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Friday, January 6, 2012

Play-by-Play: Kvitova d. Wozniacki (Hopman Cup)

We’ve all been waiting for this match since the start of the tournament… A clash between the best in the world: the WTA’s number one and two. Wozniacki of Denmark, and Kvitova of the Czech Republic. Same age, same thirst to win. While the match would not deliver ranking points to either player, it would surely set the tone for things to come: Petra’s hunt for the top spot, and Caroline’s defense of it.

Photo by Theron Kirkman, AP
Playing for their home countries in the Hopman Cup, the pair could not have asked for a better occasion to meet. Their previous head-to-head was at the 2011 WTA Year-End Championships where Kvitova defeated the Dane with a fairly easy 6-4 6-2 scoreline.

The Czech Republic came to this encounter with five match wins under its belt (only losing in mixed doubles). Denmark, on the other hand, had only won three matches, but still retained the possibility of going through to the finals if they swept their Czech opponents. The odds clearly favored the Czechs, who needed only one win to advance.

At the start of the match, Kvitova took the early lead, breaking Caroline’s serve and then easily confirming. Petra was all-business, approaching the net, trying out some middle court drop shots and blasting baseline forehands. Looking back at her first two matches she had a total of twenty-one break point opportunities and now, only two games in against Wozniacki, she already had three.

Photo by Theron Kirkman, AP
While the two players exchanged holds from there on, it was Kvitova’s solid serving which left little room for Wozniacki to find a groove. As Kvitova stepped to the line, serving for the set at 5-4, Caroline rose to the challenge. She managed to save three set points and break Petra for the first time all match. Even at 5-5, the Czech unleashed powerful strokes, clearly frustrated by the missed set points, and breaks Wozniacki once more. 50 minutes into the set and Kvitova served for the set a second time.

Once again, Caroline found a way to hang in on Petra’s game. The match sees three consecutive breaks and suddenly the pair enter a first set breaker.

It’s clear early on who was dominating the tie break. Czech Republic goes to the change over with a 4-2 over Denmark. With a mini break on her hands, Petra Kvitova has a fourth set point. She shoots a backhand winner down the line and takes the opening set 7-6 (4).

In the first game of the second set Petra played a flawless game holding to love. Credit has to be given to Caroline because although she lost the set, she removed errors from her game and began punching winners of her own. The match’s spolight moves between Petra’s spectacular passing shots and Caroline’s known sudden string of winners. Despite the Czech’s early break for 3-1, Wozniacki was not to be out done, breaking back and fighting for the second set.

As Wozniacki stared to take charge, Kvitova’s game seemed to unhinge. Overwhelmed and frsutratred, the Czech began to spray errors, and soon the set went to the Dane’s, 6-3.

With aggressive play, Kvitova quickly earns herself three break points in the opening game, snagging the break. Soon it was 3-0 and Wozniacki looked frazzled.

Still fighting, Caroline made a fantastic forehand topspin lob winner which gave her three break points of her own. Her opportunity to even the match faded, however, as Petra saved them all, going for the big shots to take the lead 4-2.

Photo by Theron Kirkman, AP
Despite having the lead, Kvitova was still showing her frustration, while a cool and collected Caroline showed nothing on the other side. But unlike the her Danish opponent, the Czech thrives on high emotions, managingto win her game for a 5-3 lead—only one game away. Wozniacki snapped her first ace of the match to take the set to 4-5, pressuring Kvitova to serve it out.

Caroline’s efforts were not enough to fire back Petra’s powerful forehands, forcing the Dane to run from one side of the court to the other. Kvitova quickly earned a 40-15 lead and double match point. With a stunning backhand winner, Wozniacki saved the first, but seconds later Petra strikes a backhand just as electric, ending the match.

Final: Czech Republic d. Denmark 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4 in 2 hours and 20 minutes and advances to the championship.

Overall, it was a fantastic match. Despite the loss, CarolineWozniacki, despite proved that her opponent had to work hard and be on top of her game to have a hope of victory. Signs of offensive play have crept into the Dane’s game and it’s clear she has done work in the off season, but she’ll need more if she wants to outshine the big-hitter of the tour.

Kvitova, however, is just as strong as ever, but still needs to maintain focus in high-stress moments. As she said in a previous interview, this match was a test and training for upcoming tournaments. She has what it takes to beat anyone out there in the circuit and she surely has the thirst for the number one spot. 

Check out the first set tiebreak here

-Romina Castagnino, Contributing Writer


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