By the fourth game, Tennis Channel’s Corina Morariu feared she might run out of adjectives to describe the “incredible tennis from Kvitova.” Eurosport commentators delighted in Kvitova’s “beautiful striking” but also commented about her impressive composure, even finding her occasional whoops of delight “cute.” Fact is, Victoria Azarenka is ranked higher, but this final was about Kvitova and what she would or wouldn’t do. In a match played at times before just hundreds of spectators, Kvitova calmly if not quietly hit winner after winner until the match ended the way it had to: With a win for her, 7-6 (3), 6-4.
It’s simple, really. Kvitova, who now ties Caroline Wozniacki for the most singles titles this year (three), won by hitting more winners. She hit four times as many as Azarenka, typically the one doing the whaling. Not today—Kvitova hit 40 winners to Azarenka’s 10. As big hitters are wont to do, Kvitova threw in her share of errors (34 to Azarenka’s 21), but those mattered less. She especially went for it on Azarenka’s second serves; as a result, Azarenka won a shabby 30 percent of those points. Kvitova wasn’t always on—the tiebreak was filled with errors, and Kvitova started it with a double-fault. But often and often when it mattered, Kvitova went for it, hitting harder, flatter, deeper, bigger.
Still, it’s been a good year to be Azarenka and a great week for her in Madrid, where she started with a double bagel and ended with the doubles title and singles runner-up trophy. Tomorrow, she'll rise to a career-high No. 4 in the rankings. She is, it seems, finally becoming the player we knew she could be, before she made us question if we knew anything at all.
Then there’s Kvitova, now a Top 10 player—the sound of that takes some getting used to, even in a currently-zany Top 10 world. (It’s perhaps a post-American one too: Next week, for the first time since the current ranking systems were created, the men’s and women’s singles Top 10 lists won't include any Americans.) Kvitova, the only lefty in the Top 30, hasn’t come out of nowhere. Since last May she’s reached the Wimbledon semifinals and Australian Open quarterfinals, won three singles titles and led the Czech Republic to the Fed Cup final.
Both headband-wearing, huge-hitting 21-year-olds have been among the year’s hottest players and are the only ladies besides Wozniacki to win multiple singles titles this season. Watching these winners hit winner after winner today, it was hard not to think about the criticism of Wozniacki’s more defensive style of play, hard not to wonder how Wozniacki could get past these more offensive ladies on a good day at the Slams just weeks away.
Soon after Kvitova won the last point, ‘Simply the Best’ blared overhead, though just yesterday she stressed that she wants to get “better and better.” None of which will be music to her opponents’ ears.