Saturday May 9th, 2015

A day after handing No. 1 Serena Williams her first loss of the season, No. 4 Petra Kvitova blasted her way to her second Madrid Open title, beating No. 29 Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-2 in 67 minutes. The win, her second WTA title of the season, moved her record in finals to a remarkable 16-5, a winning percentage second only to Serena.

Is there a more enigmatic woman on tour than Kvitova? She is one of the most physically imposing figures on tour while also being one of the frailest, with her asthma and illnesses often cropping up at the most inopportune times. She is a frequent loser in the early rounds of tournaments, yet is nearly unbeatable in finals, including a 2-0 mark at the majors. At her best her pure power and lefty shot-making is unbeatable. At her worst she's putting deep dents into the backstop. It's impossible to know which Petra you'll get on any given day. 

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​Kvitova's week in Madrid hit all the high and low points of her career. Her toughest match of the week? It came in the first round against No. 134 Olga Govortsova, a qualifier, who took Kvitova deep into a third set before the Czech won 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. She was taken to a third set again in the second round, this time by No. 36 CoCo Vandeweghe, winning 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. Then she settled into the tournament. Kvitova did not lose a set for the remainder of the Open, including that 6-2, 6-3 win over Serena in the semifinals. 

However, Kvitova saved her best for last. Kuznetsova, who will return to the Top 20 to her highest ranking since 2012 on Monday, struggled physically after a grueling week. The Russian played three matches in the span on 38 hours, punctuated by a dominant win over defending champion Maria Sharapova on Friday. She was no match for Kvitova on Saturday but still, to her credit, made Kvitova earn it, giving away just nine points on unforced errors in the match. The story was the power and precision coming off Kvitova's racket. The Czech hit an incredible 33 winners to just 14 unforced errors, went 11 for 14 at the net, and never faced a break point. This was as dominant of a win as you'll see at any level.

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After hiring her new physio Alex Stober (formerly with Li Na) in the off-season, Kvitova has looked like a woman transformed. She got a strong start to the season with a win at the Sydney International in January, but struggled with motivation. By the middle of February her coach, David Kotyza, suggested she take a break and skip two of the biggest tournaments of the year in Indian Wells and Miami. It was a risky move but Kvitova took six weeks off and returned last month in time for Fed Cup. She is 8-1 since her return, though that one loss came in her opening round in Stuttgart to Madison Brengle. The inconsistency may still be there but her level on the whole has remained high.

When she won her first Madrid title in 2011 she went on to make the fourth round of the French Open, losing to eventual champion Li Na in three sets. Kvitova has won just two clay titles in her career and it's no surprise they have both come in Madrid. The conditions are faster in Madrid's altitude, which benefits the bigger servers and hitters. In contrast, she has never made it past the quarterfinals in Rome and has made it past the fourth round at the French Open just once, losing to Sharapova in the semifinals in 2012. Regardless of her results, she has the game to make an impact on clay. Maybe this Madrid title will give her the confidence to believe it. 

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