- Associated Press - Sunday, January 15, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - Petra Kvitova is closing in on another landmark at the Australian Open, seven months after her first Grand Slam title.

Six players are vying for the No. 1 ranking at the Australian Open. Unlike most players, Kvitova said it was never a childhood dream.

“When I started to play tennis, I didn’t think I would be a professional tennis player,” the 21-year-old Czech said Sunday. “So for me to win Wimbledon, (the year-end) Championships, Fed Cup, it wasn’t my dream. But it’s very nice.

“If I maybe can be No. 1, it will be very nice, too, of course.”

Despite not winning a Grand Slam title, Caroline Wozniacki holds the top spot because of her tournament victories and ranking points. She must reach at least the fourth round at the Australian Open to have a chance of staying there.

Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Samantha Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska could earn the top ranking after the two-week tournament, but No. 2 Kvitova is the favorite.

Since the win at Wimbledon in July, Kvitova says her command of English has improved. She might need to make a speech at Melbourne Park.

“I had a lot of press and a lot of media. I had to improve my English,” she said. “I’m still little bit nervous, but it’s much better.”

In her first Grand Slam after Wimbledon, she lost in the first round of the U.S. Open. But she recovered to win the season-ending tournament and help the Czech Republic claim the Fed Cup title.

“It’s really strange for me,” Kvitova said of the fame. “I’m already get used to (it). I mean, it’s the part of our life. We have to live with this.”


HEWITT‘S HOPE: The 10th anniversary of Lleyton Hewitt’s last Grand Slam win is this July, but he isn’t ready to give up on winning the Australian Open for the first time.

A troublesome foot injury means the 30-year-old Hewitt’s ranking has slipped to No. 186. He needed a wild card just to compete in Melbourne, but said his approach hasn’t differed from any of his other 50 Grand Slam tournaments.

“When I come to Grand Slams or big tournaments anyway, you’re sort of in your own bubble a little bit,” Hewitt said Sunday. “You’re not worried about the outside talk or what it’s really about. You’re doing everything in your power just to be as ready as possible.”

Hewitt won Wimbledon in 2002. His best result in Melbourne came in 2005 when he lost to Marat Safin in the final. He’ll play unseeded German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe in the first round.

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