Petra Kvitova won the YEC in Istanbul to cap off a fine year and cement herself as the 2011 player of the year. Kvitova beat Victoria Azarenka in a gripping, momentum swinging match, 7-5 4-6 6-3. Things looked ominous early on for Azarenka as she was broken to ease in her first service game with Kvitova starting and finishing the game off with crunching forehand return winners. Kvitova won the first five matches and Azarenka, playing in one of the biggest matches of her life was nervous and making too many uncharacteristic like errors. At 5-0 down, Azarenka did start to settle as she used her serve out wide to set up some winners and she held for her first game of the match at 5-1.
Suddenly the momentum swung as a near perfect Petra turned totally wayward as she hit a string of errors to surrender her next service game. Kvitova had 2 set points in the next game, but Azarenka improved the intensity of her serving and saved both of them. Before you knew it, Azarenka was back at 5-5 in the first set. Kvitova stopped the rot in the next game producing one of the finest shots of match as she mixed up her play with some deft slices. She played a poor drop shot but Vika could not do anything with it as Kvitova played a perfect pass. The momentum was back with Kvitova and she took the first set, 7-5.
At the start of the second set, Azarenka was much the sharper player and Kvitova was looking a little ragged. There was a succession of breaks in the middle of the set before Azarenka cemented one of her breaks easily playing her best tennis of the match. In places she was dominating the match hitting the ball with such convinction and excellent depth not allowing Kvitova the chance to hit winners. Azarenka held on well and won the second set, 6-4. Kvitova was looking tired at the start of the third set but dug deep and showed her competitive edge by saving 4 break points. At this stage, Kvitova’s barking was becoming excessive and practically after every point. It was even coming off a number of Azarenka errors, which I thought was a little classless from Petra.
Kvitova was now playing her best tennis since the start of the match as her screeching rallied herself into form. Azarenka got on the board at 3-1 and kept putting pressure on Kvitova not allowing her to run away the match. However she made some poor errors at crucial times in the match where she could have made inroads against a still tiring Kvitova. Kvitova had her first championship point at 5-2, but Vika saved it with a beautiful down-the-line backhand, which set up the winner. You sensed Petra might get tight, but to her credit she held her service game and claimed the title.
Kvitova has had an excellent breakthrough season and will now rise to number two in the rankings. She has not played her best this week, but she has still been the best player by far. There is still a lot of work to do to improve her game, but she is breathing down Wozniacki’s neck for that number one spot. Azarenka has had a very solid year and has made more inroads at the top events, but is still coming up a little short. If Serena and Clijsters can come back injury free at the start of next year, the 2012 season could be an exciting year for the women. Finally, I must say what a great week it has been in Istanbul. I was expecting half empty crowds but Turkey has put on a fabulous show and its been an entertaining YEC to wrap up a good season for the women.
In the coming weeks – Attention switches to the final tournaments of the mens season and I will be doing a blog about the best matches on the women’s circuit this year!