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Petra Kvitova talks WTA Championships, her penchant for three-setters, more

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Recently, Petra Kvitova won the Pan Pacific Open and reached the semifinals of the China Open. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Recently, Petra Kvitova won the Pan Pacific Open and reached the semifinals of the China Open. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

She’s one of the most dangerous players on the WTA Tour, but Petra Kvitova’s up-and-down year left her chances of qualifying for the WTA Championships in doubt for much of the 2013 season. Watching Kvitova is like being on a roller coaster from point to point, match to match, tournament to tournament, which makes her one of the most compelling players in the women’s game.

The big-hitting Czech broke through when she won Wimbledon in 2011. A shot-maker with all the inherent advantages of being a lefty (watch this video of all the winners she hit en route to her title in Dubai this year), Kvitova’s gasp-worthy forehand has earned her the nickname “Del Petra,” a reference to Juan Martin del Potro, her ATP counterpart in so many ways.

SI.com caught up with the 23-year-old after she finally secured her spot in the WTA’s season-ending tournament, which she won in 2011. After a strong Asian swing in which she won the Pan Pacific Open and made the semifinals of the China Open, Kvitova withdrew from the Generali Ladies Linz and the Kremlin Cup to heal a back injury and rest up for the tour’s season finale in Istanbul.

SI.com: What are your memories of playing in Istanbul?

Kvitova: The two years I [qualified for] the Championships were very different. The first one, in 2011, I was enjoying every moment on the court. I remember how I felt before my first match, and it was a really incredible feeling when I finished the tournament with the trophy. Last year was disappointing for me when I had to pull out of the Championships because of my sickness. I’m looking forward to this year. It’s the last time in Istanbul [the WTA Championships moves to Singapore in 2014], and I had a great experience over there.

SI.com: What’s your favorite thing about the event?

Kvitova: The crowd is amazing. It was really surprising [to me]. It was a full stadium all the time and [the fans] came and supported us.

SI.com: I have to ask you the question that everyone needs an answer to: Explain why you always have to play three-setters [Kvitova has played a WTA-leading 36 three-set matches this season, going 24-12]?

Kvitova: [Laughs] Explain? That’s gonna be hard. I’m so up and down, so when I play well I’m winning, and when I’m down my opponent takes her chance. But I’m always trying to fight. So probably I will not play the same level, high level the whole match, and so that creates a three-set match.

SI.com: You’ve also won a lot of them, though. You must be confident even if you lose the first set.

Kvitova: Yes, for sure. When I lost the first set to Li Na in the quarterfinals in Beijing, I was still positive. It was the same against [Jelena] Jankovic when I lost the second set [in the semifinals]. I think that it helps me to mentally fight because I won more of them.

SI.com: You got a later start in tennis than most professional players. When was the first time you realized you were good at tennis?

Kvitova: When I was 16 or 17. Until this time, I just practiced with my father. When I was 16, I moved to Prostejov, the biggest tennis center in the Czech Republic. Practicing that day was the No. 1 in the Czech Republic. I was like, “Oh, my God, I’m in a really good club so probably I can play good tennis.” So that’s when I knew I could be much higher.

SI.com: If you could replay one match in your career, which one would it be?

Kvitova: The semifinals of the 2012 Australian Open against Maria Sharapova, which I lost 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. [Kvitova had multiple break points late in the third set and couldn't convert and lost after a game in which she hit a double fault and three unforced errors.]

SI.com: When you’re at a tournament, who are the first players you call if you want to have dinner?

Kvitova: Lucie Hradecka or Stefanie Voegele.

SI.com: We see your coach, David Kotyza, quite a bit. He seems so relaxed when he comes down for coaching timeouts. What’s the funniest thing he’s said to you on a coaching visit?

Kvitova: He said something in Istanbul, I can’t remember specifically. He’s very serious most of the time, but sometimes when I need to relax he jokes a little bit.

SI.com: You guys travel so much — is there somewhere you’ve never been but would like to go?

Kvitova: I travel so much I don’t think I’m missing any place. I’m sick of the traveling. Maybe when I finish I’ll want to go to a new place or something but not now.

SI.com: What was the best vacation you ever took?

Kvitova: Last year I went to Maldives with my boyfriend at the time. I really liked it.

SI.com: What’s the last thing you Googled?

Kvitova: “How far is Vienna to Linz?”

SI.com: What’s the last song you listened to?

Kvitova: Long Way Down by Tom Odell.

SI.com: Describe your perfect day.

Kvitova: For sure it’s at home in Prostejov with my family and boyfriend. Just be home.

  • Published On Oct 16, 2013
  • 4 comments
    fistpumpy
    fistpumpy

    I ADORE Petra (I think the people who don't must be the same people who don't like fluffy puppies or newborn babes), but I am in two minds. On the one hand, I think a new coach in her box who would give her a little slap around the head and tell her how good she is supposed to be (because she's always seemed a bit oblivious) could be just the ticket, because she needs to do SOMETHING to get it together, but on the other, I've always had the worried feeling (deep down inside, where I keep my secrets) that her enjoyment of it all hangs precariously in the balance (right from the 2011 Wimbledon interviews she was giving when it sounded like she was pretty much saying 'Could've been tennis, could've been volleyball...meh.') Having a Zeljko in her box rather than a benevolent uncle figure who doles out giggles and high fives in the changeover (of which I am a fan, of course) might make her lose it altogether, and lead her to head off to be a teacher in Prostejov instead, and be just as content driving a Skoda around town again. Sad face.

    (Her practice sessions amuse me though. The ones I've seen have always consisted mainly of having a nice long chit chat at the net with David, throwing in a few serves or forehands for good measure, and then ambling slowly back up to the net to hang out and chat some more. Nary a sweat bead broken. Granted she's probably always knackered from the court time she puts in, but still.)

    I do like that the match she would replay is the one I think nearly all of us would choose too. I wonder if she also thinks 2012 might have headed in a completely different direction for her (and for the current triumvirate) had she closed it out.

    Anyway, P3TRA is fun and all, but I 'for sure' miss her blasting through 45 minute, 45 winner matches. There's nothing like it. There's no one else who shoots out those absolutely ridiculous physics-defying angles one after the other, and who looks like they're doing it with zero exertion whatsoever. I really do think that her 100% is better than anyone else's, Serena included.

    Bring back PET2A! (PET2A KVITWOVA, no less.)

    MatthewNeiger
    MatthewNeiger

    She a sweet young woman.  I really believe if she could get the right coaching she would be in much better shape.  She just needs to start shortening her 'off' periods during matches, learn to pull it in.  Then she could be less of a hot/cold player.  She should be holding serve easy the vast majority of the time.

    There really are only a handful of WTA women with a potentially dominant serve and she could be one of them (which is basically an easy invitation to top 4).

    She should be playing a Sampras style game, holding easily and gambling on return games, getting on average 1.5 a set.