the 37-year-old who made a Wimbledon final last year before ending Kvitova’s sparkling US Open run.
“She’s a great example,” Kvitova said.
“It’s amazing the age that she has, it’s just nice to see that she still has a passion for her tennis.
“She’s still working hard. She’s a great inspiration not only for me but all the players who are playing.
“At age 30 or 32, everyone is slowly thinking about the ending of their careers but she’s not really thinking about it, it’s great.”