What a week in Miami, and what a week to be a Petra Kvitova fan! Yes, Petra did it. She won the WTA 1000 tournament in Miami, a 30th career title and the win puts her back into the WTA top 10. In the final on 1st April, Petra beat favourite Elena Rybakina, who was going for the Sunshine Double after taking the title in Indian Wells a few weeks back. Rybakina was the heavy favourite after having a great start to the 2023 season, but this was no April Fools Day trick, Petra Kvitova really won her 9th WTA1000 level title, the biggest win since the Madrid 1000 in 2018.
Petra has never done that well in Miami, probably due to the fact that usually it is very hot and humid. Petra is an asthmatic and humidity just does not usually agree with her. However, this week she played so well only dropping one set all week in six matches. The key to her success was excellent service. Petra was not broken more than once in most of the matches that she won this week. Her opponents were not all that highly ranked, but wins over rising young Czech, Linda Noskova, a resurgent Donna Vekic, fast rising Vavara Gracheva, hard-hitting Ekaterina Alexandrova, giant-killer Sorana Cirstea and in the final Elena Rybakina were all good win. These are all players that were in good form.
This Miami tournament was beset by rain delays with Petra’s match against Alexandrova being delayed by 24 hours, which meant that she played the quarter-final, semi-final and the final on successive days. One of the things that Petra has struggled with in recent years, is fitness and stamina, but there was no such problems here. Despite the warm conditions, she did not show any signs of weariness in the last three matches. The courts are fast, and this was a meaningful factor in her triumph.
She opened after a first round bye against the latest young Czech, Linda Noskiva. Just 18, Noskova has a good all round game but this was a lesson for the youngster, with Petra ruthlessly bageling her in the second set.
Next up, a familiar opponent, Donna Vekic, a Croatian player who has found some form after quite a while out with injury and win a title just last month. Vekic is a good match up however, as she goes for her shots so nice short rallies – just what Petra likes!
In many ways, the match in the fourth round against Gracheva was one of the toughest. She is a fast rising Russian player (who is hoping to get French citizenship soon) but has shot into the top 50 and she put Petra under quite a bit of pressure in the match in the fourth round. Petra pulled out the win, but looked absolutely exhausted by the end and at that point, I really didn’t think she’d go that much further.
However, due to the rain she got an extra day off and faced Alexandrova in the quarter-finals where she dropped her only set of the week. Alexandrova, another Russian, is a talented player but slightly one-dimensional. She hits hard which is a style that Petra likes quite a lot actually. But what Alexandrova doesn’t really have is an extra gear or another level. Once Petra got the bit between her teeth, the Czech-based Russian had no reply. Alexandrova is rather notorious as a poor closer, often getting into winning positions but rarely pulling out the biggest wins.
The semi-final against Sorana Cirstea was one I was not looking forward to. Cirstea beat Petra in the Australian Open in 2021 and 2022 and has been a difficult opponent over the years. She had just pulled off a massive shock by beating the in-form Aryna Sabalenka pretty handily. Indeed, Cristea started very well and got to 5-2 in the first set, but at that point, Petra flipped a switch and really raised her level. She won the next seven games to go 7-5, 2-0 up and from then on, Cirstea really didn’t have a response. The reliability of the Kvitova serve meant she closed it out in straight sets.
Petra came into this, her first Miami Open final, as a real underdog however. Rybakina had won Indian Wells and got through the early rounds in Miami despite having some real battles but ultimately beating a number of very good opponents. She saved match points against Paula Badosa earlier on and came through a tight semifinal against Jessica Pegula. For many people, Rybakina has been one of the best players of the year so far. There has been quite a lot of talk recently about a new big three in the WTA. World number 1, Iga Swiatek, number two Aryna Sabalenka, the Australian Open, champion, and Rybakina, who has been one of the most solid players, and has served Iga Swiatek with a couple of heavy defeats already in 2023. Rybakina has a very fast serve and has hit more aces and winners than anybody else on tour this year so far. However, this final was a different story.
Petra beat Rybakina in Adelaide in January quite handily, but the thought was, that that was before the Australian Open, before Rybakina had been in so much better form. I am a fan of Elena Rybakina and I do remember that at the beginning of 2020 she was the one who was about to break through, before anyone was even talking about Iga Swiatek.
However, this final was a very interesting match for several reasons. One of the major reasons Petra won was how smartly she played. Usually Petra is an all or nothing player. She goes for her big winners and it might go in or might not! However, in the final today she only made 14 unforced errors, a stat any fan of Petra knows that is a number she can match in a couple of games normally! What was especially notable was the strength of Petra serve. This has been a feature of her run during the entire tournament, where Petra has not been broken more than once in any of her matches (apart from against Vekic when she dropped serve twice.). Today that break came when she was serving for the first set at 5-4 when she definitely tightened up a little. She did well to regroup and make it to the tiebreak and what a tiebreak it was!
In many ways, these last few weeks have been a story of some epic tiebreaks for Petra. The 13-11 win over Jessica Pegula in Indian Wells was an absolute classic. Not just for it being 13-11 in the final set, but because of the way Petra saved four match points with amazing winners.
This tiebreak was even more dramatic – and longer. It lasted over 20 minutes and in the end Petra clinched it 16-14. She had had to save quite a lot of set points, but the serve held up so well. Did I mention she hit ZERO double faults in his final?
The tiebreak began with Rybakina winning the first first three service points with aces and at that moment, it seems like she would continue her amazing run in tiebreaks in 2023. Rybakina came into this match having played 7 tiebreaks add won them all. But once again it was Petra’s serving that made the real difference.
As a Petra fan, I know her serve sets up her entire game. In pure speed times. Petra is one of the slowest servers in the top hundred. She rarely breaks 107 or 108 mph on the serve, but what is often underestimated is her second serve. Petra’s second serve is regularly over 90 mph and what is especially notable is the variety that she puts on her serve. As a lefty, the wide serve on the ad court has been one of her biggest weapons over the years. Rybakina never really came to terms with Petra’s serve today, and indeed Petra won something like 75% of the points on her second serve. That statistic was always going to be a winning one. Rybakina struggled to keep her returns away from the Kvitova forehand and her favourite shot, the crosscourt backhand, went into lefty Petra’s forehand. While Rybakina ended with 22 winners, 12 of those were aces, so only 10 winners off the ground today for one of the most aggressive hitters on the tour.
The other thing that was notable today is the game management that Petra deployed. We’ve seen this throughout the tournament to be honest. Once Petra gets a break, quite often she would appear to relax a little bit on return games, and conserve energy rather than wearing herself out chasing after the ball. While in many ways, this is a dangerous tactic, because her serve was so reliable this week, she was able to deploy this tactic very successfully. And it meant that she had the energy to put in when she was serving.
Playing smart is not always something that has been associated with Petra over the years. Usually it’s Petra‘s power blasting people off the court or blasting the ball out of the court! That smart play made the difference and has been a feature of her wins. Re-watching this match, it was evident the shape that she was putting on the ball, and this could be seen in the fact that she only hit 14 unforced errors. Something that Petra can do in three or four games usually!
Of course this match was really all about that first set tiebreak and the way that Petra used her experience and superior game management to win. An epic tie break was also a feature in the Indian Wells final a few weeks ago, where something similar happened, but in reverse. Rybakina was playing Aryna Sabalenka and there was a first set tiebreak that went very long. That one was notable for a lot of nerves and double faults, whereas this match did not feature that. It was more about winners than errors and while absolutely nail-biting for us Petra fans (THAT ball on 8-7 that looked way out!) I do think this epic tie break was better in quality. Quality AND drama! However, I was an absolute nervous wreck watching this!
In many ways, Rybakina’s serve, which has been talked about as probably the best since Serena Williams’, was exposed a little today. Yes she had 12 aces and a brilliant statistics is that she served over 10 aces in every match this tournament. However it didn’t do the job today, especially on second serve in particular. It was just not as effective as the slower, kicking serve was often right in Petra’s hitting zone.
Rybakina has had kino tape on her shoulders and I don’t know if she is struggling a little physically, but that is one area of her game that she can definitely improve.
Quite honestly I don’t really care though! The fact is that Petra just played better today and she is a fully deserving champion. As a Petra fan, this is a brilliant achievement. Her 30th career title, and with this win, Petra is back into the top 10 in the rankings and the top five in the race for the year. Reaching that 30th title has been something us fans have been hoping for, but wondered if it would happen.
In the last few years titles have been much harder to come by, and after the glorious triumph for title number 29 in Eastbourne last year, my main hope for this year was that she would reach that magic 30th. However, I don’t think any of Petra‘s fans imagined it would be in Miami – a tournament where she’s never progressed beyond the quarter-finals. The court played fast this week and perfectly suited Petra’s game. As I said I do think that she put more shape on the ball quite a lot this week. Petra also has the ability every now and again to flatten out her shots and go for those winners and this has been notable in a lot of her wins this week.
A WTA1000 title, the first since Madrid in 2018, and a fantastic achievement to win another big WTA tournament, and and nice little $1.2million pay check!
After Indian Wells many people thought Miami would see a repeat final with Sabalenka and Rybakina once again facing off. This was especially the case after Aryna Sabalenka pretty much dismantled Barbora Krejcikova in the fourth round. Krejcikova has not had good luck with draws, being paired against Sabalenka for the third 1000 tournament in a row. In Dubai, Krejcikova handed Sabalenka her first loss of the season, then went on to claim the title. In Indian Wells Sabalenka got her revenge and made the final. Here in Miami the forth round match was one many were really very much looking forward to. However, it didn’t prove to be the battle I expected. Sabalenka played absolutely flawless power tennis to beat Krejcikova decisively in straight sets. Barbora really did not play badly at all, but Sabalenka was simply awesome. Brilliant serving, great off the ground, slices, drop-shots … probably one of the best matches I’ve seen Sabalenka play – and that includes the Australian Open final! There was barely a dip, hardly an error from Sabalenka. At that point, she looked like the one that was going to snatch the title here. However, she has been struggling a little with some injuries. In the very next round, it was quite a shock when she was beaten by Sorana Cirstea. 32 year old Cirstea took the match to Sabalenka and was very aggressive.
In sadder Miami Open news, Katerina Siniakova was forced out in round one with a nasty looking wrist injury. It also put her and Krejcikova out of the doubles tournament. I watched the match against Claire Lou where Siniakova had taken the first set, but she did something to tweak her wrist and poor Siniakova just couldn’t play on. She was in tears by the end. She’s posted pictures on social media with her wrist brace on and hopefully will be back soon.
The other big injury news from the Miami Open was the often injured Bianca Andreescu, who, once again had a dramatic (possibly drama-queen dramatic) injury. This was in Kvitova’s section of the drawer, and after Kvitova had a bruising loss against Andreescu in Guadalajara last year, many of us fans were not looking forward to a match up against the confident (dare I say cocky!) Canadian in the quarter-finals. As it turned out, in the fourth-round match against Alexandrova, Andreescu turned her ankle on the court and after lots of wailing was wheeled off in a wheelchair.
I’ve said several times on this blog, I’m not a fan of Bianca Andreescu. I know many people like her, but for me she is too full of herself, overconfident and over hyped. She has really done nothing since a few good months in 2019 when she won Indian Wells and then the US Open. But to be fair to her, she has been very unfortunate with injuries. She is still very young, but if I was on her team, I would be worried about the fragile state of her body. It’s been one injury after another and while I agree with Angelique Kerber, she IS the biggest drama queen ever, the WTA tour would be the better for having more talented and charismatic players. However, this is never going be a Bianca Andreescu blog, so I think I’ll leave it there with her.
Let’s end with just the euphoria of Petra Kvitova winning a 30th singles title and returning to the WTA top 10. Petra is the Miami champion. No, I still can’t quite believe it. It is April 1 today but I promise you this is no joke. Petra is the champion in Miami. As a Petra fan, this was absolutely glorious. WTA Bjg Three? Take that, you’ve been Petra-d!
If Petra can maintain this form, she can be a threat this year. If. 😀
And she did it in a different outfit every match!