Sunday, January 23, 2011

You’ve got a good one in Petra Kvitova, Czechoslovakia.

Look after her, as she is an absolute star in the making. You never know, she may have just announced herself as a genuine title contender as she demolished fifth seed, Samantha Stosur, 7-6, 6-3 in their third round match.

Seeded only twenty-five Kvitova wasn’t meant to win against her more fancied opponent. It was Stosur who was expected to go through to the fourth round and challenge well into the second week of proceedings. But, try telling that to the six foot lady with an armoury that was well complimented by a match temperament that no twenty year old was ever meant to be in ownership of. Maturity plus she has.

Played like a seasoned pro of thirty, she did. Hasn’t anyone bothered to tell her that she was supposed to be nervous when confronted with the biggest match in her short career thus far? Not that Kvitova would’ve expended any energy whatsoever listening. She knew full well what she could produce under pressure. Must have, for in the end she made world number six Stosur look decidedly average.

Calmness and serenity introduced themselves early on to Kvitova, and she accepted the alliance with unabated pleasure. This union seemed to be a winning formula as she played with a self-assurance that was missing in her opposite’s game. And it contributed to her breaking Stosur’s serve in the fourth game to advance to a 3-1 lead. A deathly silence befell Rod Laver arena as Kvitova had succeeded in, at least temporarily, taking the partisan crowd out of the equation. Set up accommodation to see their favourite usurped by an invader from foreign shores, they did not. But, the knowledgeable locals could sense something was amiss.

Stosur simply did not look her usual self with the fearsome serve and forehand that usually fail to introduce themselves to an opponent as it hurtles past. Tentativeness had taken hold. Doubt had seeped into her mind. Perhaps, deep down, she knew within just how much of a threat Kvitova was to her aspirations of winning this match, let alone an Australian Open title. She had a battle of gigantic proportions on her hands, here.

Despite all of this, Stosur managed to break back in the sixth game to level at three games all. With the games even, it suggested an even encounter. Appearances can be deceiving though. There was always a feeling that Kvitova was achieving her goals with considerable more ease than with which Stosur was. Surely the Australian was going to snap soon and leave Kvitova to run away with the match.

Happen it did, but, not quite yet. There was still a tale to be told in the first set. It came in the tiebreak, after each of the pair had held their serves over the previous six games, when Stosur had her chance to stamp her mark on the encounter. Up 2-0 early, Stosur has her opportunities to close out the first set, but could not seal the deal. Kvitova fought her way back doggedly to 2-2, only for her foe to surge forth towards a 5-3 lead. The set was within Stosur’s grasp. She could reach out and touch it.

Well, nearly.

For the ice queen cometh. Now was the hour for the Czech to announce her arrival on the world stage. Kvitova was about to enter the consciousness of the tennis public, and what better way to do this that reel off four straight points to take the first set 7-6.

Kvitova sure knows how to handle pressure. There is good and bad pressure. Good as in handling bad situations like a trouper and finding a way to forge ahead despite the worst of intentions from the other side of the net. Completing your objectives in small steps in the way a rally is set up. Not biting off more than you can chew, thus, believing in what you are aspiring to. When you believe, you achieve.

Kvitova inhabits and handles the land of good pressure with consummate ease. She eats it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention the odd munch on it for morning and afternoon tea.

A champion embraces pressure. Kvitova is one such player. It’s what makes her special.

Increasingly, Stosur was struggling to hold her serve. When she did, more often than not, it was after having been taken to deuce, whereas Kvitova was charging along winning her opening two service games of the second set with remarkable ease.
Defining moments usually make their presence felt in a tight match. If there was any doubt remaining over Kvitova’s mental fortitude, she well and truly dispensed those thoughts when at 2-2 and down 0-40 in the fifth game, she fought her way back to hold serve and take a 3-2 lead.

Then, it happened. It had been threatening for some time now to occur. Stosur snapped. Hang with a superior opponent on the night, she could no longer. Try as she might, nothing was left in the tank. She was running on empty. All the while Kvitova was cruising along, delighting in the plethora of winners she was now accumulating. The Kvitova forehand expressed itself with a particularly menacing power and accuracy that soon had Stosur subdued. Sixteen winners in the second set Kvitova hit as opposed to none from Stosur. It spoke volumes.

Kvitova was soon up 5-3, and all that was left to do was to serve out the ninth game to secure a mighty win on her part. But, hang on a second. Players of considerably more experience than the Czech lady have succumbed to the pressure of serving for the match. Not Kvitova, though. Nothing fazes her. Certainly not having to win four points for a career best victory. For, ninety-five minutes after hostilities began, she put an end to Stosur’s hopes for another year.

What she also did was give her upcoming opponents something to think about.

And worried they should be.

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