WTA Madrid Final Preview: Petra Kvitova v Svetlana Kuznetsova

Petra KvitovaA marvellous week in Madrid will conclude for the women with an unlikely, yet rather fabulous final line-up featuring Petra Kvitova and Svetlana Kuznetsova.  Before this tournament, I don’t think many, if any, had Petra or Svetlana on the radar.  Kvitova had been out for over a month, taking time away from the tour citing exhaustion.  She came back for Fed Cup a few weekends ago and won both her singles rubbers.  Her first WTA match back ended in defeat against the rising American, Madison Brengle in Stuttgart.  Kuznetsova’s form had been characteristically erratic this year and her first outing on the clay was a straight sets defeat to Shuai Zhang in Prague last week. Kuznetsova had previously won all four matches against Zhang.

Before today’s semi-finals, both Petra and Svetlana had had great weeks in Madrid, but particularly the Russian who had valiantly fought way her through the draw, winning back-to-back-to-back three setters.  The pair came into the semi-finals as underdogs but saved their best tennis to inflict noteworthy upsets.  Kuznetsova spent just shy of six hours on the court in less than a day, beating Sam Stosur in the early hours of Thursday morning, 5-7 6-2 7-6(5) (2h43) and then overcomnig Lucie Safarova on Thursday afternoon, 5-7 7-6(5) 7-6(3) (3h05).  Kuznetsova didn’t show a great deal of fatigue, at least visibly, and was in the zone from the get go as she took out the defending champion, Maria Sharapova, 6-2 6-4.

This was a near perfect performance from Kuznetsova who came out with a pretty beautiful gameplan. She moved Sharapova from the side-to-side on the baseline, dictating her fair share of the rallies.  She also tried to draw Sharapova in towards the net where the world number three can be vulnarable.  Kuznetsova was aggressive when there was the opportunity to be, but also demonstrated her ability to defend so well on this surface. Kuznetsova is known for being a little fragile mentally but she was all over this match.  Kuznetsova won the first set reasonably comfortably, but there were moments in the second set when this could have flipped.  Sharapova had a break point at 2-1 in the second set (which was saved) and then after getting broken, saved three break points down 4-2.

The next game had BREAK written all over it but Kuznetsova faced little pressure from Sharapova on return and then served out the match without the customary shakiness.  In fact, Kuznetsova was not broken during the entire match which is a pretty awesome stat for the world number 29 considering she was playing someone of Sharapova’s quality.  There’s a fair case to be made that one of the reasons Sharapova played so poorly was due to the way that Kuznetsova played this match.

In the second semi-final, Kvitova inflicted a first defeat in 2015 on Serena Williams with a majestic performance to win, 6-2 6-3. This was Petra’s first ever victory over Serena after losing their first five encounters.  The key factor was Kvitova’s return; she went to town on Serena’s second serve, maintaining an aggressive stance on this shot.  It really paid off as she broke serve on six occasions and Serena won just 29% of points on her second serve.  Kvitova was the much sharper player and Serena looked sluggish from the start and never really looked like turning this match around.  I’ve said it before in the last year but Kvitova looks really fit at the moment.  She was scurrying around the court, getting to balls that you wouldn’t have expected her to reach a few years ago.

We’ve been spoilt for WTA finals in the last month with Charleston and Stuttgart both producing finals that are worthy of ranking in the top ten best matches of 2015 so far.  Kvitova leads the head-to-head with Kuznetsova, 3-1 although it was Kuznetsova who won their last encounter on the clay courts of Roland Garros in a tremendous match, 9-7 in the third set.  It was one of those matches that seem to be forgotten over the year, perhaps overshadowed by the final between Sharapova and Halep.

Kuznetsova’s defence and general court craft has the ability to drive Kvitova cuckoo, particularly if the Czech player is having one of those off days.  However, Petra served and returned extremely well against Serena, which would give her a huge advantage in this match.  Also,  Petra has a great record in finals, winning eight of her last ten over the past four years. Kvitova also won Madrid back in 2011, beating Victoria Azarenka in the final.  I’d fancy a close match but I’d still question if Kuznetsova gets into a winning position, whether she’d have the nerve to close it out and win the title. I’m really looking forward to this match and as always, i’d love to hear your thoughts on who might prevail.

Prediction: Kvitova d. Kuznetsova in 3 sets

Poll results: 17% of readers correctly predicted that Kuznetsova would beat Sharapova and 32% correctly predicted that Kvitova would beat Williams.

Photo in this post by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

18 thoughts on “WTA Madrid Final Preview: Petra Kvitova v Svetlana Kuznetsova

  1. Given the form that these two are in currently, it would come as no surprise if they matched up to produce another three-set thriller.
    Can Kvitova reproduce her form from Friday? Can Kuznetsova finish off the job in what will be a memorable week for her?
    If Kvitova picks up from where she left off then her rival is going to have a tough time coping if Williams couldn’t.
    However, if that standard drops then the Russian is more than capable of winning and I believe Kuznetsova has what it takes to add another trophy to her collection.
    I envisage this one being competitive so I’ll look to the games market, but picking a winner is much more difficult.

    James, as usual, excellent point of view…

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  2. As a long time fan of Sveta I am delighted she has made the final,Sveta is a very crafty clay court player,this week she has battled well against all of her opponents,loved the way she played against Sharapova,in saying that she comes up against Petra who was ‘on song’ defeating Serena.If Petra can carry that kind of form she displayed against Serena,Sveta will be hard pressed to win,.as we have seen in the past,Petra’s game at times is inconsistent,she can’t afford to do that against Sveta.

    I hope I am not jinxing Sveta.I am picking her to win a 3 set thriller.

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  3. This is so difficult. I think Kuznetsova has more than enough game to win here. She can mix it up better than any other player on the WTA and Kvitova plays MESSY when she can’t get into a rythm. But does she have what it takes to get across the finishing line mentally? Im not sure… im going to back her purely because I’m one of her biggest fans and I think it means much more to her.

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    • Yeah Andrew, I give more chances to Kuznetsova because Kvitova knows to go down and struggle with UEs and Kuznetsova is perfect opponent who will force Kvitova to make more mistakes( Kuznetsova isn’t Bouchard lol). Their last match was last year on French Open and it was really tight, I suppose that this one will be close and Kuznetsova looks in amazing form and I’m going with her momentum.

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  4. Technically speaking, Petra should win this one provided she is not losing mind during the match again. She should win in two sets but I see a three setters. I was betting on her to win in the semi and I hope she can win 🙂

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  5. Go Petra. I hope she gets this. She needs more confidence in the clay to truly become a contender in Grand Slams besides Wimbledon.

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  6. WOAWWWWWWW!!! Crazy turn on events. I’m leaning towards kuznetsova to win the momentum, the belief, respect. This will be a cracker and most likely go to 3 sets. Kvitovas gona be puttin up a fight.

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  7. Petra will be looking to avenge that loss at RG last year, and I think she’ll be successful. All those matches will finally catch up to Sveta, and Petra will get through in two sets *fingerscrossed*

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  8. Their RG match was a weird one because I recall Sveta having trouble closing their first set out and Kvitova taking it on a TB. Then Kuznetsova nearly bageled Kvitova in set 2. Then there was a huge MTO and Kvitova came out all guns blazing in the decider before they leveled up and Sveta won in the end.

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  9. Most of you are right, and it will depend on who can maintain their intensity long enough to clinch it when it matters. Personally their matches against Sharapova and Serena basically cancels each other out.
    However, Svetlana is the more defensive counter puncher so if it has to go to a third grueling set, the odds will be in her favour. Petra has an intensity which comes and goes, the aim is to survive her blitz with minimal damage. You will get your opportunities with her. Mentally , imo, the edge is with Svetlana.

    I will go for Petra in straights, albeit close sets or Svetlana in 3 sets. The only exception is if Petra suffers a letdown from her Serena win, that would be a disappointing final.

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    • I agree that its Kvitova in 2 or Kuznetsova in 3. I don’t agree that Sveta has the mental age. But she has experience and ultimately I think she’s a better player, all things considered.

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  10. Congratulations Petra,today you were just in the ‘zone’,just a delight to watch,well done Petra!

    Sveta you had a wonderful week making the final,it was a pity your weren’t 100% in the final,still you can hold your head high,good luck in Roma!

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  11. Lovely Petra….made some decent trade too…i knew it from the start…Petra in finals is just too hard too beat….she crushes and make you weep….like Bouchard did it in 2014 Wimbledon finals

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