Petra Kvitova needed two more wins at the 2012 Apia International Sydney to ascend to the world #1 ranking in women’s tennis. For a set and a half against Li Na, the defending Sydney champion, it looked like she would get the first of those requisite pair of wins, leading 6-1 3-1 and thoroughly outplaying Li. But Li Na won this title last year with a monumental comeback from down 0-5 to Kim Clijsters in the first set to win the final in straight sets. Once again, with the help of 21 unforced errors in the second set from Kvitova, Li fought back to overcome a big deficit, defeating Kvitova 1-6 7-5 6-2. The win wasn’t only about unforced errors. Li changed her tactics to lure Kvitova into errors. The 2011 Roland Garros winner started hitting more down the center of the court, not going for lines so much and giving herself more room. The 2011 Wimbledon winner seemed to be taken out of her game by the lack of angles Li was giving her. And let’s face it, Kvitova still has a reputation for rollercoaster results. She can be brilliant (Wimbledon, Tour Championship) and awful (US Open). With Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams still question marks, I think Kvitova is the best player when she’s on her game. The only flaw she has is inconsistency at times (well, that and she doesn’t have the athleticism of Clijsters or Serena, she doesn’t move as well). If she can find a way to maintain the play that had her up 6-1 3-1 to start the match, there might not be anybody on tour who can match her. For Li, she has the chance to give China winners in back to back weeks on the WTA, with Zheng Jie winning the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand last week. I didn’t cover that on this blog, but all tennis fans that follow the tour know there are almost always multiple events happening each week, even challenger and circuit type events.
It doesn’t get any easier for Li Na in the final, as Victoria Azarenka, a player with future Major winner written all over her, awaits. Like Li, Azarenka also came back from a 1-6 drubbing in the first set to dismiss Agnieszka Radwanska 1-6 6-3 6-2. Victoria just looked like she was pushing too much in the first set. She had her chances to make the set more even but didn’t capitalize on them. Once she started to roll in the second set, that talent that has people speaking of her as the potential rival of Kvitova over the next several years came to the fore. It should be a very interesting final. Li’s win over Kvitova was absolutely huge for her confidence, but Azarenka is an extremely tough final opponent.