By David Kane
The new season for players and the New Year for fans are all about fresh starts. Did the end of 2012 leave you feeling unfulfilled? Do you have any goals that you left unrealized? Were you among the few who anticipated the end of the Mayan calendar preventing 2013 from happening at all? Never fear, for the start of a new year is full of promise and potential. With that potential comes a resolution to be better, do better and, most importantly, move forward.
At the dawn of 2012, the Czech sensation was the World No. 1 in all but name. With her effortless groundstrokes and a first major title at Wimbledon, “The” Petra established a clear mile between herself and her contemporaries. Having finished 2011 one win from the top spot, Kvitova began the new season as the presumptive best in the world, and as the Australian summer reached its peak, seemingly forgot how to lose. She came to Sydney after an undefeated run at Hopman Cup in Perth and, despite a close loss to former Australian Open finalist, Li Na, looked like a lock to usurp Caroline Wozniacki and spend the next few months (a time when she had few points to defend) as the supposed “rightful Queen” of the often maligned WTA rankings.
Somehow, Kvitova’s coronation never came to be.
A set from the Australian Open final and the No. 1 ranking by extension, Kvitova froze against Maria Sharapova, a familiar opponent whom the Czech had trampled en route to her Wimbledon title a few months earlier. From there, misfortune would follow Petra wherever she went. Never getting close to the top spot again, she would suffer niggling injuries and surprising losses as the season went on. At the Year End Championships in Istanbul, an event which she had dominated a year earlier, Kvitova was out of sorts and out of sync during a quick loss to underpowered Agnieszka Radwanska, and tearfully pulled out of the event with an injury soon after.
Starting the 2013 season closer to No. 11 than No. 1, World No. 8 Kvitova is clearly feeling the pressure to return her once unbeatable form if the early losses she suffered Brisbane and Sydney are any indication. At the latter, the Czech barely had time to do much of anything during a 6-1 6-1 thrashing from Slovak Dominika Cibulkova. To be sure, a loss (even one so lopsided) to the world-beating Cibulkova is nothing of which to be ashamed. However, the 35 unforced errors from Kvitova would imply that such a scoreline was largely her own doing.
Nobody blows “The” Petra off the court…except perhaps herself.
That Kvitova admits to “not feeling very well right now in [her] confidence” is more a statement of the obvious than anything else. Commitment to and, more importantly, successful execution of the Czech’s hyper-aggressive game requires utmost assurance, something which Kvitova appears to have lacked for the better part of a year. Despite runs to the semifinals of Roland Garros and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, the Czech appeared more thankful for soft draws rather than the indomitable play that had become expected. Things only got worse as 2012 drew to a close, when Kvitova was hard-pressed to take advantage of even the kindest of draws with error-strewn performances that turned her into a shadow of her former self.
Last January, Petra Kvitova came to the Australian Open in the hopes of securing the world’s top ranking. This year, she’ll likely be trying to keep her place in the top 10. Yet, Kvitova should look at this sudden regression into relative irrelevance as a blessing instead of a curse. With expectations dwindling, she might find assurance in the notion that the past is behind her, that whatever will be, will be.
With that New Year’s resolution, she may find herself moving forward after all.