After a difficult 2022 Barbara Krejcikova found her form this week in Tallinn, Estonia. A new event due to the cancellation of the China swing, this event was a big deal for Estonian tennis fans and their top players, Kaia Kanepi and Anett Kontaveit. However, the big story was the return of Barbora Krejcikova to the winners circle in singles with this title, her fourth WTA singles title overall and her first of the year. And it was the manner of that victory that was notable. This is a WTA 250 event but Krejcikova won it in impressive style – her first four opponents were players she had never beaten before.
In round one she defeated Ajla Tomljanovic who had beaten Barbara at Wimbledon earlier in 2022 in their only previous meeting. Next up was Marta Kostyuk, a feisty young Ukrainian, who led the head-to-head 2-0 and recently beat Krejcikova in Eastbourne. (You know, the one Petra won!)
Next up was Beatriz Haddad Maia who has been one of the best players of 2022 coming seemingly out of nowhere to win back-to-back titles on grass in Nottingham and Birmingham. This was the first meeting between the two on the singles court and a straight set win for Barbara was another impressive result.
The semifinal against Belinda Bencic was a classic. Bencic had won their previous two meetings at the Olympics in August 2021 and the BJK Cup finals in November 2021. This semi-final was an epic battle. Three hours 22 minutes with Krejcikova coming back from a set down. However, she was clearly the better player throughout. Indeed she won more points than Bencic in set 1, even though Krejcikova lost it in the tie break. Once again, Krejcikova turned around this head-to-head, and after the first two sets went to tiebreaks, Krejcikova just stayed solid to win the final set. Bencic, who I think is probably one of the best players never to have won a Grand Slam, showed some tremendous tennis at times. In this tournament she had a ridiculous stat, saving 39 out of 50 break points against her.
In this match Krejcikova had 20 break points on Bencic’s serve and only converted three times – twice in the final set. How many players missing opportunities like this would have crumbled? But Krejcikova showed terrific mental strength to not let those missed chances affect her, and the ability to focus one point at a time really did work out well. It was Bencic who crumbled, who missed shots into the net and was visibly frustrated throughout the final set.
In the final, Krejcikova was playing Anett Kontaveit, who has been ranked number two in the world for much of 2022, thanks to the points accumulated in her incredible end of 2021. However, Kontaveit has struggled herself this year. After losing to Krejcikova in the Sydney semi-final in an epic 14-12, final set tiebreak in January, and taking the title in St Petersburg, the Middle East swing saw her stumble after she was walloped by Iga Swiatek in the Doha final, and then contracted Covid, the effects of which have lasted throughout much of the year. Kontaveit had not had many wins, and her most notable match was probably being beaten by Serena Williams at the US Open during her amazing last stand.
Meanwhile, here in Tallinn, Kontaveit had cruised through the early rounds and in the semi-final played her compatriot Kaia Kanepi, the 37 year old perennial upsetter of top seeds at slams. This was a huge deal for the whole country. Indeed, VIPs this week at the event included the prime minister and president of Estonia and the mayor of Tallinn. Great for the country, although Kontaveit won quite easily. Her record on indoor courts was remarkable – 24 wins in a row. However the final was barely even close.
Despite that three hour plus semi-final, Krejcikova looked fit strong and was just too good.
A partisan crowd greeted every Krejcikova win with silence and gave loud cheers for her double faults. Maybe the expectation was a bit too much for Anett, who didn’t play her best – or rather, was not allowed to by a focussed and controlled Barbora Krejcikova.
As a Krejcikova fan, I’d started to wonder whether she would ever recapture the singles form of 2021. What was most impressive this week was her resilience and mental strength, as well as great serving, amazing forehands and drop shots. Krejcikova thinks so well on the court, mixing up slices, topspin, pace, dropshots. Despite spending a lot of time on the court she never looked tired and was just superb.
My previous post covered Siniakova’s impressive victory in Slovenia and with this win Krejcikova joined her doubles partner in following up the historic US Open doubles win with a singles title. But what is most heartening is that this was Krejcikova at her best once again. Showing the type of tennis that took her to the Roland Garros title. Control, power variety, and once again, she fully deserved this success.
Hopefully Krejcikova can rise back up to the top 10 again soon. Although she is now ranked around 23, she will not have too many points to defend next year, as between the Australian Open and Wimbledon, she barely won a match with the wrist injury savaging her season.
It was also notable Krejcikova played the whole week without her trademark visor! Will this be a new trend for Barbora??
This week the WTA action moves to Ostrava in the Czech Republic. Petra Kvitova is back on court, slightly to my surprise. There were strong rumours that she would wind up her season after the US Open. However, she has just pulled off a round one win over the dangerous American Bernarda Pera. Petra is struggling with the effects of flu and Pera has had a pretty great year herself, winning back-to-back titles on clay in the summer.
The Ostrava court looks slow, though, so Petra’s next round against number 2 seed Paula Badosa might be the end of her run. Still, Badosa has not been playing very well herself for quite a long period of time. She ended Petra‘s run at Wimbledon this year, with an unexpectedly good performance, her best since the beginning of the year probably. Yes, Petra was anxious and pushed the ball out a lot, but Badosa played very well that day.
Petra looked tired at times today but she is loved by the Czech crowd and if Badosa is a bit off her form you never know. Krejcikova is also playing in Ostrava and begins against the American Shelby Rogers. With how well she played in Tallinn she could do well, but that was a fast court so the adjustment may be tricky.
In terms of what’s coming up on the WTA tour in the next few weeks, the 500 events in San Diego is ridiculously stacked with almost everybody playing. Despite the fact it is a WTA500 event. The masters 1000 a week later is less full!
The outstanding world number one Iga Świątek with two Grand Slam titles this year leads the field into the Year End Championships which are taking place in Texas. Ons Jabeur has also confirmed her place but the fight for the other singles places are still up for grabs. Many of the players who were there last year are unlikely to repeat. Garbine Muguruza has probably had the worst 2022 of any player. She lost early in Tokyo recently and will not be defending the large number of points you got from the Year End Championships she won in 2021.
Maria Sakkari stands a chance of making it, but lost another 250 final this week to remain still only on one career title. Quite a stat for a top five player. Sakkari is such a likeable young lady and she looked so sad after being defeated by Mayar Sherif, the first Egyptian to win a WTA title.
I really did feel quite sorry for Sakkari. However, her inability to win big matches and only one 250 title is not enough for somebody who is supposed to be at the top of the game.
Other players who are playing well at the moment include Ludmilla Samsonova, a Russian player who has won 18 of her last 19 matches. She lost disappointingly to Tomljanovic at the US Open where many thought she could be a dark horse for the title. A lot will depend on who does well in Ostrava, San Diego and the 1000 event in Guadalajara. Maybe even Petra could make it??
Americans Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula will probably make the finals – only 2 WTA titles for Gauff and just one for Pegula! Gauff has built her career gradually and moved up the rankings year on year, but still has technical weaknesses in her game. Still just 18, she will probably get better however. Pegula is a Wozniacki/Svitolina type player, very solid and consistent but with no big weapons.
The Billie Jean King cup finals take place in Glasgow the week after the YECs, and today Iga Swiatek announced she would not be playing for Poland due to the very short time in between these two events. The Year End Championships are due to finish on the 7th of November in Texas, USA, with the Billie Jean King cup finals, starting on 8th November in Glasgow. There is a six hour time difference and very different conditions between Texas and Glasgow in November. However, the situation is not dissimilar to last year, when the Billie Jean King cup finals took place in Prague and Barbara Krejcikova was down to play singles and doubles in both the Billie Jean King cup finals and the year end Championships. Krejcikova ended up playing just singles at the Billie Jean King cup finals and lost both matches. Indeed when she went onto the Year End Championships with only a very short amount of time in between, she also lost all of her singles matches. To go from playing indoors in Prague to altitude in Guadalajara was a big adjustment. On the other hand, it was probably not just that for Barbara, who at that stage of the season in 2021 was looking very weary. She was able, alongside Katerina Siniakova, to go five nil in the YEC doubles to win the trophy but doubles is different. No ads in the games and a match tiebreak at one set all. Plus when you have Siniakova next to on the court with her boundless energy, it’s not the same as playing 3 sets of singles.
However, this post was all about the return of Barbara Krejcikova as a singles player. This victory in Tallinn may only be a 250 event but the opponents she beat were worthy of a Grand Slam: Tomljanovic, Kostyuk, Haddad Maia, Bencic and Kontaveit . And she didn’t just beat them she really did outplay every one of her opponents all week.
So who will win in Ostrava this week? Probably Iga Świątek as she seems to have done so much winning this year. However, my heart will still be with Petra Kvitova – and a little bit of it with Barbora Krejcikova…!