Like Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova has never appeared at ease in the spotlight her talent has garnered. She is no Andrea Petkovic, Genie Bouchard or even Sloan Stephens with enviable public personas to which brands and fans alike gravitate. However, her winning smile and kind personality is loved by the tennis community; she is genuinely liked by players on the WTA and ATP tour. Like Li Na she has an honesty and relatabilty that is rare in public personalities, especially celebrity athletes. She is the unique talent whose wins are universally applauded much like Roger Federer. With nineteen titles, including two Wimbledons (2011 and 2014), her career has not been without pitfalls. In 2015 she pulled out of Indian Wells and Miami citing ‘exhaustion’, but returned to win the Mutua Madrid Open. Unfortunately this was not the end of her difficulties. The last seventeen months have truly tested her love for the sport and life.
A string of coaches. A terminated engagement. A stress fracture. A career-threatening injury. A painful recovery. Any one of these events could have sent her reeling. Her triumphant Rolland Garros return was warmly welcomed. In a time when social media and news networks share alternative truths, conspiracy theories and gossip, Kvitova’s home invasion was not questioned. It is clear from tweets and interviews, she has inspired fans and her peers.
After winning her first match, she finally seemed to inhabit the space her talent and kind personality has made for her in the sport. Beaming on the court and in press she said, “This match is special to me. I won for the second time, if I can say… I’m happy with the game, of course, but I mean, it wasn’t really about the game today.” Her win against Julia Boserup was heart-warming, for it marked the beginning of her journey back to the top. However, she lost in the next round in two close sets to Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-6(5) 7-6(5). Though her time on the clay was not long, it put the field on notice.
The natural grass court player isn’t a grass-court specialist; she simply has a game that excels on grass. On the grass she is phenomenal. Her swinging lefty serve bounces higher and faster. Her blistering forehand penetrates the court at near impossible angles. Her volleys leav her opponents scrambling. Her much improved movement is also much rewarded on the fast service. Kvitova’s aggressive if not risky game can accumulate the errors but when she is focused, she simply eviscerates most.
This week at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham she shone as a wildcard. The draw served her a variety of talents but like Nadal’s French Open draw, this one was most favorable. In the early rounds, lucky loser Tereza Smitková and Naomi Broady had no defense against the aggressive and blistering game of Kvitova. Kristina Mladenovic was the first opponent to push Kvitova to dig a little deeper for the win 6-4, 7-6(5). An injured Lucie Safarova retired leaving Kvitova to contemplate the comeback of her final opponent, Ashleigh Barty. Barty has had a far tougher draw with two seeded players: Vondrousova, Marketa, Strycove (8), Giorgi and Muguruza (6).
Barty walked out smiling brightly for her second singles final of the year. The often smiling, especially of late, Kvitova was a bit more focused seemingly taking in the moment and preparing for the match. As they approached the net, it was clear to all that their games and stories are as different as their blue Nike (Summer Slam Premier Collection) and orange Fila (Tropical Slice collection) outfits. The comeback players had an at capacity stadium and many early morning American viewers’ attention on beIN.
Kvitova held the first game convincingly, but Barty quickly responded, holding and keeping Kvitova to love. If the first two games were a stare down, Barty showed that she would not blink or acquiesce. The third game changed the trajectory of the set and may have shocked Kvitova. Barty broke Kvitova’s serve and then held for a quick 3-1 lead. Though Kvitova was in the set with several love games, Barty was able to hold on to her lead and close out the set 6-4.
The momentum of the match changed quickly. In the second set Kvitova raced out to a 3-0 lead. Though Barty offered some resistance holding with an ace in the fourth game and breaking down 5-1, the set was in Kvitova control. She closed it with three fantastic aces. She would go on to win the match with another ace. At one hour and forty-seven minutes, Kvitova accumulated thirteen aces, twenty-five unforced errors and seven double-faults to win the title.
Maybe it will sound weird, but I think it was nice to lose the first set, that I had to fight for the second and for the third. I think will give me some extra confidence that I am still able to fight, even if I lose the first set. I know I can still win long matches, so I think that’s important, as well. -Petra Kvitova
The Grass Princess has officially returned. After a horrendous year filled with adversity, in her second tournament back Petra Kvitova won her first title since the Wuhan Open in 2016. In her current form she is arguably the best grass court player on the women’s tour. The field is evolving if not dwindling with the absence of Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka as well as the uneven play of Sabine Liciski, Angeligue Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska.’
Will Kvitova rise from princess to queen? She has a long road if she is to eclipse her childhood idol, nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova, from the perch. With her current game, the Grass Princess is positioned to add to her Venus Rosewater Dish haul.
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