As late afternoon turned to early evening in the heart of the Lion City, Lucie Safarova did a favour for her compatriot Petra Kvitova by defeating Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-3, sending Kvitova into the semi finals of the 2015 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. Since it was mathematically impossible for Safarova to qualify for the last four, she was playing for pride — Czech pride to be exact.
After Kvitova suffered a three set loss to Garbiñe Muguruza earlier in the day, the two-time Wimbledon champion needed her countrywoman to defeat Kerber in straight sets in order to qualify for the semifinals. Safarova’s win over Kerber is also the Czech’s first singles win since New Haven, which has something to do with her struggles with an abdominal injury and a bacterial infection in the last few weeks.
Safarova Hangs On to Early Break, Successfully Serves Out Opening Set
After exchanging three breaks to begin the match, it was Safarova who managed to hold serve first, with an emphatic hold to love. That one hold of serve managed to trigger holds of serve for the rest of the set, which eventually handed the Czech a one-set advantage without much drama.
It was clear that Safarova changed her game plan slightly, and was playing more aggressive than in her first two round robin matches. However, it is worth noting that her first two opponents were Garbiñe Muguruza and Petra Kvitova, two players who hit a slightly heavier and more powerful ball than Safarova, which ultimately resulted in the Czech being pushed back three or four feet behind the baseline during most baseline exchanges.
But against a player like Kerber who doesn’t have the same fire power as a player like Muguruza, Safarova was able to impose her game on her German counterpart right from the off, which put her in a desirable position of dictating play. Compared to her first two round robin matches, Safarova made contact with the ball 51 percent of the time inside the baseline in the first set against Kerber, compared to just 23 percent of the time against Muguruza and Kvitova.
More of the Same from Safarova in Set Number Two
After taking the opening set 6-4, Safarova began to go from strength-to-strength, forcing Kerber to run both laterally and up and down the court. Moments after saving a break point in her opening service game, the Czech broke the German in Kerber’s second service game at the second time of asking. From there, both women exchanged service holds as it was Kerber’s turn to up her level just a little bit, in a final attempt to qualify for the semifinals.
However, Safarova refused to let up, holding all of her service games for the rest of the set at ease, which made it very hard for Kerber to make any inroads into her service games. Less than 90 seconds after holding for a 5-3 lead, the Czech number two earned herself her first match points of the match. Despite not being able to convert any of her first three match points, Safarova was able to break at the fourth time of asking to seal an impressive 6-4, 6-3 win over world number seven Angelique Kerber.
Quotes From Kerber and Safarova After the Match
After the match, Kerber expressed her disappointment to the press, saying she was disappointed because she was unable to find her game and a consistent rhythm like she normally does. “I was not feeling good. From the first point I couldn't find my rhythm. I was actually not there,” Kerber said after playing her last WTA match of the season. “I was tight and I was not playing my tennis. Lucie played a good match for sure, but for sure, it was not my best match today.”
In press, the German also admitted that the pressure to win just one set affected her mentally. She said all of the talks about different scenarios and winning sets got into her head, and wished the matches could be played simultaneously. “I think it's not fair, because I think it's like on the football. Like when it's really counting for something, you should play like the same time.”
On a lighter note, Safarova met with Kvitova after the match and the two shared a laugh in the locker room. “We met in the locker room and she was really happy and I'm happy for her obviously,” Safarova said when asked about helping her compatriot qualify for the last four. “She said she might buy me some beers.”
“That's teamwork! I am happy for Petra that she went through to the semis and I am happy for my win today as well.”
“Well, I was just like fighting for myself to get a positive end of the season, because I think I was playing pretty well last couple matches but didn't get the win.”
“So I was really pumped today to go out there and fight. I think I played great. I pressured her. I was just converting everything. I served really well.”
“I'm really happy that I finished so strong.”
After the big win, Kvitova tweeted, with surprise and thanks to Safarova.
Omg. Thanks @luciesafarova— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) October 30, 2015
Kvitova later tweeted that she even owed her Fed Cup teammate some beers and showed a picture of two together with big, bright smiles.
Mas u me pivo Luci / I owe you some Czech beer @luciesafarova ☺