STUTTGART, April 28, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
World No. 3 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic came into Sunday afternoon’s final of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart looking to become the first two-time winner on the WTA Tour this year. On the other side of the net, 15th-ranked Anett Kontaveit of Estonia was aiming for the biggest title of her young career in just her second Premier-level final. The two started the week as practice partners. Now, it was game on.
The Porsche Arena crowd came alive in anticipation of the final, wondering if Kvitova would become the second straight Czech champion following Karolina Pliskova’s triumph last year. A hefty first-prize check of $153,276 and 470 WTA rankings points awaited the winner, plus a brand-new Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet, which had been spotlighted adjacent to the Porsche Arena Centre Court all week long.
After one hour and 31 minutes of commanding tennis, Kvitova hit a blistering forehand winner that capped a four-shot rally – and raised her hands in victory. Blowing kisses to the appreciative Porsche Arena crowd followed soon after as the 29-year-old Czech became the first woman to capture two titles this season with her 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Kontaveit.
Game, set and match! 🙋 pic.twitter.com/FTvCITOU7P
— Porsche Tennis (@PorscheTennis) 28. April 2019
It was Kvitova’s WTA-tour-leading 24th victory of the season (she’s 24-6) and her 27th career WTA title.
By raising – and kissing – the trophy at Stuttgart, Kvitova extended her lead as No. 1 on the Porsche Race to Shenzhen. On Monday, she will rise to No. 2 in the new WTA Rankings, overtaking Simona Halep of Romania, who withdrew from the WTA Premier tournament on Tuesday with a hip injury. World No. 1 Naomi Osaka of Japan, who withdrew prior to her semifinal match with Kontaveit citing an abdominal injury, remains at the top of the rankings.
Kvitova’s win against No. 6 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands on Saturday advanced the Czech to her fourth WTA final this year as well as her first Stuttgart final after reaching the semifinal round four times. Earlier in the tournament, she beat No. 192 qualifier Greet Minnen of Belgium and No. 13 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia.
Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Kontaveit’s week included a couple of quality, straight-set wins over No. 21 Caroline Garcia and No. 34 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Then, she advanced over No. 61 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus by retirement, ahead 3-0 in Friday’s quarterfinals, and earned a walk-over win against Osaka without taking the court that advanced her to face Kvitova. She came in plenty rested if not battle tested.
During her post-match press conference on Saturday, Kvitova said she thought she had a two weeks of “really great” preparation on clay. “You know me, I always need matches to get used to the clay,” she said. “It’s about playing and playing on the clay. You can’t really do that if you lose in the first match.”
Against Kontaveit in the final, ahead a set, Kvitova saved a couple of set points at 5-4 that would have prolonged the match before she rebounded and eventually forced a tie break. Then, her big serve contributed toward a 3-0 lead and, soon, a forehand winner increased it to 6-0. Suddenly, Kvitova held six match points. While Kontaveit saved two of them, she would save no more as the Czech put away the tie-break – and the final – with a solid forehand return.
Kvitova finished with five service aces and hit 20 winners, which doubled Kontaveit’s total. She won a remarkable 77 percent (36 of 47) of her first-serve points and was broken just twice. Kvitova broke Kontaveit’s serve three times in six opportunities. She outpointed the Estonian 72-60.
“So, we are three of us now,” said Kvitova, with a hint of laughter in her voice, referring to Dominic Thiem’s title victory Sunday in Barcelona, which joined them with Roger Federer as the only two-time champions on the both the women’s and men’s tour. “I’m glad of course for breaking this streak.”
During the trophy ceremony, there was a lot of mutual admiration between Kvitova and Kontaveit, the two finalists. Kvitova said, “Thank you very much to everyone who came every day to support us. It was an amazing atmosphere; it was really nice to see full crowds every day. It’s been great.
‟After failing six times, I’ve finally won this fantastic tournament. This car is a big bonus.”
To Kontaveit, the new champion Kvitova said, “Anett, you’ve had a great week. I hope we meet each other in another – maybe a bigger – final.”
Kontaveit said, “I’d like to congratulate Petra. You’re an incredible role model and I’m really happy for you. … Thank you to everyone who came from Estonia. It’s great to have you here and the support of the crowd was amazing.”
Soon after, it was time for Kvitova to receive the keys to the new Porsche automobile – which, like the title, was icing on a cake to finish a great week.
German pair lifts doubles trophy
Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic won her first doubles title with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in 2012. They reunited this week in Stuttgart as part of Safarova’s farewell tour and received a wild card entry. In Sunday afternoon’s final, Safarova and Pavlyuchenkova ran up against another wild card team in Mona Barthel and Anna-Lena Friedsam, both from Germany, who were pairing together for the first time.
While Safarova and Pavlyuchenkova raced to a 6-2 lead after the first set, the German duo rebounded to level the match by winning the second set 6-3 after leading 3-0. In the first-to-10-point tie-break, it was Barthel and Friedsam who prevailed 10-6. The final lasted one hour and nine minutes.
‟It was an unbelievable week. It was the first time that we’ve paired up and the crowd supported us so fantastically. It was a whole lot of fun,” said Barthel, who, together with Sabine Lisicki, also won the doubles at Stuttgart in 2013. Friedsam added, ‟Our personalities gel together. It’s certainly not going to be our last tournament together.”
Barthel and Friedsam earned first-prize money of $47,945 and 470 rankings points.
Meanwhile, next stop for the doubles No. 92 Safarova is the Prague Open where she will team with fellow Czech Barbora Stefkova, who is ranked No. 102, before retiring.
‟I’ve always loved coming to Stuttgart,” Safarova said, as quoted by the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix website. ‟It’s a fantastic tournament. I’ll definitely be coming back – but as a spectator.”
Before Sunday, Kvitova and Kontaveit had met five times with the Czech owning a 3-2 head-to-head advantage. In their most recent match before the Stuttgart final, Kontaveit beat Kvitova in Brisbane on a hard court, 7-5, 7-6 (1). Last year, they faced each other three times – including twice on clay – with Kvitova winning in Madrid and Kontaveit at Roland Garros.