By Ros Satar
(October 28, 2015) SINGAPORE – On a rainy day in Singapore, Petra Kvitova finally found a way to shine as she challenged fellow leftie Czech Lucie Safarova. With both having lost their opening rounds, it was really a must win for either of them to avoid an early trip home (albeit to prepare for the Fed Cup Final).
It might not have been the prettiest of tennis out there, but the match was a tight two-setter with Safarova going toe-to-toe with Kvitova, neither player conceding a break point until the end of the first set, as Safarova strove to get the advantage.
It took the 2011 champion two set points to get the much needed edge over her Fed Cup team-mate, but that was no deterrent to Safarova as she came out swinging for the fences. Catching Kvitova on the hop, she ripped through the first three games before the two-time Wimbledon champion shot back with four games on the trot to get right back in it.
She even threatened to break again, forcing Safarova to save two break points, before finally delivering the blow in the final game, breaking for the match 7-5, 7-5.
Kvitova described how she felt she had turned things around, saying: “I think in the last game she missed two forehands down the line. I think that’s her best shot. So probably that helped me in that game. But really tough to say. I mean, always when it’s really tight, the sets, you going to try to keep to putting as many balls in and just try and wait what going to happen.”
With the pair set to team up in the Fed Cup Final, Safarova described how the different dynamic helps pull the team together.
She said: I prefer playing with Petra. We always had a lot of fun through Fed Cup weeks. We are a great team, which we show with our results in last few years. I’m excited about that. It will be nice to play in Prague, at home, in front of our crowd. We have sold out the arena already, so I’m sure it will be amazing.
“[The team] do all sorts. We have every day team dinners, and of course we have practices together. We have fun in the locker room. We always in the evening hang out together at our doctor’s room and just chat. Someone has a treatment and all the others are there with them. So it’s just a really nice week. Like all activities what we do we do together.”
Next up on the menu was Garbiñe Muguruza and Angelique Kerber, and many felt this had the potential to be a corker of a match. It certainly started with intent as the Spaniard, currently on a three match-winning streak over Kerber, including two wins in Grand Slams this year.
That may well have played on her mind, as she lost her opening game, although broke back to set things back on an even keel. Neither player seemed to be giving an inch, but a sloppy ninth game saw Muguruza force Kerber onto the back foot. One break-point was saved but it was not enough as Muguruza struck before edging out the first set 6-4.
She wanted to carry on that momentum, pushing Kerber to defend three break points but the German would not allow her the early momentum. That being said, Kerber just could not make a dent in the Muguruza service game, and struggled once more with Muguruza playing very solidly and being rewarded with the break.
Credit where it is due though, as the German battled back but all that effort was to no avail as she was broken straight back as Muguruza stepped up to serve the match out 6-4, 6-4.
With three match points behind her the nerves kicked in, throwing in her first double fault of the match. But a beautiful finish at the net saw Muguruza in the running for qualification with a 2-0 lead, but of course life is never that simple with the scenarios.
Muguruza said: “I’m feeling very good. You never know how it’s going to go here when you come first time. For sure I’m very happy of how is it going.
“Hopefully I can keep playing like this. It’s great to be here in singles and doubles. I’ve played all the year singles and doubles, singles and doubles, so it’s great to have this payoff being here.”
Kerber said: I think it was a good match from both of us. It was a close one in the first, and in the second set I had my chances. I couldn’t take it in the first set and as well in the second set.
“I was coming back in the second set. I was trying to play until the last point. Again, I was fighting, like I’m always doing. But she was more aggressive in the important moments. I think that was the key at the end for the match.”
She continued: “I think she played a good year. I mean, she reached the top 10, top 5 right now. But I think right now she had a lot of confidence from the last few weeks, and I think that helps her like to be very confident in the important moment and just go for it. I think that’s why she is so dangerous right now.”
The scenarios for both groups give everyone some kind of chance as we head into the last matches of the round robin stages and return to the Red Group, as top seed Simona Halep takes on Agnieszka Radwanska, and Maria Sharapova possibly closes the door on US Open champion Flavia Pennetta’s career.
Play begins at 1pm with the doubles on Thursday.
Ros Satar is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals as media for Tennis Panorama News. She is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.