(October 24, 2012)--A year removed from a breathtaking title run at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Petra Kvitova is finding that living up to expectations created by her own scintillating results in 2011 is no small task.
Update: Kvitova has withdrawn from the 2012 Champions with a viral illness and will be replaced by alternate Sam Stosur in the draw. "I've never withdrawn from a tournament," Kvitova said in a statement. "This is the first time for me. I don't like to give up, so I'm really disappointed."
Kvitova blamed some of her poor play on nerves on Tuesday, but after the fact she realized that nerves were only part of the story. "I think it's a lot of things," she said. "I have a sore throat from this morning. I know if I'm not 100% ready to compete with these girls on this level, I can't play. That's why I'm withdrawing."
It hasn't been all bad in 2012 for Petra Kvitova, who owns a 45-16 record that includes two Grand Slam semifinal appearances, but it hasn't been all good either. Take Tuesday for example, when Kvitova lost for the first time in four career matches to Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-3, 6-2. It wasn't so much that Kvitova lost her first indoor match on a hard court in 26 tries--it was how she lost. Generosity is a laudable trait in many professions, but on the tennis court more often than not it is a death sentence. In committing 41 unforced errors against Radwanska, many of which were nowhere near her intended target, Kvitova displayed an alarming inability to keep her game in check.
Unable to find her range, and unwilling to throttle down, Kvitova just kept walking the proverbial plank with a blindfold on until she hit the water with a thud.
A year ago, things were considerably different.
“She answered the call of greatness,” wrote Peter Bodo of Tennis.com after Kvitova had disposed of Victoria Azarenka in last year’s WTA Championships final, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. Bodo was right--at the time. But these days, it seems like when greatness calls Kvitova isn’t picking up the phone.
“The story of the season?” asked ESPN’s Greg Garber, in a column written after Kvitova finished off climb in the rankings from No. 34 to No. 2 in 2011. “With her title at the year-end TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, it was Kvitova. For while Li is 29 and Stosur 27, Kvitova is only 21 and promises to be a major factor for many years.”
She’s 22 now, and while still a factor, Kvitova’s itchy trigger finger might be keeping her from being a major factor. With so many weapons, and so much encouragement to play freely and go for her shots, one can sympathize with Kvitova’s plight. She’s built for speed. She’s a left-handed power-hitter that has cultivated a smashmouth brand of tennis that has won her a Wimbledon title and brought her as high as No. 2 in the world.
She’s all-in, all the time, but the problem with Kvitova’s perpetually unbridled aggressiveness is that she doesn’t seem to realize when she’s sabotaging her chances in a match. When it comes to shot selection, Kvitova seems to only think offensively, even when she’d be better served by a more conservative posture.
After Kvitova sailed past Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon final last year, Karen Crouse of the New York Times wrote that “Kvitova’s game is mature behind her 21 years,” but since that match, Kvitova has proved time and time again that she’s either unwilling or incapable to evolve into a player that can win matches when she isn’t playing her best. Lacking patience, guile, and not the fleetest of foot, Kvitova tends to attempt to hit her way out of trouble, instead of thinking her way out.
But as questionable as her decision-making can be, Kvitova still remains a potent player with a penchant for hitting her most remarkable shots when the chips are down.
At the age of 22, blessed with mind-boggling power and a wicked lefty serve, Kvitova is certain to remain a fixture in the top ten for years to come, but does she possess the special qualities that will enable her to answer the call to greatness with any predictable consistency? In other words, is Kvitova destined to be great, or was she destined to be great?
Can Kvitova strike the balance in her game that will ultimately enable her to disrupt the balance of power at the top of the game?
Having good days has never been a problem, but to realize her potential, she’ll have to figure out how to avoid having the bad days.