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“I love trophies”: Kvitova rediscovers top level in Miami

  • Matt Trollope

Two questions immediately came to mind after Petra Kvitova completed an astonishing triumph at the Miami Open.

The first: who saw it coming?

Not many, including the 33-year-old herself, who first played this event in 2008 – 15 years ago! –  but had never before passed the quarterfinals.

“I'm just happy that I won it from nothing, I would say,” said Kvitova, back in the top 10 for the first time since September 2021.

“Actually, I think I'm playing pretty good tennis (since) starting the year, but didn't go really deep in the tournament. Finally I have it.

“I think I just take it very positively that I can still compete with the best.”

Petra Kvitova is now 17-5 in 2023, with highlights being a quarterfinal run at Indian Wells (L) and a run to the title in Miami (R), her biggest title since Madrid in 2018. [Getty Images]

Kvitova was forced to contend with the very best, staring down reigning Wimbledon and Indian Wells champion Elena Rybakina in a final that featured a breathtaking 30-point opening-set tiebreak.

Kvitova saved five set points to win it 16-14 – Rybakina’s first loss in eight tiebreaks this year – then powered to a 7-6(14) 6-2 win.

She snapped Rybakina’s 13-match winning streak and prevented the Kazakh from completing a rare Sunshine Double. 

The second question: what does this victory mean?

Kvitova couldn’t really say. 

“Who knows what will be next,” she said after winning her biggest title in almost five years. 

“It means a lot for me that even in my age I can still win a big tournament. That's the biggest thing.

“I played so many finals. I know I can play well in the final no matter who I'm facing. So that's I think mentally was very important for me to know that from all experience.

“The young ones are coming up all the time. It's tough to really face them all the time (smiling). It's very tiring. Elena is young, as well. So, yeah, it's still tough to compete, of course, with all of them.”

Petra Kvitova (R) scored her second win over Elena Rybakina (L) in 2023, snapping the Kazakh's 13-match winning streak in the Miami Open final. (Getty Images)

But she managed to out-compete them all; Kvitova beat six younger opponents whose combined average age was less than 25. The win made her the oldest women’s champion in Miami behind only Serena Williams in 2015.

While Kvitova admits it is hard to predict what’s next for her, she is now well-positioned for a tilt at even bigger prizes in the next few months.

She has improved her season win-loss record to 17-5 and moved into the top five of the 2023 WTA points race.

She is now a sparkling 30-11 in tour-level finals and owns nine WTA 1000 trophies, a tally bettered only by Williams and Victoria Azarenka. 

“I love trophies,” she told Tennis Channel, when the topic of her dominant finals record arose.

“I have to relax a little bit now to take care of my body, and then start preparation on clay. But slowly, I would say. Slowly. I’m very, very exhausted after the tournament.”

While the upcoming clay-court season is not her favourite, she is still a two-time Roland Garros semifinalist and a champion in Madrid (three times) and Stuttgart. 

Beyond that is her beloved grass, although the two-time Wimbledon champion has not reached the quarterfinals at the All England Club since last winning the title in 2014.

What we can confirm is that the Miami final reminded us just how potent the former world No.2 can be when her game is clicking on quick courts, which play to her many strengths. 

“It took me time to get used to Petra's balls,” said Rybakina, who has appeared in all three of the year’s biggest hard-court finals. “Also, she plays really low, and it's not easy against her.”

Kvitova struck 29 winners against just 14 unforced errors, and despite Rybakina being the game’s premier server, it was Kvitova who landed three-quarters of her powerful first serves – winning almost 80 per cent of those points – and succeeded behind 75 per cent of second serves.

Counter-intuitively, Kvitova attained this impressive level with comparatively little practice under her belt. 

She revealed in an interview with WTA Insider that she finds time on the practice court draining, and she limits this in order to preserve “the passion and the fighting spirit” for matches, which in turn enhances her joy for competing.

Plus, Kvitova always finds energy in the quest to win more of those big trophies she so dearly and openly loves.

“I love the game… I think is the motivation to do something better, and because I had a lot of ups, as well, that's always been the motivation to have them again,” she said.

“I think this is the best feeling you can have, winning a final as I did today. That's (what) I love the most, the winning feeling of it.”

It will be fascinating to see if she can continue winning – and collecting more prestigious trophies – as the season unfolds.