While my pick to win the 2015 WTA Finals, Garbine Muguruza, fell in her semifinal match (more on that later), I took great solace that (without Madison Keys in the field) my favorite player in Singapore, Petra Kvitova, did advance to the championship round. In a battle of the only two former WTA Finals winners, not to mention former Wimbledon champions, in the 2015 field, Kvitova took out Maria Sharapova 6-3 7-6 (3). Petra was down 1-5 in the second set, as it looked like Masha had taken back control of the match and was storming towards a third set. But then Kvitova showed the kind of tennis that makes tennis aficionados fantasize about what she would accomplish if her asthma and mononucleosis didn’t affect her energy levels…and to be completely honest, if she had a bit more spin so she wasn’t always hitting low, flat shots that have razor-thin margins of error. The greatest Czech tennis player of all-time, Martina Navratilova, commented on this aspect of Petra’s game during the match. When she’s on, she’s can be devastatingly good, as she was earlier in the year when…sorry, Belinda Bencic and Roberta Vinci…Petra handed Serena Williams the only loss this year where I give more credit to the opponent than to Serena’s errors or nerves. However, when Kvitova is off, she can be way off. She was up and down against Muguruza in a round robin loss. She was solid against Sharapova. The question is which Petra Kvitova will show up for the final.
I give all credit to Agnieszka Radwanska for her hard fought 6-7 (5) 6-3 7-5 over Garbine Muguruza, but I do think there is a decision to be made for Gabi. She mentioned how exhausted she was after her last match. That carried over to the semis, unfortunately. Even after winning the first set in a tiebreak, Muguruza looked completely gassed. Her coach, Sam Sumyk, tried to give her a pep talk to lift her energy. It was for naught. Gabi had nothing left in the tank. She seemed to be running on fumes. So there are two things. First thing is, she reminds me a little bit of when Novak Djokovic was first hanging around the top 5. He could beat top players, but the consistency wasn’t there in part because so many of his matches took a toll on him physically. He was always seemingly engaged in thrilling, but long, tough matches. Nothing seemed to come easy. Same for Muguruza. Djokovic took his fitness to a world-class level after that period. Two things happened. First, he could bounce back from tough matches more easily. The second, and more important, thing was that he had more lopsided wins early in tournaments with his improved fitness. That helps conserve energy for the later rounds. That’s one approach Muguruza could try. The other approach is to stop playing so much doubles. It’s rare for a power player like Gabi to be able to physically keep playing doubles their whole career and be fresh for singles. Even former doubles #1s like Serena and Kim Clijsters reached a stage where they focused on singles. In fact, Muguruza was attempting to become the first player since Clijsters to reach the doubles and singles finals at the year-end championship. Along with her partner Carla Suarez Navarro, she did indeed make the doubles final and will play the top duo of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza. I know Gabi loves playing doubles with her countrywoman but in the end, it’s her singles play that will ultimately be the yardstick by which her career is measured. She has the talent to be #1 in the world in singles.
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4 PETRA KVITOVA (won 6-3 7-6 (3) vs 3 Maria Sharapova)
5 AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (won 6-7 (5) 6-3 7-5 vs 2 Garbine Muguruza)