After 50 minutes, there wasn’t much left for Svetlana Kuznetsova to do. She trailed Petra Kvitova in the Madrid final 6-1, 3-0, and if anything, those scores made the match sound closer than it really was. Kvitova had started with a brusque backhand return winner on the first point, and had only gained momentum from there. Dominating the rallies with ease, she had essentially taken the racquet out of Kuznetsova’s hand and made her into one more spectator at the Caja Magica.

But if Kuznetsova no longer had a racquet, she still had her foot. When she walked back on court down 0-3 in the second, she used it to wipe the baseline clean of clay. Normally a harmless ritual, even that turned out to be a bad idea on Saturday: All Sveta did was give Kvitova a clearer target for her laser ground strokes. Two points later, the Czech put the ball right where Kuznetsova had put her foot, smack on the baseline for yet another winner.

We know what Good Petra can do when she’s in the right relaxed mood, but this time she outdid herself. Kvitova hit 33 winners in 66 minutes, was 11 of 13 at the net, faced no break points, and made just 14 unforced errors. There was a nary a screech of “Pojd!” to be heard, and barely a celebration when it was over. By the second set, Kvitova seemed to be worried more about something that was stuck in her teeth than she was about losing the match.

At times, it appeared as if Good Petra had released a sequel to her last blockbuster, the 2014 Wimbledon final. On that day, Kvitova finished with a crosscourt backhand return winner; today she started with the same shot. In between, she was just as impossible for her opponent to handle. Kuznetsova’s only reliable way to earn a point was to hit a net-cord winner.

“I knew that I had to play aggressively,” Kvitova said, “because Svetlana’s a great player on clay, and the last time we played in Paris, I lost to her when we played normal rallies. So I knew that I had to make a lot of winners, and I knew that I had to go for the volley if I got the opportunity.”


Playing at Altitude

Playing at Altitude

That volley, especially the swinging variety, may have been most impressive shot of all from Kvitova. We know that she can blast from the baseline, but this time she didn’t force herself to do that; this time she moved forward and took the ball out of the air whenever possible. This has never been Kvitova's natural inclination, but perhaps that could change now that she’s lost weight and gotten in better shape. Kvitova says that her improved fitness has allowed her to play the way she has always wanted; moving forward would seem to be a logical way for her to avoid relying so heavily on her hit-and-miss ground strokes.

We’ll see. Whatever form Petra is in, the one thing we know is that it probably won’t last for long. I started the year believing that big things were in store for her this season; naturally, she lost early in Australia and disappeared for two months. But with a second title in Madrid, a second title in 2015, and a breakthrough win over Serena Williams, it’s safe to say that Kvitova is a force to be reckoned with once again. She has her energy and her desire back, and she can build again for the tournament she wants most, Wimbledon.

Could that build-up include another title or two on clay? While the surface forces her to hit more balls than she might like, she should be in better condition for the longer rallies now. And she proved again in Madrid that while she’s often too inconsistent to put herself into important matches, she’s not afraid of them when she gets there.

“I think I’m probably the kind of person who likes to play these kinds of big matches,” said Kvitova, who improved her record in finals to 16-5. “Finals are why we are playing tennis. We want to win the big tournaments and see these beautiful trophies.”

Kvitova’s win was a fitting finish to Madrid. Over the course of the week, the tournament turned many of the WTA's 2015 story lines on their heads, and the Czech has come out of the Caja Magica with the biggest bounce of all. The future is always unwritten with Kvitova, and no matter how dominant she might look, you’re better off not making any predictions about her chances. Over the long term, this makes her a frustrating player to watch. But on the days when she’s good, as she was in Madrid, Kvitova makes the beatdown into a thing of beauty.


Playing at Altitude

Playing at Altitude

For two card-carrying members of the Big 4, these guys don’t meet in many finals; this will be their fourth in 21 meetings, their second since 2009, and their first on clay.

At the start of the week, this one also seemed a little unlikely. Nadal was struggling with his form, and Murray was coming off a long weekend of tennis in Munich. But it was a winning weekend, and it turned out that his first career title on clay was just the start of a spring honeymoon on the surface. Since getting married last month, Murray is 8-0 on dirt.

Even more surprising, since playing until 3:00 A.M. earlier in the week, Murray hasn’t lost a set. In his semifinal win over Kei Nishikori, it looked as if Murray had sunk himself deeply into the clay season. His mix of depth and defense was masterly, and left Nishikori with nowhere to put the ball.

Now he’ll need to be even better. It used to be Monte Carlo that kick-started Nadal’s season; these days it's the home crowds in Madrid that give him a boost. The last two years, he has lost in Monte Carlo, won in Madrid, and gone on to win the French Open. So far the pattern is holding in 2015. Rafa hasn’t dropped a set in Madrid, and he looked as confident in his semifinal win over Tomas Berdych as he has all season. For the first time that I can remember, Nadal was lights-out with his forehand, and comfortable enough to hit both of his ground strokes to either corner whenever he pleased.

Murray has played Nadal tough on clay many times, but has come close to beating him only once, in Rome last year. In that match, he more than held his own from the baseline, but at the end he lacked the belief that he could turn his good play into a win over Rafa on dirt. I could see something similar happening on Sunday.

Winner: Nadal