Kvitova Now A Two-Time Doha Champion

Petra Kvitova (photo: @samer_alrejjal/Qatar Total Open)

DOHA/WASHINGTON, March 6, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

For the second time in three years, Petra Kvitova and Garbiñe Muguruza met in the title match to decide the WTA’s Qatar Total Open singles championship. Unlike in 2018, when Kvitova fought back to beat Muguruza in three sets and lifted the golden falcon trophy to the plaudits of a big crowd filling Center Court at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex, this time it was little different.

Saturday’s final lasted barely over an hour – it was decided in two sets – and because of health and safety protocols, the crowd size was limited and much smaller. But it was no less enthusiastic.

Like three years ago, the winner once again was Kvitova. On this night, Petra was in peak form.

Two days shy of her 31st birthday, Kvitova won her second Doha crown and it was her first title since triumphing at Stuttgart in April 2019. She captured the last six games of the match to defeat Muguruza 6-2, 6-1 on a clear but windy evening along the Persian Gulf. It capped a great week for the Czech lefty from Bilovec, who on consecutive days starting from Wednesday beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Anett Kontaveit, Jessica Pegula and Muguruza to become the fourth two-time Doha champion in tournament history.

Kvitova now has won 20 matches in Doha, surpassing 19 shared by by Svetlana Kuznetsova and the retired Caroline Wozniacki. Kvitova improved to 28-10 in tour-level finals in her career and it was her tenth trophy to lift in her last 13 finals. Her 28th title puts her alone in 20th place on the all-time WTA list for most career titles.

Tennis TourTalk asked Kvitova during her virtual press conference that followed the trophy ceremony how this year’s title victory compared to her first one in Doha. She said: “It is different, for sure. I mean, that year it was very tiring. I was very exhausted. I was coming from St. Petersburg playing the Fed Cup, playing Doha, and I remember the semifinal and final were just unbelievably tough.

“I played pretty long, beating Caroline (Wozniacki) in the third set and same, Garbiñe in the final. This one is a little bit different, I would say, but I’m still tired, of course.

“But it feels different, because today the conditions were very, very tough compared to that year. I didn’t find that windy, so it was smoother, I would say.

“Well, of course, the happiness is still the same (smiling).”

Meanwhile, unseeded in Doha, the World No. 16 Muguruza came into Saturday evening’s final owning a WTA Tour-leading 12 match wins this year – five of them against Top 10 opposition – while the World No. 10 and fourth-seeded Kvitova brought with her the past successes she’s enjoyed in Qatar’s capital city. Kvitova also had another intangible that her Spanish opponent didn’t. The Czech owned a 4-1 career head-to-head advantage over Muguruza. With Saturday’s title victory, she now has beaten Muguruza five consecutive times going back to 2016.

“The beginning of the first set was really tight,” Kvitova said. “Especially those three games, it was up and down, but when I took her serve it felt better, of course, and I felt more relaxed.

“Beginning of the second set I didn’t feel the same way. I lost my serve quite quickly, and it was just about getting on the board again. To break her in the second game was really the key. Then I just found the rhythm and was putting a lot of balls back to the court, and putting her under pressure.”

As Muguruza virtually explained to Tennis TourTalk, “I couldn’t really find my game todayI think Petra also played very well from the baseline, and it was hard to, I don’t know, to try to make her move or try to do much. … I guess it really wasn’t my day.”

Although Kvivota only won 64 percent (34 of 54) of her service points, she made up for it on her returns, winning 57 percent (24 of 42), and outpointed Muguruza 58-38. She was aided by the ability to convert five of nine break-point opportunities and only being broken once while saving six break points she faced from Muguruza. The Spaniard never won more than a game at a time while Kvitova strung together six consecutive games after she was broken to begin the second set.

Once Kvitova secured game, set and match on her third match-point try, she and Muguruza shared a warm embrace at the net. It was evidence that the rivalry between these two Grand Slam champions is one filled with plenty of mutual respect.

“Well, of course she’s a champion,” Kvitova told Tennis TourTalk, speaking of Muguruza. “She is a two-time Grand Slam champion, former World No. 1. And definitely, she deserves the respect. Even though she couldn’t win it, she is [a] big player and big champion.

“We had another great final and great match, again.”

News & noteworthy

Before this week, the last time Petra Kvitova reached a final was at Doha last year, where she lost to Aryna Sabalenka, and her last title was two years ago on clay in Stuttgart. Meanwhile, Doha represented Muguruza’s second final (both on hard courts) in 2021 after reaching the title match at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne last month. Muguruza is now 7-7 in title matches.

What they’re saying

Petra Kvitova on how her love of the game has changed over the last 10 years: “I’m very happy because I still love tennis. Even as ups-and-downs, I still do feel it. Since I been [a] kid, I was rally enjoying to be on the court and just play.

“Of course, the other things, like traveling and packing and something like this, it’s not that fun (smiling), but tennis itself, it’s just [a] great sport and I love it. I love when you are playing and fighting and trying to find, you know, the good tactics to win, that’s probably the best. That’s what I really like.”

Garbiñe Muguruza on looking forward from Doha: “I think it’s [been] a very good week. I mean, despite today. Probably, out of the matches [this week], I felt like my level was good, my game was good. So, I’m taking a lot of positive even though I’m not holding the champion’s trophy.”