Petra Kvitova, the 16th seed at the Madrid Open, went up 3-0 in the opening set of today's championship match, and she was a point away from going up 4-0, but 4th seed Victoria Azarenka then got on the scoreboard and eventually made matters even. The set went to a tiebreak, which Kvitova won. To casual observers, this was a case of the Czech player's obtaining a second chance to do what she "should" have done earlier in the set.
Casual observers would be correct, of course, but such a progression through a set is kind of the "Kvitova way." Because she takes so many risks and plays such intense offensive tennis, the 16th seed makes a lot of errors. Yes, it would be better if she didn't. However, because of Kvitova's excellent serve and her ability to remain calm, she often finds a way to take back what she gave up. In fact, the more important the match, the more likely Kvitova is to rescue herself and take control.
In today's match, Kvitova use her wide serve to her advantage over and over, but she also varied the serve, and she hit second serves that set up winners for her. The Czech player was also careful to avoid Azarenka's backhand as much as possible. Both Kvitova and Azarenka are "first strike" players, producing the type of tennis that I don't especially enjoy watching, but that I can certainly appreciate. The rallies were short in this match, and it was Kvitova who showed more skill in setting up and executing winners. Azarenka was forced into a defensive position much of the time, and--as good as she is--she just didn't have enough answers when Kvitova went for wider and wider angles.
In the second set of today's match, Azarenka had opportunities to draw out the match. She broke Kvitova twice, but Kvitova used her big serve to come back. When she served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, the Czech player put some showy icing on the cake: She hit an ace and three winners--service, forehand and backhand, to hold at love for a 7-6, 6-4 victory.
The stats confirm that this was a "typical" Kvitova match: The champion hit 40 winners and made 34 unforced errors. She will be number 10 in the world when the new rankings are published. Azarenka, who won the doubles championship with Maria Kirilenko, will be number 4.
Kvitova, who made it to the semifinals at Wimbledon last year, is more of a fast-court player. The altitude in Madrid makes the clay surface faster than most, so Kvitova's work may be cut out for her when she arrives in Paris for the French Open, especially if weather conditions make the courts especially slow and the balls become heavy. Winning her third title this year is certainly good for Kvitova's confidence, however, and her ability to keep a cool head is most advantageous.
One final note: The "success" of having a combined tournament is a joke in Madrid. There were not that many people in the stands to watch the women's championship, so perhaps the Madrid organizers could spend less time and energy auditioning models and more time promoting the women's game. Of course, to do that, they would have to actually care.