The Curious Case of Two Slumping Stars: Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep. What’s next in 2015?

Three grand slams are in the books, and for fans of Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep including myself of course, there are many reasons to feel unsatisfied at this point. Both have ran into a rough stretch during the past couple of months, with no indication of what lies ahead for either of them. So I ask these questions which I cannot help but wonder… Which of these two faces the tougher road ahead of them in 2015 and how can they fix their problems?

Petra Kvitova- I’ll start with Petra who as we all know started the year on a high note with a SF appearance in Shenzhen and then followed that up with a win in Sydney. However, ever since then it has been a huge downhill slide for her for pretty much the whole season, other than when she came out of nowhere in Madrid to Stun Serena for her first loss of 2015 and then go on to win the title. That was her first clay title since she won that same tournament during her historic 2011 season. In the middle of all of that she took two months off while skipping two huge events in IW and Miami which already was a cause of concern because of the reason, ‘fatigue’ only a couple of months into the year.

However, all of this being said, we knew like last year that no matter how inconsistent she was, that this whole season could be turned around at her favorite event of the year… Wimbledon. She hadn’t failed to make a QF there since 2009, the only slam she’s really had a ton of success at. Through the first two rounds of this year’s Wimbledon she picked up right where she left off from last year and demolished her first two opponents, the first one being the fastest WTA match of 2015 in only 36 minutes. It was very hard for Team Petra or anyone else to think she wasn’t going to be Serena’s biggest challenge in her quest for the calendar slam.

That is, until she squared off against Jelena Jankovic in the 3rd round, someone who can be dangerous but definitely does not prefer the grass nearly as much as Petra. Petra was even up a set and a break and things were looking like the first two rounds all over again, and that’s where it all fell apart. Jankovic played more aggressive, Petra was more passive maybe thinking she had this in the bag, and before we knew it Jankovic stole the 2nd set. She looked like the more confident player in the 3rd as well and was able to finish the job and shock Petra in one of the biggest upsets of the year you could argue.

Crushed. Speechless. Unimaginable. Horrific. Devastating. Some of the many words to describe this one in a result none of us could have ever seen coming this early here. In what we’ve seen from her over and over again at grand slams, her nerves got to her and when it mattered most made some silly mistakes (don’t even get me started on that critical challenge towards the end) that even her beloved grass wouldn’t let her get away with this time. Everyone knows what they get with Petra. You take the highs with the lows and there isn’t a lot of questioning. That is, until she finally flopped at Wimbledon; something we had never seen before. To see it end so quickly like this at her home was really tough to watch and begs to go back to the original question… what is next and is she in trouble for the rest of 2015? If so, how much?

I’m just putting my two cents in here so feel free to disagree or make your own points, it’s all good. The first thing we have to look at of course is her schedule for the remainder of the year, and then the points defending in each of them. It would seem to be that she’ll again play Rogers Cup, Cincy, New Haven, and then the USO to conclude the USO series. Last year she committed to Stanford before pulling out a week before because she didn’t want to play so many events before the USO. Is there a chance she thinks about playing it again this year after this early exit? I don’t know if it’s too late to enter as a WC but I’d still highly doubt it anyway based on her disappointment, lack of confidence, and in no hurry to arrive in the states. It’s also really hard to encourage it since she’s already playing so much. Then again, she needs matches now more than ever to get any kind of confidence. Yes, three tournaments is plenty but she is definitely not a player you can guarantee to go deep in any of these events so maybe one extra one won’t hurt. Or worst case skip Toronto or Cincy, but that wouldn’t seem very smart to miss a big event like that to play a smaller one like Stanford. The real one she should skip is New Haven even though it won’t happen. There is no reason to play an event like that the week before a slam for any top player, at least one that has already played two big ones the previous weeks. I get she loves it and feels comfortable there but if it means less preparation for USO and a bigger chance of fatigue then what’s the point? If she wins who cares, she won’t gain much from it. However, I do realize that because of the fact that she never really goes deep in Canada and Cincy, this one is always there to get one last good run of preparation in. Still, just once I’d like to see her play Rogers Cup/Cincy and then USO to give her a nice week stretch (or even longer if Cincy doesn’t go too well) to get ready for USO. This would give her plenty of time to get used to everything in NYC, a place she has so much trouble adjusting to.

She doesn’t have to defend much points at all besides New Haven in the summer in so that’s one of the positives going forward. It’s impossible to know where her head will be at come her next event; hopefully she is ready and motivated to bounce back because she’s still Petra after all. No matter how bad things may seem, with her talent there is always the potential for a huge run at an event and if she’s feeling good, (big if) there can be success in North America. That being said, if success doesn’t happen there, it might only get worse and that’s the main concern. She had a huge run in Asia last year winning Wuhan and then making the final of Beijing so lots of points to defend there. I’m not saying she can’t defend those points, but there’s so much more pressure to do it if North America doesn’t go well.

The bottom line for me regarding Petra is that my level of concern right now is high. I hate to say it but I don’t trust her a lot in North America until she proves us otherwise. Plus I have no idea how much motivation she has for the rest of the year after blowing her biggest chance of success. I pray she is feeling good and ready, otherwise the future looks dark. Sorry for sounding so pessimistic so I want to go back to my normal self now. Petra has a whole month off to clear her head. She could forget about tennis again a little if she has to because it helped her come back strong and win Madrid. She could think about how little pressure is on her in North America because of how much she struggles there. If she plays smart, loose, and confident, who knows maybe she’ll gives us a nice gift! I’m concerned but I, and all of Team Petra will never give up on our Czech Lioness!! POJD Petra!

Simona Halep- Heading into her favorite surface in April, there was no way you’d think she’d be mentioned in an article like this. She had already won three tournaments including Dubai and the biggest one of her career in IW. She followed it up with a SF in Miami where she nearly beat Serena in one of the biggest battles of the season. Nothing was ever the same after that and it’s hard to figure out exactly why. She had a decent run in Stuttgart, flopped poorly in Madrid, and another decent run in Rome before collapsing against CSN in a match many argue she should’ve won and maybe that’s where it all started.

Then the two biggest surprises and disappointments of her season came about to cement her in this conversation. Like Petra at Wimbledon, Simona fell very early at her favorite tournament of the year in Paris. She was blown off the court in the 2nd round by the same person who replicated that performance against her in New York last year, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Her first grass event in Birmingham didn’t go great after another rough loss to Kiki Mladenovic. Simo came into Wimbledon with a new approach. “No expectations” Maybe taking pressure off of herself would help her advance deeper in this event. However, that was far from the case as during her first round match it only got worse. She could never quite find her footing and was eliminated in three sets to Jana Cepelova, ranked outside of the top 100.

It’s widely known what the issues are with Simo. It’s the pressure factor, and that’s where we’ll start. She is asked this question every tournament it seems a million times if the pressure gets to her, or if she feels it before every match in big events like slams. She can’t avoid it but she doesn’t reject the topic either, she admits to it. Simo knows she’s got a target on her back every time she goes out there, and it’s gotten to her and there lies the problem. Her case is different from all other top players though, as it feels as if the whole country of Romania is on her shoulders every time she plays, and when she struggles the criticism is loud and clear. There is nothing she can do but try to stay focused and play the game she loves and is so talented at, but it’s hard not to hear about tabloids all over her home country having something mean or false to say when it’s not going well. Of course she has tons and tons of fans who also support her positively in the worst of times and we can’t forget them, but when it’s going bad the critics speak up a little louder.

So it’s time to look at what’s ahead for Simo this summer and if the future looks good or not. Her first tournament of the summer will be Cincy again and not Rogers cup which I don’t understand, especially with her hard court success earlier this year. She should try to get as many matches in as possible before the US Open at the end of August. She has New Haven on her schedule again which also is a bit questionable to me and like I said with Petra, if it were up to me I’d like to see Toronto and Cincy for sure and New Haven only if absolutely necessary if the first two don’t go well. Otherwise a full week to prepare for New York is plenty because she may also need time to adjust to the bright lights of New York City.

There is pretty much zero points to defend the rest of the season and that’s something huge she’s got going for her. She made the QF in Cincy but that was it until the WTA finals so her ranking shouldn’t be an issue. However, that was never the concern, at least to me. The main thing is she has to find a way to go back to the way she played in the first quarter of the season where she was relaxed and confident. That clearly hasn’t been there the last few months and it doesn’t matter how well she plays if she has no belief when the going gets tough. I’m not saying she has no belief, but if she was confident and prepared I doubt she’d have left Paris and London in such a quick manner.

Maybe the hard courts are exactly what she needs as that’s all she’ll have the rest of the way. All it takes is one great tournament early on and she can feel like she’s back on track. I am about 50-50 on my level of concern. On one hand I believe she has all the talent to turn this season around and can easily do it on the hard courts especially. On the other hand, all it takes is another early loss and we’re back to square one. Everyone has seen she’s more vulnerable than she used to be in the beginning of the year, and the questions of pressure won’t stop. All I care about though is if she feels good heading into New York for the US Open because I still believe at least out of these two players, she has the potential to win it.

Last but not least I want to wrap it all up and give you my honest prediction of who I think has the better chance to turn it around in these last couple of months. My answer is Simo. Of course I’m not saying Petra’s season is lost, I just believe in Simona’s chances of succeeding more. She loves the hard courts more than Petra, the climate isn’t an issue like Petra in North America, no points to defend, and the main concern I have for Petra is her motivation the rest of the year after this Wimbledon loss especially after she said “This will take me a while to get over” How long is that? Nobody knows. No guarantees it’ll be before the USO series starts.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and I hope I can hear your opinion on which player you think has a better chance to turn it around if you had to pick. Sure, not everyone that reads this may be a fan of either of these two or only one, but those people’s opinions are ones that are very important as well. It’s not an article I wish I had to write but I wanted to let some things out. We all know how talented these two girls are and I love them both to death and always want the best for them. Even in the struggles I know these two wonderful fanbases will always be there for their girl. So I leave you by saying Pojd Petra and Hai Simona! Let’s hope for some more success in 2015, and maybe they’ll finally play each other again at some point this year!

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