MELBOURNE (Reuters) - After a year in the Grand Slam wilderness, twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova returned to the limelight with a 6-2 6-1 thrashing of American teenager Amanda Anisimova to storm into the Australian Open quarter-finals on Sunday.
Kvitova had a barren 2018 season, failing to make it beyond the third round at all four majors, but the 28-year-old Czech has started the new year with a bang and is shaping up as a genuine title threat at Melbourne Park.
The eighth seed next faces home hope and maiden Grand Slam quarter-finalist Ashleigh Barty, the woman she beat for the Sydney International title in the weekend before the tournament.
Barty overhauled Maria Sharapova in the second match at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday and will bring huge crowd support into their re-match.
Kvitova, meanwhile, will bring a nine-match winning streak, and she is yet to drop a set at the year’s first Grand Slam.
“I’m serving pretty well and I’m moving well, as well,” she told reporters, having avenged her straight sets defeat to 17-year-old Anisimova at Indian Wells last year.
“Sometimes when I’m nervous, I’m quite tight and nothing is really working, but this time I feel good.”
The lefthander’s confidence was on show and her power game devastating in the early match at a sunbathed Rod Laver Arena as she ended the American teen’s run in less than an hour.
She booked her first quarter-final appearance in Melbourne since her run to the 2012 semi-finals and first at a Grand Slam since the 2017 U.S. Open.
Her coach, Jiri Vanek, revealed that he had spared Kvitova from hitting practice between matches to keep her fresh and relieve pressure on a player who often crumbles with nerves.
“We just keep her like staying in the room or just go visit the city and not come here for the tournament to see other players,” he said.
“She had so many matches after Sydney, and we need to keep her relaxed a little bit.”
Kvitova’s run to the last eight at the U.S. Open in 2017 came less than a year after surgery on her left hand following an attack by a knife-wielding home intruder in December 2016.
She had said her hand would never regain the feeling it once had but her fitness and motivation remain unquestioned.
“I don’t want to say it’s miracle, but for us it’s just amazing,” Vanek said of Kvitova’s comeback from the ordeal.
“Two years ago we didn’t know what is going to be. Nobody can tell us what is the best ... thing to do with her.
“Even the doctor doesn’t know when we can start to hit with the balls, normal balls, soft balls.
“But she was so strong mentally ... and she told us, ‘Don’t worry, guys, I will come back and I will be strong. And maybe this thing can help me in the future.’
“We just follow her and now we try to give her back her ... positive attitude.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford