I was initially not planning to write on any of the matches I watched today. That was, until, I sat down to take in the final singles match of the day — between Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky and the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova.
Despite her major titles and world ranking of No. 4, Kvitova has a bit of a reputation for being an incredibly streaky, up and down player. In Monday’s fourth round match against Bacsinszky, that unpredictability cost her a French Open quarterfinal against Alison Van Uytvanck, with a rematch against top seed Serena Williams (whom she quickly beat in Madrid) looming in the semis.
As Kvitova breezed through the opening set, she left the inexperience Swiss a mere bystander to her powerful shots. It looked as if a quarterfinal berth was well within reach.
Then came the next two sets.
Kvitova proceeded to exit the tournament losing 12 out of the next 15 games, spraying errors in all directions with no semblance of a plan B or even a way to stop the bleeding. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think she was trying to play a tennis match on a ping pong table.
Bacinszky, who possesses a game well-suited for clay, took full advantage and let Kvitova self-destruct as she cheerfully rode the wave into to the quarterfinals. Her performance wasn’t spectacular, but it was more than enough.
In theory, a player as talented as Kvitova shouldn’t have the streaky results for which she has become notorious. From a technical perspective, her strokes have solid foundation; I would even go as far as to say they rival Serena Williams’ purely in terms of efficient stroke production.
They are that good.
This should mean when, under pressure and, more importantly, over the long run, her strokes ought to hold up. Aggressive as is her intent, her periods of streakiness should never last that long.
The problem for Kvitova all has to do with shot selection. Take a look at fellow countryman, Tomas Berdych. While having a lower ceiling than Kvitova, Berdych manages much greater consistency over longer periods of time.
Two major titles are better than none, but if Kvitova could add his element of consistency to her game, she would be lethal.
A world-renowned big hitter, Berdych is still much more willing to stay patient in rallies. Once Kvitova’s game becomes unstable, it becomes uncontrollable — and it all unravels very quickly for her. Berdych, who plays a similar style to Kvitova with his very linear, flat game, can turn the dial down when he needs to.
It is often said that insanity is trying the same thing over and over again that hasn’t worked and expecting different results. For much of the second and third sets, Kvitova could not put a ball in the court, yet displayed precious little urgency in turning around that disastrous trend.
She displayed no modicum of patience and had no propensity to switch gears, attempt to elongate a few more rallies, gain back confidence, all of which might have put herself back into a winning position. Such a strategy would be a change-up from her usual style of play, but it’s not something that would be impossible to execute.
At this stage of her career, it’s unlikely that Kvitova will ever stray from her natural style of play, but there are times that it would help her tremendously to do so.
If she ever does, she will transform into a player that can channel and overcome poor patches of play and win matches using consistency and power, a player I’m sure we’d all love to see.
What do you think of Kvitova’s tactics? Sound off in the comments!