Unbeaten beneath a roof this year, a foggy Petra Kvitova looked like a woman in need of fresh air as she motioned for her coach while walking to her courtside seat in the fifth game. It was a premature request: The game wasn’t yet over and the distracted Kvitova returned to court to miss a backhand.
The scoring snafu signaled the spaced-out Czech’s depth of detachment through the first six games of today’s clash with Agnieszka Radwanska: Keeping score was as challenging as keeping her flat strikes beneath the lines. Kvitova’s coach, David Kotyza, chuckled over his charge’s state of confusion during the ensuing changeover. But the player who has been a pummeling presence indoors was in no mood to be a punchline today.
It was a numbers game for Radwanska, who needed to win just one set to qualify for the final four at the WTA Championships. She opened a 5-1 lead and was two points from securing a semifinal spot. That’s when Kvitova started to find the sweet spot, turning short balls into sight gags in an audacious shotmaking spree that saw the Wimbledon winner rally to win 11 of the last 15 games in a 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory.
With the win, Kvitova raised her indoor record to 17-0 this year. She completed Red Group round-robin play with a 3-0 record and will face U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in Saturday’s semifinals. Victoria Azarenka will take on Vera Zvonareva in the other semifinal.
The Wimbledon winner, who conceded “I started a little confused, I didn’t know what I had to do,” cleared the cobwebs then belted the ball, pounding out 42 winners compared to eight for her crafty opponent.
Spare a thought for Radwanska, who fought off three match points in a three-set win over Zvonareva yesterday and was two points from the semis as she served with a 5-1, 30-15 lead, but dropped serve on a double fault and forehand shank. Kvitova, who repeatedly victimized the eighth-ranked Polish player with her lefty slice serve wide in the ad side, began hitting winners at will and took four straight games to forge a 5-5 tie. In the tiebreaker, Kvitova, who punctuated explosive winners with the exuberant yelp of a martial artist breaking a board, jumped out to a 4-0 lead. At 5-4, Kvitova cracked a slice serve wide and crunched a forehand down the line, her 22nd winner of the set, and closed things with a backhand winner and clenched fist.
Radwanska, who was effective redirecting pace early in the match, gamely battled back from a break of serve down in the second set, but was depleted by a draining, 13-minute, 18-point tug of war seventh game that saw Kvitova fight off three break points to hold for 4-3. Kvitova then broke Radwanska at love to snuff out hopes of another rally.
If Kvitova matches or exceeds Azarenka’s result in Istanbul, she will finish the season ranked No. 2. If she can stay healthy and minimize mental walkabouts like the one she took today, she looks destined to be a No. 1.