WTA Finals 2015

Kvitova rallies to keep record intact

Petra Kvitova en route to her 7-5, 7-5 victory over Lucie Safarova last night. Safarova led 3-0 in the second set but Kvitova fought back to maintain her unbeaten record against her fellow Czech.
Petra Kvitova en route to her 7-5, 7-5 victory over Lucie Safarova last night. Safarova led 3-0 in the second set but Kvitova fought back to maintain her unbeaten record against her fellow Czech.PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Mental tenacity vital in denying Safarova her first win against Fed Cup team-mate

As Petra Kvitova looked into the mirror yesterday morning, she must have known plenty of similarities would await her across the net in a few hours.

So many, in fact, that one can hardly be faulted for thinking that either end of the court inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday was simply a mirror image.

From the visible - identical outfits, similar shoes and rackets held in their left hands - to the unseen - both Czechs had been struggling with illness recently - little set Kvitova apart from Lucie Safarova.

Kvitova's 7-5, 7-5 win yesterday kept her record in eight meetings against a long-time friend and Fed Cup team-mate blemish-free.

But for a moment in the second set, it had looked as if Safarova, who first got a taste of Kvitova's pummelling groundstrokes on a tennis court in Prostejov more than 10 years ago, would finally find a way past her friend.

Safarova, the world No. 9, broke twice to race to a 3-0 lead, only to run out of steam, lose momentum and the next four games.

Meanwhile, Kvitova, who had been crippled by energy-sapping mononucleosis recently, rediscovered the power in her return game.

"To be 3-0 down wasn't really easy score for me for sure," said the two-time Wimbledon champion.

"(It was) kind of tough mentally and I couldn't really return in the beginning of the match. So I was really trying to read a little bit her serve and put as many returns as I can.

"I was just point by point, and I'm glad I turn it around."

Even as they shared a conversation and a locker room before the match, each understood the dilemma of playing someone they regard not as an opponent but as a team-mate. They will feature in the Fed Cup final against Russia in Prague next month.

Said Kvitova: "We were just chatting normally, not like we go to play each other soon. (Lucie) is a good person and it's just... kind of sad that we have to play each other in the group already.

"It's tough to play her for sure, not because she's only like very good player right now, she's in good form, but also playing friend it's a little bit tougher with emotional and everything. So it's not easy to handle all these kind of stuff."

After two straight losses, Safarova's hopes of a semi-final spot are slim but not extinguished. Mathematically, all four players in the White Group still stand a chance of making the final four.

Having missed the entire Asian swing after a mysterious bacterial infection, Safarova, who is also playing doubles, still sees the positives.

She said: "I didn't have much time after my sickness to get back to fitness level. It's a lot of matches going on here, which I'm really happy about, but also I'm a bit tired.

"I'm really sad to be losing both of my singles but the level wasn't bad. I just try to be positive, and sooner or later, it will change for better."

As Kvitova looked across the court after her win yesterday, her celebrations muted, she knew what would await her at the net in a few seconds: A familiar embrace between team-mates, more comfortable about going back to being just friends rather than competitors.

Said Kvitova: "I wished her good health. I think that's the most important for everyone."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2015, with the headline 'KVITOVA RALLIES TO KEEP RECORD INTACT'. Print Edition | Subscribe