In her latest Down the Line Column, Reem Abulleil looks at the main takeaways from the week gone by in tennis.
An on-fire Petra Kvitova cruising on an indoor court is one of the most impressive sights in tennis and lucky for us, we got to watch the Czech be at her unplayable best to clinch the title in St. Petersburg on Sunday.
A little over a year ago, Kvitova was attacked by a home intruder, who stabbed her left playing hand. She has since had surgery, recovered, and claimed two titles, in Birmingham last June and now St. Petersburg.
As the great Billie Jean King said in her congratulatory tweet to Kvitova on Sunday, the two-time Wimbledon champion is “incredibly resilient” and “a champion in tennis and in life”.
Kvitova, who had accepted a wildcard into the tournament, needed just 65 minutes to take out defending champion Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 6-2 in the final in Russia, to cap a tremendous week with a 21st career title.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from Kvitova’s big run in ‘St. Petrasburg’ and other action from the week gone by in tennis. (For the main takeaways from last weekend’s Davis Cup action, click here)
PETRA’S WIN IMPRESSIVE ON MANY FRONTS
Kvitova took down some big scalps en route to the title, with the average ranking of her opponents being a high 17.2. Her victims throughout the week looked like this: World No. 21 Elena Vesnina, No. 37 Irina-Camelia Begu, No. 6 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 12 Julia Goerges, and No.10 Kristina Mladenovic.
The Czech lefty improved her record in finals to 21-7. That is a 75 per cent winning record in finals. While Kvitova is the first to admit she has struggled mentally on court in various moments in the past, her success rate in title matches is testament to the fact that she can be real clutch when it matters the most.
“I love to play finals. Probably I was born for it,” she was quoted as saying by WTA Insider.
That is a fair statement.
Mladenovic’s comments after the final echoed those of many other players who have been on the receiving end of an in-form Kvitova drubbing.
“There’s absolutely nothing you can do when she’s playing like this, no matter who she playing. I’ve played I think all the best players in the world and no one smashes winners like this for an hour. Just a big congrats to her,” said the Frenchwoman.
GOERGES’ TOP-10 DEBUT
Also a player who boasts a killer forehand that can drop jaws when it’s clicking is Germany’s Goerges, whose incredible streak of winning three consecutive tournaments between October 2017 and January 2018 is finally being rewarded by a place in the world’s top-10 for the first time in her career.
The 29-year-old Goerges joins her compatriot Angelique Kerber, which makes it the first time since 1997 (Steffi Graf and Anke Huber) that two German women are ranked in the top-10.
KOSTYUK KEEPING AT IT
The 15-year-old Marta Kostyuk backed up her historic run to the Australian Open third round, as a qualifier, by winning a $60k title in Burnie, toppling top-seeded Viktorija Golubic in straight sets. The Ukrainian teen started the year ranked 523 and will rise to 185 on Monday. Her victory celebration was a gold medal-winning performance as well.
KEI’S COMEBACK IN FULL SWING
Kei Nishikori’s return from a wrist injury that kept him out of the game since the Canada Masters last August up until two weeks ago has resulted in a Challenger title win in Dallas over the weekend.
The Japanese ex-world No. 4 chose to drop down a tier to get some matches in and after losing his opening round to Dennis Novikov in the Newport Beach Challenger in his first tournament back, he rebounded by winning the trophy in Dallas (ironically defeating Novikov in the first round), taking out Mackenzie McDonald in the final.
While there are plenty of players who have done this in the past, I’m not sure how I feel about someone ranked in the top-30 playing a Challenger. Richard Gasquet also did that last September, when he was looking for some match play upon return from injury.
It’s understandable that players would want to ease themselves into competition after a lengthy break but Challengers are there for players with a lower ranking who aren’t able to compete on the ATP tour and who struggle with finances week-in, week-out, trying to make it into the big leagues. Nishikori took a spot in a draw that could have gone to someone falling under that category.
That said, it’s nice to see Nishikori back on court and picking up titles. It was his first trophy success in two years.
Canada’s Rebecca Marino, who quit tennis in 2013 due to struggles with depression, made a triumphant return to the sport, winning the $15k title in Antalya, in what was her first tournament in five years. Marino, a former top-40 player, claimed eight successive wins — three in qualifying and five in main draw — en route to lifting the trophy.