Petra Kvitova admits she has to improve or can forget about Dubai title

Updated 20 February 2019
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Petra Kvitova admits she has to improve or can forget about Dubai title

  • Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova looking far from her best in another three-set trial.
  • World No. 4 only too aware of improvements needing to be made to have chance of glory.

LONDON: Petra Kvitova knows she has to improve or she can forget winning a second Dubai title.
That was the frank assessment the world No. 4 gave herself after she finally saw off the challenge of Jennifer Brady 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 at the Aviation Club. Kvitova arrived in Dubai as on the back of making the Australian Open final last month and as one of the favorites. But having been taken to three sets in her past two matches the Czech is looking far from potential champion material and that is something she readily admitted.
“(It’s) definitely a relief right now,: the two-time Wimbledon champion said.
“But I think in couple of minutes or hours, it will be really exhausting.
“I tried to be quicker today than yesterday (against Katerina Siniakova). “I did little bit better, but still was pretty tough.
“The wind was just terrible today, to be honest. It was really difficult to kind of find a way with it. I couldn’t really serve well today at all.
“It’s been big struggle for me.”
After her win over her compatriot Siniakova, Kvitova admitted all was not well with her game. But it was more in the sense of early tournament creases needing to be ironed out, rather than any worrying trends that might deal a forehand smash to her title chances. Having won the first set 7-5 against Brady the Czech lost her rhythm and suffered a 6-1 turnaround in the second.
She admitted she was unable to recover from a poor first game.
“That was probably the worst game which I played, I think the first game,” the 28-year-old said.
“From the time, I don’t know, probably mentally I just dropped and I can’t really handle it, my serve afterwards. I lost that game. From that time, it was like really quick.
“I’m happy that I started better in the third, which I started with my serve. Obviously it was better, but still I was down 40-15. I turned it around, I don’t know how, but I did. It was really important.”
Those hardly sound like words of someone confident they will be lifting the trophy on Saturday evening. Having spent over five hours on court in her two matches so far Kvitova was quick to dismiss the idea that she has an advantage heading into the later stages, there being no danger she starts her quarterfinal against Viktoria Kuzmova undercooked.
“I don’t think (two long matches will help),” Kvitova said.
“(But) I didn’t really have many days of practice (before the first round), to be honest. I
“I wasn’t really that prepared for this tournament.”


Kodjia fires Ivory Coast past South Africa in Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 3 min 12 sec ago
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Kodjia fires Ivory Coast past South Africa in Africa Cup of Nations

  • The Elephants set themselves up for a much improved display in Egypt after Kodjia scrambled home the winner on 64 minutes

CAIRO: Jonathan Kodjia struck the only goal as Ivory Coast defeated South Africa 1-0 in the steamy Cairo heat on Monday in a meeting of former Africa Cup of Nations champions.

Ivory Coast won the title for the second time in 2015 but crashed out in the group stage two years ago without a victory and are trying to rebuild a team to match that of their golden generation.

The Elephants set themselves up for a much improved display in Egypt after Kodjia scrambled home the winner on 64 minutes against the 1996 champions.

“It was a difficult match and the important thing for us was not to come a cropper in the opening game,” said Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara. “We needed to start well in the competition and that’s what we’ve done.”

South Africa boss Stuart Baxter said he had no complaints about the result after his side rarely threatened the Ivorian goal.

“Because of the lack of strikes on goal we can’t complain about losing the game, but I thought the players put in a great performance and it’s a great learning curve for us,” he said.

Talent

Kamara sees Nicolas Pepe as one the young stars who can banish the memories of a disastrous title defense, and the in-demand Lille forward soon demonstrated his talent with a jinking run that ended with Kodjia snatching at a shot from close range.

South Africa, who failed to qualify for the 2017 edition, on the other hand have arrived in Egypt as one of the most unpredictable teams.

Bafana Bafana scaled the heights at the outset of 2019 qualifying by winning 2-0 in Nigeria, then sank into mediocrity by drawing 0-0 away to lowly ranked Seychelles.

In the first half at Al Salam Stadium where temperatures again peaked around 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) they were largely limited to counter-attacks, captain Thulani Hlatshwayo going closest with a header that brushed the roof of the net.

Ivory Coast headed home early in Gabon after they were held by Togo and the Democratic Republic of Congo and lost against Morocco, but they nearly took the lead here twice in quick succession around the half-hour.

After a foul on the edge of the South Africa box Pepe, the 22-goal second highest French Ligue 1 scorer last season behind Kylian Mbappe, slammed a thunderous free kick against the crossbar with Ronwen Williams rooted to the spot.

The South Africa goalkeeper then produced a stunning reflex save to keep Kodjia out moments later as the Aston Villa forward ran clean through before needlessly opting for power over precision.

Amid the energy-sapping heat both sides made a labored start to the second half but it eventually burst into life when Kodjia atoned for his earlier miss.

Max Gradel was released into space down the left and the winger whipped a precise early ball across to an unmarked Kodjia who stabbed beyond Williams.

South Africa substitute Lars Veldwijk tumbled to the ground under pressure from Serge Kanon late on as they pressed for an equalizer and Sibusiso Vilakazi blazed over on the turn, while Pepe was denied a second for Ivory Coast from another free-kick following a flying save by Williams.