Top seed Dinara Safina--whose match against Petra Kvitova was moved to Louis Armstrong Stadium in order to keep the tournament from going until daybreak--walked out of the tunnel looking anything but confident. The first set was an error-filled mess from both players, but Kvitova was at least hitting some winners. In the second set, Safina went down 0-2, 15-40, but Kvitova became even more careless, and Safina was able to take advantage and become dominant.
In the third set, Kvitova broke early, setting up the Thrill Ride scenario to which we have all become accustomed. Safina allowed Kvitova to dictate the points; Kvitova, however, continued to make too many errors to completely dominate, despite the fact that she was hitting five times as many winners as her opponent.
Kvitova served for the match at 5-4, and was broken, and who could be surprised? After all, this was Dinara Safina, Thrill Ride, on the other side of the net. Serving at 5-6, Kvitova alternated great shots with errors, just as she had throughout the match. Facing a match point when Safina hit a successful lob, Kvitova went for the line, and hit a daring and beautiful shot, but followed it up with a double fault. She then hit a winning serve out wide at 82 mph., but followed that with an unforced error. Then she had to hit a second serve, yet she managed to stave off a third match point. Keeping herself steady, Kvitova held, and forced a tiebreak, and won the match, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6.
I was suprised. Once Safina got behind in the third, I assumed she would pull one of her now-famous comebacks. She could have, and she should have. But despite Kvitova's up-and-down play, the unseeded player remained aggressive throughout the match, and that made all the difference. She made 59 unforced errors, but she also hit 47 winners and won 70% of her 23 net approaches. Kvitova made points happen, and Safina didn't.
Kvitova's ranking has fallen 32 points this season, and she is now number 72 in the world. That will change the week after next.