WTA Finals: Angelique Kerber Battles Past 2011 Champion Petra Kvitova

Angelique Kerber made a winning return to the WTA Finals on Monday evening, defeating Petra Kvitova 6-2, 7-6(3) in an hour and 47 minutes. With this win, Kerber gets her first win over Kvitova since 2012, and she sits at second place in the White Group, behind Garbiñe Muguruza who also won in straight sets on Monday. This is just the German’s second win in seven matches at the WTA Finals, which should give her plenty of confidence as she battles Muguruza and Lucie Safarova for a place in the semifinals later this week.

Kerber Runs Away With Opening Set

The opening set was all Angelique Kerber. The German number one withdrew from the Kremlin Cup in Moscow — citing a back injury — and her short amount of rest proved to be beneficial early on, chasing down every ball an erratic Kvitova threw at her. Kvitova has had a very up-and-down year where she’s suffered from mononucleosis which caused her to withdraw from Indian Wells and Miami — two of the biggest events of the season — due to fatigue, one of the many symptoms for people who suffer from mononucleosis.

In the opening stages of this match, Kvitova played extremely well, firing winners from all parts of the court. However, her hot streak didn’t last any longer than two games because at 1-all in the opening set, Kerber pounced. Given her struggles against Kvitova in the past, the German knew she had to take the initiative in as many rallies as possible to move the Czech around. Paired with her great defensive skills, Kerber converted her first break point and drew first blood in this highly-anticipated round-robin match. From there, the world number seven never looked back.

After exchanging three relatively straightforward holds of serve with Kvitova, Kerber made the most of a net cord on her first break point to break once more. Now leading 5-2 with a double break, the 27-year-old made no mistake when given the chance to serve for the opening set. With a hold to love, Kerber was just one set away from an all-important win in the White Group.

Exchange of Breaks Results in Second Set Tiebreak, Kerber Comes Out On Top

The second set was a much tighter affair, filled with lots of high quality tennis. Kvitova made up for her poor performance in the opening set with a heck of a start to the second. After holding a tough opening service game to begin the second set, the former Wimbledon champion converted her fourth break point with a scorching forehand return down the line to a win a drawn-out nine-minute game.

Now leading 2-0, the Czech made no mistake when attempting to consolidate the break, as she did so to 15. Kerber responded with a hold of her own, and that seemed to pile the pressure back onto Kvitova. The Czech kept trying to hit through the German but Kerber refused to miss. Less than three minutes later, the world number seven was able to convert her second break point of the game to recover the early break. Could Kvitova fight back?

In the following game, you just sensed that another break of serve was coming as Kvitova was beginning to find the perfect balance between hard, flat ground strokes and soft hands. Soon enough, the world number five earned herself another break point, which she took with a beautifully disguised forehand drop shot that Kerber didn’t even run down. But despite having the break, Kvitova couldn’t hold serve when it really mattered.

Despite having a game point at 40-30, the 25-year-old was unable to close out the game and Kerber broke back to trail 3-4. After three consecutive breaks of serve, the German was finally able to stop the rot by saving a break and holding to level the second set at four-games-all. As the set wore on, the games got longer and you could sense the importance of every point, let alone every game. However, it was Kerber who was able to break free first to go up 5-4 in the second set. She would have a chance to serve for her second win at the WTA Finals in seven attempts.

However, Kvitova had other ideas. With some stunning returns of serve, the two-time Grand Slam champion was able to break straight back and held serve for the first time in four service games to get her nose back in front, leading 6-5. Serving to stay in the second set, Kerber came up with an ace and a forehand winner to save two set points, and ultimately forced a second set tiebreak.

In that tiebreak, Kerber was able to draw first blood while leading 2-1, and never looked back. After getting another mini break while leading 5-2, Kerber had two chance to close out the match on her own serve, and did so at the first time of asking to seal a big 6-2, 7-6(3) win over 2011 WTA Finals champion Petra Kvitova.

Some Quotes From Kerber and Kvitova During Their Respective Post-Match Press Conferences

Kvitova said some blood test results in China shortened her preparation for the WTA Finals, and she said she felt “weird” while playing this match. “I felt I wasn't able to stay in the kind of good rally what she played. I miss so early,” Kvitova said. “From that time I started to hit a little bit harder and I made some mistakes, so it was a little difficult to find a balance like between rallies and winners and some kind of volleys and anything.”

“I am going to try to do my best the next match.”

“I'm so happy to win, Petra's an unbelievable player and had a great year,” said a beaming Kerber during her press conference. “I'm just enjoying playing here, it's my first time here and the fans are amazing.”

“I was trying to move better or to move very well and like to bring so many balls I can get back. I was trying to move well. I was actually a break down in the first few games and I was just trying to be aggressive. In the end it was very close so I just decided to go for it and I'm very happy that I got the win.”