WTA Elite Trophy: Petra Kvitova is accelerating towards 2017

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For a woman capable of such lethal tennis, it was rather surprising to see Petra Kvitova snap upright so close to the end of 2016. Nevertheless, this late jump-start might (just perhaps) be in her favour as she eyes a fresh season. Will Kvitova make a consistent start to 2017?

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Petra Kvitova has won the first WTA final she has contested every year since turning pro.

It is an interesting record for a woman renowned for her streaky nature. Since claiming her first WTA title as an 18-year-old at the 2009 Hobart International, Kvitova has compiled brilliant statistics in finals on the professional circuit. A winner in 18 of her 25 WTA final showdowns, the current world no. 11 – who will end the season at that ranking, whatever happens in Zhuhai on Sunday – has always claimed the trophy in her first ultimate showdown of the season. While she did not manage to reach a final in 2010, she stormed out of the blocks to win Brisbane in her first tournament of 2011. In 2012, she achieved the feat in Montreal. In 2013, it was at another Premier event – this one in Doha. Her maiden 2014 victory carried even more prestige, coming on the lawns of Wimbledon. The dawn of 2015 saw her claim near-immediate glory in Sydney, before Wuhan this season rounded out her current run.

Nevertheless, anyone who follows women’s tennis closely will notice something about those statistics. This season, Kvitova had to wait a lot longer even than 2014 to strike tournament gold. Wuhan’s Premier event – which was making its third outing this season – only took place in September.

It’s been a while since the Petra Kvitova started a dazzling streak at the beginning of a season. In fact, it has been almost five years. Since making the Australian Open semifinals back in 2012 – losing to Maria Sharapova in three sets – the unpredictable Czech has not progressed beyond the third round in four Melbourne appearances.

While the two-time Wimbledon champion is renowned for being incredibly streaky, few could have expected her to spend seven months of the current year struggling for form. But every time the 26-year-old was expected to jump-start her season, Kvitova – who seemed at as much as a loss as everyone else as to what was going on – kept everyone waiting. A lone explanation – alongside the fact that this superb talent is prone to wander – could have been her split with long-time coach David Kotzya near the start of the year. Change is often for the best in the long term, but the immediate aftermath can be culture shock. Perhaps Kvitova should have been given credit for a lack of panic as the season went on, and the losses piled up.

Endurance is a necessity in tennis. It has seen Andy Murray, after years of hard work, cling on until the opportunity to take the no. 1 ranking arose. It saw Li Na win her maiden Grand Slam title at the age of 29, and Flavia Pennetta take her own at the age of 33. And it could be the key quality of a woman who comes through many dips and rises as each season passes – and is known for surviving matches in three sets pretty regularly.

Since taking advantage of a disintegrated draw at the Rio Olympics, bronze medallist Kvitova has by no means looked perfect. Nevertheless, she has looked more like the lethal player who has secured two major titles thus far in her career. A New Haven thrashing from Agnieszka Radwanska and a second round Tokyo loss to Monica Puig have been mingled with much better showings end-of-year showings, which feature a final in Luxembourg and two top ten victories en route to Wuhan triumph.

Once in writing, these stats are not all that impressive. Nevertheless, it is the demeanour and attitude of Kvitova – who has sailed thus far at the WTA Elite Trophy – that suggests there is more to come. Having dropped just 12 games in wins over Roberta Vinci, Barbora Strycova and Shuai Zhang this week, the no. 3 seed is widely expected to finish her season with victory against Elina Svitolina in Sunday’s grand finale. Her own words – as reported by the WTA website – have only strengthened that notion.

When asked what she wanted to take from 2016 into the new year, Kvitova responded: “I would like to take myself.”

She added: “I think, somehow, I found myself this season. Maybe being without a coach was important to help me do that. I think I’m more relaxed right now, and that’s how I’ll also try to be next season.”

Kvitova may not have a coach for 2017, but she apparently has a pretty clear and simple strategy for it. This is also the most consistent post-US Open record Kvitova has carried since winning the WTA Championships in 2011 – which occurred before her Australian Open woes began. Is 2017 to be the year that ends her early struggles?

For a woman who does not need rhythm to excel, the off-season should do little to derail Petra Kvitova. Immediate success in the coming season is, from the current viewpoint, largely on the Czech’s racquet. If she makes a final in January, she should really be away.

But if she does not manage it this time around, not a one of us should be surprised. Petra Kvitova will always be Petra Kvitova – and her tendencies do make WTA tour life that little bit more interesting.

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Thanks for reading! What do you think of Petra Kvitova’s late 2016 surge? Can we possibly predict what she will do in 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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