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Is Kvitova close to her Wimbledon-winning best?

Petra Kvitova on after the Ladies' Singles Trophy Ceremony on Centre Court.
by Paul Newman in Dubai
Monday 25 February 2013

Petra Kvitova showed glimpses of the form that won her the Ladies' Singles at Wimbledon in 2011 with her run to the Dubai title last weekend, her first title for more than six months. Wimbledon.com spoke to her after her win...

The desert sands of the United Arab Emirates are a long way from the green grass of Wimbledon, but for Petra Kvitova there is a clear connection. Life has not always been easy for the 22-year-old Czech since her memorable triumph at the All England Club two years ago, but victory here in the Dubai Duty Free Championships – her first tournament win for more than six months – was a reminder of the level of tennis of which she is capable.

Even though this tournament is played on hard courts, the speed of the playing surface at the Aviation Club brought the best out of Kvitova, just as the slick grass did at Wimbledon two summers ago.

A week after going close to denying Serena Williams the victory she needed in Doha to reclaim the world No.1 ranking, Kvitova overcame a challenging draw to win the 10th title of her career, beating Daniela Hantuchova, Ana Ivanovic, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki and Sara Errani. If the speed of the courts suited Kvitova, in other respects the conditions were tough, with temperatures approaching 30C under the fierce desert sun and an occasional stiff breeze.

There has been speculation recently that the current top four in the women’s world rankings – Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Radwanska – might break away from the rest of the pack in the style of their male counterparts, but Kvitova is clearly more than capable of rejoining that top group. It was not so long ago, after all, that she was just two wins away from becoming world No.1.

Kvitova is clearly a big-occasion player. All but two of the titles she has won have been at either Grand Slam or Premier level, the Premier tournaments being the eight most important events on the Women’s Tennis Association tour. Even when her form dipped last year, she still did well on the Grand Slam circuit, making the semi-finals in both Melbourne and Paris, the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the fourth round in New York.

Asked if she felt that Wimbledon would be her best chance of winning another Grand Slam title this year, Kvitova said: “Well I love Wimbledon, so I hope so. I love to play on the grass, and for me Wimbledon is always special. I have great memories and the feeling I had after the final in 2011 was amazing. I think that Wimbledon will always be in my heart as the best tournament in the world.

“As for my chances, I think Serena can play so well on the grass, too. It's not only about her, of course. Vika [Azarenka] and Maria play so well too and some players can always surprise.”

If 2011 was an outstanding year for Kvitova, whose six titles included both Wimbledon and the season-ending WTA Championships, 2012 was more difficult. By the standards of most players it was still an excellent year, but after winning only two titles she finished the season at No.8 in the world rankings, a drop of six places compared with 12 months previously.

The one significant weakness in the Czech’s game until now has been her movement, but she has embarked on a new training programme designed to strengthen her legs. She admits her body has been “confused” by the change, but after a scratchy start to the year, including a second-round defeat at the Australian Open, the new regime seems to be working. “I'm trying to get stronger on my legs, to have stronger muscles,” she said. “That's so that I can be quicker and stay quite low for the fast shots.”

Victory here was achieved despite a sore shoulder, which meant her serve was less effective than usual, and despite the absence of her coach, David Kotyza, who took a holiday. “He emailed me every day about my next opponent,” Kvitova said. “He knows exactly what I'm feeling if he is not here. He was really glad, and I think that it’s great for him to have a vacation to relax and to be ready for me.”

The win moved Kvitova up a place to No.7 in the world rankings. In the longer term – and with this year’s Championships at Wimbledon less than four months away – the victory could soon have even more significance.


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