After claiming the Year-End Championships in 2011, Kvitova at the start of this year looked like the inevitable new No. 1 in the world as she headed into Melbourne and many thought it would be a crown Kvitova would wear for years to come. But neither the title of “Queen of the WTA” nor the Australian Open trophy went Kvitova’s way as that honor was rightfully bestowed upon Victoria Azarenka.
Soon after began what has been a rather disappointing season for Kvitova who has battled injuries and the heightened expectations for her after she won five events in 2011. Entering Wimbledon this year, Kvitova admitted feeling the pressure of being defending champion and though she made it to the quarterfinals where she lost to Serena Williams, that result and her subsequent inability to reach the medal rounds of the Olympics, had some wondering if she could recover as she headed into the summer hard court season.
So it was somewhat of a surprise that Kvitova, despite playing a roller coaster of a final against Li Na, was able to win Montreal last week considering it was her first ever WTA title in North America. Kvitova, who said that the humidity of the continent affects her asthma, crashed out last year in the second round of Toronto, Cincinnati and in the first round of the U.S. Open leading to speculation that she could never be a true contender for No. 1 if she couldn’t perform well outside of Europe and the Pacific. And though this year’s Montreal tournament had a diminished field, it was still a huge achievement for Kvitova to take the title as it appears now she can win on the biggest stages anywhere in the world.
Kvitova may have learned to better manage playing in humidity, but it’s still not clear whether she is still comfortable being a contender for No. 1 or even really wants to be. Just today after winning a close three set match against Mona Barthel in Cincinnati, when she was asked if being No. 1 was a goal for her, Kvitova plainly said that it wasn’t and that she knew it was more important topic for the press than it ever was for her.
Does that statement mean Kvitova doesn’t have the ambition to get to the top of the WTA? Or does it mean she’d rather focus on getting the results on the court and let everybody else worry about where’s she ranked? It may be a little bit of both, but to get to No. 1, Kvitova still has some work to do especially against the likes of Sharapova and Williams who have recently defeated her in the last three Majors.
What would help is if Kvitova could figure out to way to harness her massive groundstrokes that, when she is on, are almost impossible to react to but when she’s off her game will often fly to all parts of the court and beyond except the sections between the lines. Despite all the power she has in her arsenal, Kvitova is the rare woman in the top ten that you never quite know what to expect when she steps on the court. It may be exciting for fans but it’s hardly the M.O. Kvitova needs if she ever hopes of challenging the very best for the biggest titles.
At 22, Kvitova still has time on her side and her game has already proven she will be a force to deal with in years to come. But as we all know, the pro game is not just about what happens in each match and Kvitova still appears to be learning how to navigate all the possibilities and obstacles that are a part of life off the courts. Kvitova may not be ready to be “queen” just yet, but if she can control her powerful game and continue to enjoy each moment as it comes, she may not have to wait as an heir apparent for much longer.