PostHeaderIcon Is 2012 The Year Of Petra Kvitova?

If this year’s Hopman Cup competition is an accurate indicator for the start of the WTA tennis calendar, this year is going to be completely dominated by Petra Kvitova!

Why make such a bold prediction? Maybe because I’m a sucker for wanting to make predictions, and have no problem admitting when they are sometimes way off the mark. This one doesn’t seem like such a stretch though. After watching Petra completely dominate Bethanie Mattek-Sands the other day in the Czech versus USA, and reading up on her wins over the other women in her group (Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark), she is poised to start the WTA calendar as “the woman to beat”.

Caroline was the only player who was able to take her to three sets. Though it looked to be as tough of a match as one would expect between the two top-ranked women, Petra still prevailed 7-6 3-6 6-4. This was after her earlier wins over the other women in Group A. She completely overpowered both in straights, besting Bethanie 6-2 6-1 and Tsvetana 6-4 6-2.

When all aspects of her game are working, she is virtually untouchable. While watching her play Bethanie, a very funny composite picture came to mind. She is reminiscent of Lindsay Davenport because of her height and ball-striking ability. If given the chance to dictate the rally, the other player has absolutely no chance. There is a sharp difference however. Petra is more agile than Lindsay could ever have imagined being on court, with ability to hit the ball on the run from both sides.

Serena Williams also came to mind. When you watch Serena play it’s hard to put into words the remarkable “weight of shot” she possesses. When she strikes a forehand, you feel and hear it in the stadium. It’s a very different sensation as compared to watching someone like Caroline Wozniacki strike a forehand. The effect on the other player is almost one of being assaulted as they quickly wilt under the barrage of her depth and pace as though their body is being pummeled in a boxing match.

The same is true for Petra. Even on TV you can see the difference between her shots and the other women. The fact that she hits a fairly flat ball only adds to the other player’s misery as there is almost no time to mount a defense to her shots. This was clearly evident in her win over Marion Bartoli in the Hopman Cup finals match between the Czech Republic and France. Marion, who is absolutely no slouch on the court AND fitter than ever, could only run so much before finally watching the point winning shots fly out of reach.

After a good first set battle, Petra ran away with the match in the second. She won in straights 7-5 6-1. Prior to this match, Marion had a 2-0 record over Petra. The results were not indicative of any pattern, however. The first win in Linz was in 2008 when Petra was definitely not the Petra who emerged in 2011. The second came at Eastbourne last year on grass… and we all know what happened shortly afterward at Wimbledon, right?!

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the Hopman Cup is a total indicator of WTA/ATP calendar success by any stretch. Last year’s champs, Bethanie and John Isner of the USA, had decent 2011 seasons after their Hopman Cup success. Isner won two titles, Mattek-Sands won none. Petra’s case is slightly different.

She came into the Hopman Cup for her first event of 2012 after winning the WTA Championships to cap off her brilliant 2011 season (which included her first major championship at Wimbledon). A strong showing in Perth would show everyone that she was more than ready and eager to take her place atop the game for the coming season. And that she did. Not to say that she won’t still have some tough matches ahead… but when push comes to shove I think she is going to be doing the shoving!

Her serve is working beautifully, her forehand is daunting, her backhand is solid, her movement has improved greatly – both side to side as well front to back, her fitness level is high and, most importantly, she believes in herself and her game. Watching her play now is very much like watching elites like Lindsay or Serena at their prime. Elite women like that believe in their shots, and they believe in their games. She is now in that class and has the same sense of self-belief. It’s obvious in every respect, for her demeanor on court and even her off-court interviews.

It all adds up to make for one heck of a combination: one that will definitely have her immediately challenging for more major titles as well as the number one ranking.

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