Tokyo was one of my favourite tournaments of the entire year and in particular, the two semi-finals were both superb. The first of the semi-finals between Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams was my favourite match from Asian swing coming in at number 9 on my countdown. Venus had rolled back the years beating a struggling Victoria Azarenka and then winning back-to-back three set epics over Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard. Her fitness was certainly a concern and the serve looked shaky to begin with, but she soon relaxed, found her range and confidently took the first set over Kvitova, 6-3.
Petra, like Venus, was enjoying her best week of 2013 and she rebounded strongly in the second set as her game unsurprisingly started to click as it too often does. This was such a great match because it was so competitively fought and there were some fantastic rallies between two of the heaviest hitters on tour. Kvitova was the most controlled I had seen her in months, meanwhile Venus was able to serve to her heart’s content after months of rolling it in due to a persistent back injury.
The first half of the third set was fantastic and there were no breaks in the decider with both serving extremely well. This was the most impressive mental performance from Kvitova all year as she saved break points and served two love service games when facing scoreboard pressure at 4-5 and 5-6 down in the third set. I particularly liked the truly EPIC, Petra “pojd” in the decider. The match concluded with a third set tiebreak, which saw Venus net a regulation forehand on the first point and scream in disbelief. Unfortunately the writing was on the wall from that point as Kvitova raced through the nerve-ridden tiebreak to claim one of her best wins of the year.
The overwhelming feeling I had when this match ended was what a great contest and even better, was the respect the two showed at the net. I’ve never been a big fan of Venus, but she earnt some brownie points in my books after this clash and I really hope she keeps fighting this hard in 2014. Kvitova went on to win the Tokyo title, which was her best moment of 2013 and I live in hope that she produce more of these types of performances in 2014.