Petra Kvitova has a big fourth round match tonight against the U.S. Open’s No. 2 seed, Angelique Kerber. It would be routine for a player to be at the National Tennis Center yesterday, feverishly practicing for the big moment.
Kvitova’s routine is just a little different. Kvitova is just a little different. For her, practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect.
As of late yesterday afternoon her name wasn’t on the practice court schedule. It hasn’t been on that schedule much since she arrived here after the New Haven tournament last week.
“You know, it’s funny. I think that not many people can imagine or do that,” Kvitova said after her third round victory over Elina Svitolina on Friday. “It was funny. We were joking today that we were going to the [the tennis center] for the fourth time and I played three matches. I went here on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, which is really funny, I feel. And last year I did the same. I played five matches and I spend six days here. I think not many people can do that.”
In the modern era of professional tennis, players often practice as hard as they play. Mary Pierce, a two-time Grand Slam champion whose career was dogged by injury, many years ago surveyed a season where several of the top players were out injured and said: “I think rest is really undervalued.”
In 2011, Kvitova won Wimbledon for the first time. She was 21 and because the first person of either gender born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam. The big-hitting left-hander won Wimbledon again in 2014, and has gone deep in the other Slams. She has 17 total victories. It’s been a good career, if not a stunning one. Injury and illness have impacted it. She was diagnosed with the mononucleosis last August, apparently suffering from it since the spring, and still managed to get to the quarterfinals at the Open where she lost to eventual champion Flavia Pennetta.
Kvitova says that her father and coach Jiri, as she was growing up in the Czech Republic, put an emphasis on technique and not long workouts on the court.
“I do remember when I was like 14, 15, like same-age players played twice a day, practicing every day four hours,” said Kvitova. “I was just going to the school, which was not really fun. I hit like hour, hour and a half every day. And my father told me one day—I will remember forever — we are working on the techniques, and they have just more and more hours. I think he did a great job for sure. I wasn’t that tired as my same-age girls were afterwards. They all retire after a while and went to school, and I was still continuing. I think that was a good move.”
Even if she doesn’t practice, she says she does fitness routines daily and makes sure she gets a nap. And, being in Manhattan, there is shopping on the agenda. Staying away from the tennis center keeps her away from the hurly burly.
“I’m not really a fan of the traffic, but I starting to like it here last year when I played well and I made the quarterfinal,” said Kvitova. “You know, in the day off I’m not going on-site, so I’m kind of out of the traffic. There’s many people up here and everything. I’m kind of saving the energy and everything, which I think is helping to my person as well, and mentally, too.”
Continually questioned about not following the standard routine, she responded. “No. I have my own routine, so I’m good,” Kvitova said. “I know I’m different.”