Petra Kvitova, more than five years removed from her breakthrough season of 2011, remains one of the most unpredictable players on tour. The veteran’s first half of the 2019 season saw her produce one of her most consistent string of results in her career, which includes making her only four finals of the year, winning two, before a forearm issue flared up.
Although a compression sleeve became a familiar sighting with Kvitova on court during the second half of the season, she still managed to finish her year at the prestigious year-ending WTA Finals.
Kvitova enacted a 37-16 win-loss record in 2019, making it the season with least wins since 2011, save 2017, when she launched her return to the sport in May from a knife attack. It’s also the second time since 2011, save 2017, where she failed to reach 40 wins for the year, the other being 2015 where she had 38 wins.
Dissecting the win-loss record, Kvitova went 28-8 from the start of the year until Rome. Returning to competition at Wimbledon, having been forced to sit out the French Open and grass court events pre-Wimbledon to recover from the forearm injury, Kvitova would go on win just nine more matches the rest of the year, paired with eight losses.
She scored three wins over top-10 opposition in 2019, second-ranked Angelique Kerber (Sydney), seventh-ranked Kiki Bertens (Stuttgart) and tenth-ranked Belinda Bencic (Beijing) and, notably, the former two wins came at the only tournaments she won this year.
As said, most of Kvitova’s high moments in 2019 came in the first half. The Czech’s first big move of the season came in with the title run in Sydney, edging past Ashleigh Barty in three sets, the second time she won the title here.
At the Australian Open, wins over Magdalena Rybarikova, Irina-Camelia Begu and Bencic saw the Czech through to the second week here for the first time since 2012 where she went on to reach the last four. She equalled that result with wins over Amanda Anisimova and 15th seed Barty. In the semifinals, she came back from a first-set meltdown to beat Danielle Collins. She fell to Naomi Osaka in the championship match, a three-set epic, which saw her eight-match winning streak in finals, dating back to the WTA Elite Trophy in 2016, snap.
Kvitova then made a quarterfinal in St. Petersburg before soaring to her second final of the year in Dubai, where she ran out of steam to Bencic, having gone the distance in three of four her matches throughout the week there prior. This marked the first time Kvitova lost back-to-back finals, since 2013.
The Czech then sailed into her second quarterfinal in Miami where she lost to eventual champion Barty, and then claimed her second crown of the year in Stuttgart, beating Anett Kontaveit in the final. The result made Kvitova the first player to win multiple titles in 2019.
She then posted a quarterfinal showing in Madrid where she lost to eventual champion Bertens, a rematch of the final here 12 months ago which Kvitova won. Kvitova would then go on to win back-to-back matches three more times, which saw her make the fourth round of Wimbledon in July (her best result here since winning the title in 2014), the semifinals of Wuhan and the quarterfinals in Beijing, the latter two in the backend of the year.
At the WTA Finals, besides being the oldest player of the field, Kvitova also achieved the feat of having the most appearances at the year-end championships this decade, seven years, having played here in from 2011-2015, 2018 and 2019.
Finishing the year ranked seventh also saw Kvitova tie Caroline Wozniacki and Serena Williams for most top-10 season finishes this decade, seven times, having done so from 2011-2015, 2018 and 2019. 2019 is also the fourth season of the Czech’s career where she spent the whole year inside the top 10, after 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Throughout the first half of 2019, Kvitova lost before the quarterfinal stage in Brisbane, to Kontaveit in the second round, Indian Wells, to Venus Williams in her opening match despite having led by a set and a double break, and Rome, where she was forced to retire with a thigh injury in third round against Maria Sakkari.
That was followed by her aforementioned withdrawal from the French Open. In August, she was Sakkari’s victim once more, this time in her opener in Cincinnati. At the US Open, she suffered her sole loss in the first week of a Grand Slam in 2019 when she succumbed to Andrea Petkovic in the second round.
On court at the WTA Finals, however, Kvitova was not able to deliver as she failed to score a win the group stage for the second year running, with the losses coming to Osaka, Bencic and Barty. This made Kvitova the only player to suffer multiple winless appearances at the WTA Finals, and the first since Elena Dementieva from 2004-2006.
Out of 16 tournament appearances, Kvitova posted nine quarterfinal or better showings, her best since 2014. She won two titles (Sydney and Stuttgart), was runner-up twice (Australian Open and Dubai), made one semifinal (Wuhan), and four quarterfinals (St. Petersburg, Miami, Madrid and Beijing).
Kvitova lost her opening match at two tournaments (Indian Wells and Cincinnati), and won just one match at four others, namely, Brisbane, St. Petersburg (with a bye in the first round), Rome and the US Open.
It is without a doubt that Kvitova’s 2019 season could have been very different but for the forearm injury. The consistency in the first half of the season will be the hallmark of her season despite the injury struggles that set in mid-season which, to a certain extent, impacted her results in the second half.
Kvitova remains a mystery, with a streaky and high-risk game, but if she can sustain the consistency shown in the first half of 2019, there is no doubt the Czech can take her game to even greater heights and possibly, ascend to the world number one ranking that has, so far, eluded her already-stellar career.