I have mixed emotions about Petra Kvitova winning her 15th WTA singles title at the 2015 Apia International Sydney. As one of my co-top favorites (along with Simona Halep) to watch on tour, of course I always want to see Petra play well and win. And she had to do just that to overcome fellow Czech player Karolina Pliskova in the Sydney final, 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6). Make no mistake. Ye top 10 players beware. Karolina Pliskova cometh. Barring injury or some unforeseen burn-out, Karolina is turning into a force on tour. She has it all. She’s tall, strong, has great technique, a devastating serve and fears nobody. She had Petra on the ropes early, even serving for the set up a break at 5-4 in the first set. This was a day after rolling through the tough Angelique Kerber 3 and 2. But Kvitova isn’t a 2-time Wimbledon champion for nothing. She raised her game, broke back and gutted out two close tiebreaks. What worries me about Petra’s win is her endurance for the Australian Open. That is the big prize. Kvitova sometimes gets a little winded when she plays a lot of matches. After winning Wuhan last year and following that up immediately with a run to the final at Beijing, she had nothing left in the gas tank in the championship match against Maria Sharapova. What you see a lot in tournaments before a Major is the top players showing up, playing one or two matches and then pulling out with some mysterious illness or injury. I thought Petra was looking good on hard courts last year, but she made a run to winning the championship at the Connecticut Open right before the US Open. I think that might have taken something out of her legs. But…Petra has stated in this past off-season that she wants the #1 ranking. So maybe her training and mental approach will be different. Maybe she’ll reach deep down in Melbourne and fight through the moments of exhaustion. Maybe this is the year she puts it all together.
My emotions were also mixed when it came to the final of the 2015 Hobart International. I am big fan of British player Heather Watson, who defeated Madison Brengle 6-4 6-3 in the final. To see her win her 2nd WTA singles title was very thrilling. The rising 22-year old from Guernsey played fantastic tennis all week, not dropping a set and going through tough players like Roberta Vinci and…well…here’s the thing. I loved seeing Heather win…but she also went through three American players (Sloane Stephens, Alison Riske and Madison Brengle) to get the job done. I’m definitely looking for the next generation of American tennis players to step up, hopefully this year. With surprise finalist Madison Brengle (not to be confused with up and coming American Madison Keys), I was torn between rooting for Heather or rooting for Madison. It’s hard to say at this point without seeing more from Brengle whether she will have another opportunity to capture her first WTA title. Obviously, after losing this final I hope she gets another chance. Having said all that, I am still absolutely delighted to see Heather win. It’s been a real joy following her career. I hope she gets title #3 in the near future.
Speaking of American winners, the doubles final of the 2015 Apia International Sydney featured 3 Americans as Bethanie Mattek-Sands teamed with India’s Sania Mirza to take down the top seeded American duo of Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, 6-3 6-3. It was the same score that Bethanie and Sania had when they ousted the big name duo of Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta in the quarterfinals. For Bethanie, the win marks her 13th WTA doubles title and the 5th when teamed with Mirza. It was the very impressive 23rd doubles title for Mirza. Meanwhile, Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson were the champions at the 2015 Hobart International. It was a wide open draw after the top 3 seeded teams all were gone after round one. So in that sense it was a bit of a surprise title. But the bottom line is they earned it. For Kiki, it’s her first WTA doubles title while being the 3rd for Larsson. I definitely have 23-year old Kiki Bertens on my radar. I think she has the potential to do some very good things on tour. We’ll see how she develops over the next couple of years, but I can envision her winning many titles in her career.
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APIA INTERNATIONAL SYDNEY
2 PETRA KVITOVA (won 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) vs Karolina Pliskova)
HEATHER WATSON (won 6-4 6-3 vs Madison Brengle)
APIA INTERNATIONAL SYDNEY
BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS/SANIA MIRZA (won 6-3 6-3 vs 1 Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears)
KIKI BERTENS/JOHANNA LARSSON (won 7-5 6-3 vs Vitalia Diatchenko/Monica Niculescu)