SINGAPORE—Petra Kvitova loves Wimbledon. She has won two titles there, including in 2011 when the left-hander stunned Maria Sharapova in her coming-out party. But against Sharapova over the past four years, it has been another story. The Russian has won their last five matches, and entering today's contest in Singapore, she held a 6-2 record against Kvitova.
It took Kvitova three-and-a-half years, but she finally figured Sharapova out, overwhelming her, 6-3, 6-2. The world No. 2 looked stuck on the slow hard court, while Kvitova was running and playing at a faster pace.
Sharapova and Kvitova each lost their matches two days ago, to Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska, respectively, but both felt they were in good enough shape to reach the semis on Singapore. Sharapova came in with confidence, owing to the head-to-head record; Kvitova has been striking the ball very well over the past month, which included a title run in Wuhan.
Sharapova began the match up 2-0, but once she took a deep breath, Kvitova began cracking the ball. The Czech hit hard and deep off both wings, rolling her forehands into the corners and whipping her backhands on the lines. She bent her tall legs, jumped high, and attacked inside the baseline. She twisted her serves into the corner. Kvitova kept pushing, while Sharapova was surprised that she would not miss.
Both women measure six feet in height (Sharapova is 6'2"), which helps against high balls and eat them alive, but neither player is very fast going side to side. On Thursday, Kvitova seemed to know which side Sharapova was going toward, and she felt that she was hitting harder. She was in the zone, ready to rip at any angle.
Sharapova kept trying, and made sure that Kvitova would not bagel her in the second set, but down 6-3, 5-0, she was not playing well enough to make it a contest. On Kvitova's third match point, she ran to the right to set up a forehand. She cracked one and screamed at the sky in victory.
Sharapova, 0-2 in Singapore, has a very small chance of reaching the the semifinals and will face Radwanska (1-1). Kvitova is 1-1 and will go up against Wozniacki, 2-0, against whom she will have to play perhaps even better to advance. Kvitova needs to lock in early, knowing that “Caro” would love to engage in long rallies.
Kvitova and Wozniacki have each won four matches against each other and haven’t faced each other since 2013 in Cincinnati, when the Dane grabbed a tight, three-set win.
“I know that she improved a lot,” Kvitova said. “She's not only running and pushing the balls back, but I think she's playing a little bit more aggressive than she did before.”