The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Lindsay Gibbs, April 30, 2019
The streak is over -- Petra power -- celebrating Lucie Safarova -- links and results
The streak is over
Our long national nightmare is over.
In Stuttgart, Petra Kvitova defeated Anett Kontaveit 6–3, 7–6(2) in the final to win her second title of the season. This means, of course, that 19 events in the to season, the WTA finally has a repeat winner!
It’s fitting that it’s Kvitova who snapped the streak. She’s been by far the most consistent player all year, making it to a tour-leading four finals and amassing a tour-leading 24-6 record. I know that her comeback has been covered a lot, and is somewhat old news now, but I honestly can’t get over it still. At the end of 2016, she was in her home when a knife-wielding man broke into her apartment and lacerated her dominant left hand while she tried to defend herself. There were no guarantees she’d be able to use that hand again, let alone play tennis. And here she is, playing if not quite the Peak Petra best, certainly the most consistently elite tennis of her career. She is an inspiration.
“I came back playing tennis and suddenly I’m just, I don’t know, I won a second title and played the final of the Australian Open. I think it’s just kind of surprising me everything that is happening in my life sometimes,” Kvitova told Courtney Nguyen of WTA Insider.
“I think every day being on the tennis court and being in the gym and doing your rehab and recovery, that’s everything that I’m always putting so much time in and I’m 100% ready there. It’s not really easy to do it every day.”
Speaking of inspirational Petras, in Istanbul last week, 28-year-old Petra Martic won her first career WTA title by defeating Markéta Vondroušová 1–6, 6–4, 6–1.
Two years ago, Martic was ranked No. 662, and attempting to come back from a 10-month layoff caused by a brutal back injury. But she never lost faith.
“When I got injured, I really believed that my best years were still to come for me,” she told the WTA’s David Kane. “That kept me believing that I could come back, stronger than ever. I really believed that there were still so many good things on court waiting for me, and so I couldn’t wait to be back playing tournaments again.”
That’s good stuff.
Speaking of good stuff — don’t miss the tribute to the retiring Lucie Safarova, below the links and tweet. (But click on the links first, of course.)
This week in tennis
A history of WTA’s 18 different winners in 18 weeks.
Don’t look now, but Victoria Azarenka has two top-five wins in the last three weeks.
In the Istanbul quarterfinals Martic defeated Kristina Mladenovic, 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(2) — at a staggering three hours and 17 minutes, it was the longest match of the year.
Matt Zemek from Tennis With an Accent on Martic’s big win.
The women’s year-end tournament in Shenzen increased its prize money to $14 million this year. So, naturally, the men’s tour had to increase theirs to $14.5 million.
Naomi Osaka made it to the semifinals in Stuttgart before withdrawing due to an ab strain. It doesn’t seem like a serious injury, thankfully, and the clay wins helped her confidence on the surface.
Great interview with coach Nigel Sears.
Get well soon, Karolina Pliskova. Please.
Simona Halep is trying to transform into a Stanimal.
As we’ve established here, I love drama and angst and bitchiness on the WTA Tour. I also love this.
Martina Navratilova weighs in on the Justin Gimelstob scandal, says he needs to go away for a while.
The lack of attendance at the Istanbul tournament is really depressing. They had such great attendance for the WTA Finals a few years ago; feels like a staggering lack of marketing/investment.
Genie Bouchard has split with her coach, Michael Joyce. She is currently ranked No. 81 and rehabbing an ab injury.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen sits down with Mircea Tomescu, the Grand Prize winner of the 2018 WTA Fantasy Tennis challenge.
Sloane Stephens and USMNT soccer player Jozy Altidore are engaged and absolutely gorgeous.
This week, we have the Prague Open and the Morocco Open.
Tweet of the week
Five at The IX: Five Lucie Safarova moments I will never forget
Okay, friends. So, this week, I wanted to do something special in honor of Lucie Safarova’s retirement. She’s one of those players that was just breaking through when I was becoming a tennis obsessive, so it feels like I haven’t known tennis obsession without Safarova.
For those who haven’t been following her, she’s a Czech lefty who debuted on the WTA Tour back in 2005. She has a career high of No. 5 in singles and No. 1 in doubles. You name an elite player over the past 13 years, and it’s likely she’s either pushed them to the brink, or toppled them altogether. And she’s done all of it while being one of the sweetest, loveliest people in tennis. Without further adieu, let’s take a trip down memory lane.
FED CUP MAGIC
Lucie had her Fed Cup debut for the Czech team way back in 2004, She was 13-11 in singles in 22 ties dating back to 2004, and was a key member of the Czech Republic’s 2012 and 2014 Fed Cup championships. In the 2014 final, she toppled Angelique Kerber of Germany, and in the 2012 final, she beat both Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic of Serbia to take back the title.
Plus, there was the dancing.
FRENCH OPEN FINAL
Lucie made it to one major final in her career, at the 2015 French Open. And goodness does that run look even better in hindsight. Her run to the French Open final in 2015 certainly holds up to scrutiny. From the fourth round on, she toppled María Sharapova, Garbiñe Muguruza, and Ana Ivanovic in straight sets, and then took a set off of Serena Williams in the final. That’s a tournament for the ages indeed.
If you want to experience a moment of unabashed exuberance, just look at her celebrate her semifinal win!!!
It’s not often that a top-five singles player is most well known for her doubles career, but in recent history, the success of her partnership with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands took her to new heights. From 2015-2017, they won five majors in three years (!!!) and became the No. 1 team in the world.
Safarova and Mattek-Sands were pure joy, and it’s devastating that Mattek-Sands’ injury cut their dominance short. But goodness were we lucky to have their magic as long as we did.
MISSED MATCH POINT AGAINST LI NA
I realize it seems counter-intuitive to put one of the more agonizing moments of Safarova’s career on this list, but the thing about Safarova was that her impact wasn’t just about her wins — it was about her misses, too. She was always there, playing a part in some of the biggest moments in the sport.
Nothing illustrates that as clearly as the 2014 Australian Open. In the third round, she had a match point against Li Na, but hit the ball slightly long after a great rally. Li Na went on to win the tournament, and give one of the most memorable speeches in tennis history.
“I think five centimeters saved my tournament,” Li said after her win over Safarova. (You can see the shot at about 7:00 in the video below.)
When I asked for people on Twitter to share their favorite Lucie moments, so many people didn’t talk about anything on-court, but rather shared stories about autograph signings or personal interactions they had with her that absolutely brightened their day. There isn’t a person in tennis that has a bad thing to say about Lucie. To sum that up, I bring you, puppies.@linzsports @TheIXNewsletter My most recent encounter with Lucie involved her bringing her dog to press at the US Open. Pretty dope!