Sunday, April 6, 2014

Petkovic dances her way to Charleston title

Photo by Daniel Ward

Andrea Petkovic, who--after sustaining two serious injuries in succession--doubted she'd ever play in another big WTA final, won the premier-level Family Circle Cup today in Charleston. The intelligent, good-humored, dancing German defeated upstart Jana Cepelova in straight sets, 7-6, 6-2, to take the biggest title of her career. She then performed the Petko dance to wild applause, hit some autographed balls to the crowd, and delivered a very charming and entertaining acceptance speech at the trophy ceremony.

Petkovic spoke throughout the week about the highs and lows of being a professional tennis player, and she described herself as a "doubter." Petkovic said she was devastated after losing in the first round in Indian Wells, and she hopes that she can keep her Charleston victory in her mind the next time she feels doubt. "I just hope I can remind myself of this moment and sort of what I've said now in the press conference, and maybe I can read back the transcript."

Photo by Daniel Ward
The former world number 9 was off the tour for a long time after injuring her ankle, and then her back (and most recently, her knee). What she learned from that, she explained, is that she cannot rely on her fitness the way she used to, so she has had to become a more tactical player.

The champion had high praise for her opponent, Jana Cepelova, who spent most of the week without a coach or anyone else to help her or even provide companionship for her, and who defeated top seed Serena Williams and 2011 runner-up Elena Vesnina. Cepelova's most impressive performance, however, occurred during the two and a half hour semifinal thriller she won against teenager Belinda Bencic.

Photo by Daniel Ward
"If you had said something before," Petkovic deadpanned to Cepelova at the trophy ceremony, "I could have coached you."

Petkovic broke Cepelova to start the match, then broke her again to go up 3-0. But Cepelova fought back, and had two set points on Petkovic's serve. The German player saved them, producing the first deuce of the set at 4-5. She held, and then served again for the set at 6-5, closing on her second set point.

After that close first set, Petkovic broke away. Hitting her groundstrokes with more consistent depth than she had in the first set, she quickly took control of the set. Petkovic also made quick work of
many of Cepelova's serves, especially her second serves. Up 5-0, Petkovic served for the match and had to save a break point. But then Cepelova hit a backhand passing shot and broke her opponent. The young Slovak held very easily for 2-5, and the question, "Is this a turning point?" arose.

But it wasn't. Petkovic served a love game to win the second set and become the 2014 champion of the Family Circle Cup.

In her other matches, Cepelova's movement was very impressive, but in this one, she was slower and less instinctive. Fatigue had set in, and Cepelova couldn't get control of the action. There was a bit of wind today, too, and Cepelova went through patches in which she repeatedly hit the ball long. I should note, however, that there was no indication that the 20-year-old let the occasion get to her mentally; she was just tired, and she was up against that very tricky opponent--experience.

Photo by Daniel Ward
It was quite a week, nevertheless, for the up-and-coming Slovakian player. Asked to describe herself in one word, she immediately replied, "Fighter." Her work in Charleston will result in her breaking the top 50 for the first time.

After the final, Petkovic said that she was preparing to return to Germany. "I'm going to have champagne and I don't even drink champagne, but I'm just going to have it for the heck of it in the airplane," she told the press. "I'm going to get drunk. I never get drunk on the airplane. That's what I'm going to do, and I'm going to walk around and dance with the cabin attendants…. And I'm going to let them touch my trophy…. I will drink champagne from my trophy. That's going to be fantastic. I won't be able to come to Fed Cup. I'm sorry."


Doug said...

Now that is a bright ray of sunshine for us, Diane. Thank you, and Andrea... welcome back!

svente said...

I didn't realize how small Cepelova is compared to Petkovic!

I was impressed with Cepelova and look forward to seeing her more. I hope this wasn't as flukey as it seems.

And welcome back Andres indeed!

Sabey said...

So thrilled for Petkovic! She seems to be the smartest, funniest and possibly nicest woman on the tour. So nice to have her back and in form.

Diane said...

My pleasure, Doug. What a happy ending!

svente, I think that Cepelova, Bencic and Svitolina are all headed for nice careers. Cepelova, in particular, seems to have her head on really straight. Tough, that one.

Sabey, Andrea is a really class act--and hilarious. And here's hoping for more Petko/JJ doubles matches. They were so happy playing together, and Andrea said that playing doubbles with JJ helped her win the singles title.