Petra Kvitova finally rises to another big occasion


Petra Kvitova underlined her reputation as a big-occasion player when she beat Sara Errani 6-2 1-6 6-1 to win the Dubai Duty Free Championships here last night. In claiming her first title for six months the 2011 Wimbledon champion restored belief that she can be among the group of players capable of winning the biggest prizes.

Eight of Kvitova's 10 titles have been at either Grand Slam or Premier level – the latter being the eight most important events on the Women's Tennis Association tour – but there have been times when the 22-year-old Czech has struggled. This was only her third title since her Wimbledon victory.

When Kvitova is in full flight, bludgeoning the ball with great power from both flanks, no woman hits it harder. She is still the only player born in the 1990s who has won a Grand Slam title and clearly has time on her side.

Although Kvitova has never been the best of movers, when you hit the ball as hard as she does it hardly matters. The world No 8, who will climb one place in the rankings tomorrow, is trying to improve her speed around the court, but maintaining belief in her big-hitting game will remain the key to her future.

Kvitova, who had not lost a set in her first three meetings with Errani, broke the 25-year-old Italian to love in the opening game. At 0-3 down Errani sent for her coach, Pablo Lozano. The world No 7 finally won a game at the fifth attempt and then broke to trail 4-2, but Kvitova responded in kind and served out for the set after 36 minutes.

Errani, nevertheless, put herself back in contention with a bold change of tactics. At just 5ft 4in and 9st 6lb the Italian usually relies on her athleticism and artistry, but after being blasted off the court in the first set she decided the best form of defence was attack.

Kvitova appeared as surprised as anybody as Errani took control of the second set with a combination of serve-and-volley and chip-and-charge. She hit some fine volleys and in taking time away from Kvitova made the Czech look distinctly uncomfortable.

David Kotyza, Kvitova's coach, has been on holiday for the last week, so it was down to her to find a way out of the situation. She saved a break point in the opening game of the decider, fought back from 0-40 down two games later and kept going for her shots. As Errani quickly faded, Kvitova seized the initiative back and won the last five games to take the match.

"I think I stayed focused and calm," Kvitova said afterwards. "That was really important after I lost the second set. I had to stay with my aggressive game."