The Kvitova Conundrum

Women’s tennis is a different beast. It is full of beautiful women in glamorous outfits, but it is a beast nevertheless. For people who follow the sport closely, it is very different from the men’s game. It has different rules at the grand slam level, different levels of coaching interference, very different sound (read scream)levels.It even has a different forehand!! For all the pretty ladies that partake in this, the level of art and touch in tennis is quickly diminishing as compared to the men. Where most men these days own a big serve and can come to the net behind a big groundstroke, women’s tennis more often than not is a baseline slobberknocker with generally average service quality.
However, as is the case with most things, there is always an anomaly, an exception and in the case of women’s tennis, it is Petra Kvitova. When she burst on to the scene in 2011, she was almost immediately nominated as the heir apparent to Serena’s Williams’ throne. She is a lefty, has a good serve, can come to the net after a big forehand and has immense power in her strokes which is only matched by Serena herself. Back then, she was very much the best player in the world, winning six titles on the way. In her matches against Victoria Azarenka, she was clearly the superior player, with not only more power but also more variety. In the final of that year’s Wimbledon, she destroyed Maria Sharapova. That match was a demonstration of out-bullying the bully. She also took home the year end WTA Tour Championships, which is played annually amongst the top eight players in the World. The question then arises as to why with all the aforementioned attributes does she have only one grand slam to her credit and why is she “languishing” at number 6 in the world?
Women’s tennis is a different beast. Like most top-level sports, tennis is also played as much in the mind as with the body. However, it assumes completely different proportions in this form of the game. So many matches are decided just by how tight or loose does the competitor’s hand feel. The game is littered with girls bowing down to the pressure and this is one aspect of Kvitova’s game which hurts her the most. Not only during tournaments but even during matches, she seems to go on random walkabouts. One set, she will be bulldozing her opponent to dust, the next, she will let herself be handed a thrashing. In her last match against Carla Suarez Navarro she took the first set 6-1 and then lost the match. Part of this sudden drop in the level of play can be attributed to the fact that she is asthmatic. She is also not the fittest around, given the requirements of modern tennis.
Then why the big deal about her, you ask? She might as well be one of the many promising players who don’t go on to achieve anything significant in their playing days. To start off, she already has a grand slam. For a lot of people, she is like the ladies’ version of Marat Safin. Like Safin, she has won a grand slam very early in her career. Like him, her game seems to be way ahead of her time. Safin had a very good Davis Cup record and Kvitova is already one of the best Fed Cup players of her generation, showing their like for the team competition. And like him, she has already been labeled a “head case”. Safin in his win over Pete Sampras in the US Open of 2000 was obliterating a top level player much like Kvitova did in her Wimbledon win.
Marat Safin was the only player to defeat Roger Federer in a grand slam on a hard court, at a point of time when Federer was at his invincible best (something which even Nadal couldn’t achieve) and it is for similar reasons that the tennis world keeps on looking at Kvitova with anticipation. They are banking on the talent to come up with a performance of such brilliance. They are waiting for this frustratingly talented player to finally turn the corner and become the one to take the game of women’s tennis forward.  

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