If you’re going to lose a tennis match, it’s nice to be able to think afterward, “At least I got a workout.” But Agnieszka Radwanska can’t even say that after her 6-2, 6-4, one-hour-and-20-minute, blitz-job defeat at the hands of Petra Kvitova in the Dubai quarterfinals today. Aga, the defending champion, spent a large portion of the match walking from one side of the court to the other.
Radwanska watched and walked as Kvitova pounded her weak second serve past her. She watched as Kvitova pounded forehands down the line and backhands cross-court. She watched as Kvitova hit three aces, five double faults, 37 winners, and 38 unforced errors. Radwanska, who finished with just six winners and five errors of her own, might as well have left her racquets at home.
After a shaky start to the year, the ever-erratic Kvitova seems to have begun to round into form—for the moment, anyway. She played Serena Williams close last week in Doha and is in the semis in Dubai. But this also happens to be a very good matchup for her; Kvitova is now 4-1 against her higher-ranked but lower-powered opponent. At times today she made beating the No. 4 player in the world look preposterously easy. Kvitova, whether serving or returning, started most points near or inside the baseline and was almost never pushed backward. She wasn’t forced to hit a defensive shot until 2-2 in the second set. You felt that if Kvitova could just dial back her slugging a bit and work each rally with some margin for error, she might not lose a point.
But that’s not the Petra way, as we know, and despite winning quickly and comfortably, she didn't do it by smoothing out her up-and-down style. Serving at 1-2 in the second set, Kvitova began with two double faults and a missed overhead to go down 0-40. What did she do to save those three break points? Hit three clean winners, naturally. At 3-3, Kvitova earned five break points herself. On one, she missed a forehand long. On another, she missed a forehand into the net. On the third, with the easiest sitter forehand imaginable and the whole court in front of her, Kvitova still went for the line, and missed the shot wide. But such was her superiority in pace and positioning that she still won that game, on her fifth break point.
Kvitova moves on to a semifinal against Caroline Wozniacki, another wallboard who has done a better job of fending off the big Czech in the past than Radwanska has. Kvitova and Wozniacki are 3-3, with Kvitova having won the last two meetings.
As for Radwanska, she might want to go out for a run in the morning. She did enough walking today.