INDIAN WELLS, March 11, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
If one match can turn around or define a season, look no further than 38-year-old Venus Williams’s remarkable 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 comeback victory over World No. 3 Petra Kvitova in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday afternoon.
Venus pulled off a stunner that was one for the ages and it ignited a thunderous applause inside the cavernous Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden that echoed across the Coachella Valley.
Trailing by a set and two breaks (6-4, 3-0) against the imposing No. 3 seed Kvitova, Williams looked a bit dejected, but she never gave up. Instead, the seven-time Grand Slam champion, born and raised in Southern California, rebounded and took advantage of her opportunities. She captured seven of the last nine games of the second set, then won the final three games of the match, coming from a break down, to move into the third round against 140th-ranked qualifier Christina McHale.
Escapes Kvitova, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4! pic.twitter.com/ceM53JeAxe
— WTA (@WTA) 10. März 2019
The Williams-McHale match will be the featured Monday afternoon match on Stadium 1 and it’s the third straight assignment for the 36th-ranked Venus on the biggest show court at Indian Wells. Last Thursday, she beat No. 68 Andrea Petkovic of Germany, 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 in the first round.
After her win against Kvitova, nine years her junior and the highest-ranked player she has beaten this year, Williams maintained an upbeat attitude during her on-court interview and later in her press conference. She reflected on what a come-from-behind triumph – the second time this season she has come back after losing the first set – meant to her. “A double break is not ideal against a great server, especially a left-handed server,” she said. “But the good part is being in matches, you just – a lot of it is just being in the moment.”
Although Kvitova entered her match with Williams, their first since the 2017 U.S. Open, owning a 4-2 career head-to-head advantage, it was Williams who maintained a positive outlook throughout. She hit 15 winners to offset the lack of any service aces and four breaks of her serve. Plus, Williams took advantage of Kvitova’s 10 double faults and 56 unforced errors – both uncharacteristic of the Czech – during the nearly two and one-half hour match.
“I think I created some opportunities. I had some good points. I think she had a few tight points, and here we are,” Williams said.
“It seemed like I played even better when I was down. I really didn’t have any other choice because she was playing so well and serving so well. So, it’s nice to know that in that sort of situation I can still play and just lift my level.”
Williams knows that even when things are not looking great, the match isn’t over if she has anything to say about it. Just ask Kvitova.
“It’s always tough to play Venus, for sure,” Kvitova said. “We always play three-setters, and suddenly, we have been there again and playing until the end, and in the end of the match, she definitely played better than me.”
Looking back, this was a match worthy of being a final. In a battle of fan favorites, the final outcome provided a fun moment for at least one competitor.