Twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova stormed back into the world’s top 10 for the first time since June 2016 when she beat Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in Doha, in the first tour-level final since two Grand Slam winners since the Spaniard defeated Venus Williams at 2017 Wimbledon.
Coming into the tournament 21st in the WTA rankings, the Czech won 3-6 6-3 6-4 in two hours and 16 minutes becoming the third Czech to win the Doha title, after Safarova (2015) and Pliskova (2017) Kvitova was in trouble as she trailed 5-0 in the first set with fourth seed Muguruza looking to snap the Czech’s winning streak at 12 matches.
The Czech committed 15 unforced errors to just four winners in the first set while Muguruza maintained an impressive 75% first serve percentage. “I think in the first set she wasn't maybe playing her best. I think she made a lot of unforced errors right away, so it gave me a lot of advantage.
In the second set, it was more what I was expecting, you know, a tough match. And in the third it was just a little bit more equal,” said Muguruza after the match. “[Petra] has great shots, so she puts you in difficulties very soon in the point.
She has a good serve. She has a very well first, second shot, so it's always tricky to find your game or your rhythm”. Making her fourth appearance at Qatar Total Open, Muguruza aimed to win her second title at Premier 5 level, after 2017 Cincinnati.
She reached her first final in Doha defeating Duan and Cirstea in the second and third round to mark her first back‐to‐back match wins of 2018 season, dismissing No.7 Garcia in the quarterfinal improving her record against Top 10 opponents to 28‐28.
Then, she received walkover from Halep in the semifinal (right foot injury). Kvitova, who had sealed the title in St.Petersburg a week earlier, went in to win consecutive events played for the first time since lifting the trophies at Linz and WTA Finals (Istanbul) in 2011, conquering the third Premier 5 title after 2012 Montreal, 2014 Wuhan and 2016 Wuhan.
She defeated No.3 Svitolina, No.10 Goerges in the quarterfinal and No.1 Wozniacki in the semifinal. That win against the Dane was her 50th career win over a Top 10 opponent. “It was a long journey coming to Doha anyway,” she said after the match.
“I had a tough match against Aga [Radwanska] in the second round, which I thought probably I'm done in the match because I couldn't really move, and I didn't know how to turn that match. So on the other hand, probably that gave me something more than just the match.
I found out that I can still kind of turning those matches when I lost the first set against Karolina and Garbiñe today. I think with Svitolina I played really a good game from the beginning, so it wasn't that tough, but of course, it was a tough match but in different ways”.
Gradually, Kvitova came back into the match during a superbly contested second set. The quality of the shotmaking from both players remained outstanding and Kvitova managed to seize the deciding break of serve with a huge backhand crosscourt winner to move 5-3 up.
Her third ace of the match helped seal the set 6-3. “I put a little bit more volleys to my game. I think more slice as well. Sometimes I played drop shots. I am trying to change the game a little bit when I kind of open mind.
And today end of the match it was starting to wind a lot. It was windy, and I just tried to play in the middle of the court. So it was kind of funny for me as well,” Kvitova said. “I'm not really sure. I think we work a lot on the serve definitely, which I think I didn't really serve well yesterday, and today didn't either in this match.
But important is today I was able to win those rallies when I was serving”. The wind started picking up in the third set although the rallies became even more intense. Their high-octane game produced a thrilling show as Kvitova saved three further break points in the opening games while Muguruza was often forced to over-hit on big points and lost her serve.
After the fifth game, she also needed a medical timeout. “I did a weird movement. It was very windy, and one ball I did a weird movement with my knee, and I felt some pain, and then I thought about taping it to not make it worse.
So I don't know. Never had anything in my knee, so we'll see how it reacts after now when I'm going to be cold,” she explained. When Garbiñe took the medical timeout, Kvitova added, “the wind started more and more, which it was pretty annoying for me.
I tried to play to the middle, not really think about the wind that much. Sometimes I think I just put the ball somehow to the court over the net. I think we had like a few rallies which were really nice to watch. I played some slices, and it was just like a few meters after the net.
And that's sometimes it's just how it is and trying to put the balls into the court which is the most important thing as well”. Two games later, Muguruza survived two break points to go down a double break before conjuring up a clever lob to hold.
But Kvitova remained untouchable in serve and clinched the 22nd career title on her second championship point as the Spaniard netted the last backhand of the match losing her first WTA final since her Wuhan retirement to Venus Williams in October 2015.
“It's a beautiful trophy. It took a while to have it, for sure definitely. Today it was a big fight. Turning against one set down was very difficult. I spent two and something on the court again. So I don't know how I did it.
But it's worth it,” said Kvitova. “I played great tennis, St. Petersburg and here as well. So that means a lot to me”.