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.”