So near and yet so far …

This week she beat several players that she has lost to recently. Teichmann beat her in the first round of Madrid, In round two she defeated Sorana Cirstea, someone who has beaten her twice at the last two Australian opens. In round three Petra was up against number five seed Ons Jabeur. Ons recently made the Wimbledon final and has been one of the best players of 2022. However Petra has always done well against her and had a faultless lead in the head-to-head until Ons finally got the win in Sydney at the start of 2022. However she has struggled a bit since making the Wimbledon final and Petra beat her 6-1, 4-6, 6-love. Apart from that middle set, 6-1 and 6-love against the world number five? Impressive stuff.

Being a fan of Petra Kvitova has always been a rollercoaster but this week in Cincinnati there was almost a fairytale ending. After being matchpoint down to Jil Teichmann in round one, Petra make it all the way to the final but was sadly outplayed by a resurgent Caroline Garcia. Making the final of the WTA 1000 event not long after winning the 500 in Eastbourne was a very impressive achievement for Petra.

After a straightforward win against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, Petra came through a tough semi-final against Madison Keys, the champion here in Cincinnati in 2019.

She started slowly and dropped the first set on a tiebreak to Keys, but regrouped so well to get an emotional win. 

Meanwhile Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia has been the player of summer. No one has had more wins and with this WTA 1000 title she has made it three wins on three different surfaces since June. On grass in Bad Homburg, in Warsaw on clay where she beat world number one Iga Świątek, and now on the hard courts of Cincinnati to take the biggest title for several years. Garcia has always been very talented, indeed she has had to live with a famous quote from Andy Murray who said that she would be world number one one day. Her best run in 2017 saw her steal into the WTA finals after winning two 1000 level events in Asia. However in the last few years Garcia’s form has fallen off a cliff! Low on confidence, terrible serving, she was struggling to get any wins. She was out with a foot injury earlier in the year but then came back to win the Roland Garros doubles title with Kiki Mladenovic that seemed to kickstart her season. The foundation of her increased improved form is fantastic serving. She leads the aces for the tour for 2022. However the other notable feature is her aggression on return of serve. She stands well inside the court every time when receiving second serves. 

In this final the main difference was just how clutch she was. Petra had eight break points and Garcia saved all of them, notably when she was 3-2 up with a break.  Petra had love-40 with the chance to get back on serve. Garcia served two aces and on the final break point there was a forced error from Petra. 

Meanwhile Garcia had four break points on Petra serve and took three of them. She looked supremely confident throughout, without any of her trademark wobbles and mental frailty of the past.

While I am extremely disappointed Petra could not make this her 30th singles title in this, her 40th singles final, there is no real dispute that Garcia deserved to win. 

Some notable statistics for Petra:; she made 168 winners in this tournament – the third best ever in the WTA event, at an average of 28 winners per match. In this final Petra made only eight unforced errors which included four double faults. Any fan of Petra knows these figures are staggering. Petra’s game is high-risk, lots of winners lots of errors. The stats in this final – 14W-8UEs is the most un-Petra-like performance. It may be some fatigue or jsut Garcia’s speed, but the winners weren’t flowing in this final. However, she was forced into quite a few errors. Usually watching Petra, every match is on her racquet. It is her winners and errors that determine the match. Not today though. Garcia has been red hot and Petra really had to dig in and fight, but ultimately clutch play from Garcia was the big difference in this final.

Lots of positives from this week – Petra is Czech number one once again (for now) and heads into the US Open ranked 21 in the world. In a dismal 2021 the third round of the US Open with her best slam performance so she is defending those points but with a reasonable draw I have high hopes that she can make the second week. 

In other nice news, Petra announced her engagement to her coach Jiri. looks like it all happened at Wimbledon!

In terms of other contenders for the US Open, world number 1 Swiatek has struggled since losing her remarkable 37 match unbeaten run. She lost to Garcia in her home tournament in Warsaw, Haddad Maia in Toronto and in Cincinnati she was beaten by Madison Keys. Like several players, notably Ash Barty, she is not a fan of the light balls are used by the women in the US Open swing of matches. These balls clearly suit players like Petra and Madison Keys and with Petra‘s recent recent wrist issues the lighter ball is probably putting less strain on her body. But with Iga slightly out of form and many of the top 10 similarly out of form, this really is a very open US Open. 

Of the top 10, Kontaveit, Badosa and Mugaruza are badly out of form Jabeur is on a downward swing since Wimbledon. Back into the top 10 though is Simona Halep who won the WTA 1000 event in Toronto last week has to be a contender, along with top-ranked American Jessica Pegula. Pegula is probably the most consistent player and had a good Cincinnati where she beat Emma Raducanu. 

Of course Emma Raducanu‘s fairytale run to the win to the US Open title last year was the story certainly here in the UK but it really was in the tennis world too. Raducanu is also coming back into some form finally. She had notable wins over Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka this week. 

Serena has announced that she will be ‘evolving away from tennis’, after the US Open and she was seriously out of form in the match against Raducanu. Raducanu even getting a bagel six love set. Similarly Victoria Azarenka looked very out of form and Raducanu got another bagel set in a good win over the former number 1.  However Jessica Pegula was a tougher test. Raducanu did not play badly but Pegula was just a bit too solid. 

In terms of other contenders Aryna Sabalenka made the semifinals but still has serious problems with her serve. Are they contenders? Hard to say. For the first time in many years Angie Kerber will not be seeded, Naomi Osaka is not really in any form, Bianca Andreescu similar. Whereas other players like newly minted Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina could be a threat. 

My other favourite, Barbora Krejcikova, is having a bit of a nightmare year in singles, barely able to win matches. She is defending QF points at the USO so will be hoping to find a bit of form. The arm injury that kept her out of action for several months seems to have affected her match confidence. Her best prospect will probably be in the womens doubles alongside Katerina Siniakova. The pair have won the Australian Open and Wimbledon and the US Open is the only slam to elude them. Neither are in great form, but crashed out in round 1 last year, so hopefully can get going. There are a few in-form doubles teams, so it won’t be easy. Notably, Venus and Serena have just got a wild card into the doubles so there will be a lot of eyes on the doubles!

By Kvittycat53

WTA tennis fan, especially Petra Kvitova, Barbora Krejcikova, Kateřina Siniaková

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