Racquet Reaction

Dubai: Kvitova d. Wozniacki

Friday, February 22, 2013 /by

Caroline Wozniacki had Dubai at her feet, but Petra Kvitova had the former No. 1 on the run. The left-hander’s deep drives pushed Wozniacki eight feet behind the baseline, leaving her toes tap-dancing on the "Dubai" sign painted on the court, when Kvitova stepped forward and caressed a forehand drop shot winner that settled softly on the opposite side of the net.

That sequence summed up the futility Wozniacki faced today: When Kvitova wasn’t busy punishing Wozniacki with depth, she disarmed her with brilliance. The 2011 Wimbledon champion broke serve in the opening game with a dazzling four-winner display, setting the tone for an authoritative 6-3, 6-4 victory. The win powered Kvitova into her first final since she claimed her ninth career title in New Haven last August.

Winless in two prior trips to Dubai, Kvitova has not dropped a set this week, sandwiching sweeps of former No. 1s Ana Ivanovic and Wozniacki around a crushing conquest of defending Dubai champion Agnieszka Radwanska on Thursday.

Consistency has been a challenge for Kvitova, who was two wins from the world No. 1 ranking at the 2012 Australian Open before stumbling through a trying season plagued by inconsistency and illness. Erratic shotmaking and a second serve that went MIA haunted her in a second-round Australian Open exit to Laura Robson last month, but this week Kvitova looks fresher and fitter than she has in months. When Kvitova plays this high-quality level of all-court tennis, opponents better hope they win the opening coin toss, as choice of serve may well be the last say they have in the match.

Reading Kvitova’s shots can be as easy as reading the registration of a car blurring by on the highway. Wozniacki’s quickness around the court and her anticipation are assets, but sometimes she looked absolutely clueless as Kvitova changed direction so masterfully at times, leaving the Dane looking like a stranded tourist.

Credit Wozniacki, who had split six prior meetings with Kvitova, for her competitive grit, but from that opening barrage it was clear the outcome was entirely on the Czech’s racquet. The 22-year-old leaned into her two-hander and lasered a cross-court blast behind Wozniacki to close the first set in 32 minutes, pounding out 20 winners compared to her opponent's three. An even scarier stat for Wozniacki: She served 83 percent compared to just 48 percent for Kvitova, yet was still severely outgunned in baseline rallies.

Rod Laver, another tremendous lefty shot-maker, once said: "Scrambling and running have won more matches than great shotmaking." Of course, Laver was one of the most explosive shotmakers on the run you’ll ever see, whereas Wozniacki is skilled at extending the point on the move. But the world No. 10 rarely hurt Kvitova when stretched today.

Wozniacki's last stand came at 2-2 in the second set. Jerking Kvitova side-to-side, Wozniacki moved up to midcourt and belted a swinging backhand volley winner for double break point—her third 15-40 opportunity of the match—which she converted by roping a two-hander down the line for a 3-2 lead. But Kvitova broke back immediately for 3-all, then won eight of the next 10 points on her serve for a 5-4 lead.

Asserting her all-court game, Kvitova reached match point shortly after. A mishit forehand return that landed on the line gave her the opportunity, and she sealed it on a Wozniacki error to set up a final against Sara Errani. Kvitova has not lost a set in three matches with the 2012 French Open finalist, including a 6-1, 6-3 thumping in the New Haven semifinals last summer.

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