Kvitová gets back to winning ways
Czech No. 1 claims her first WTA Tour title since last August
Posted: February 27, 2013
The Czech Republic's Petra Kvitová kisses her trophy after winning the final of the Dubai Championship in the Gulf emirate Feb. 23. Kvitová defeated Sara Errani of Italy 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.
When Petra Kvitová is on form, there are very few players who can handle the sheer power of her blistering groundstrokes. And while she has struggled to find any real consistency so far this season, there were signs at the Dubai Championships the former Wimbledon champion was finally getting back to her best tennis.
Kvitová ended a six-month title drought by beating Italy's Sara Errani 6-2 1-6 6-1 in the final Feb. 23, picking up the 10th tournament win of her career. The nerves may have crept in during a shaky second set, but the 22-year-old regained her composure in the third to see out a much-needed victory.
"It was up and down, but I can say I was focused and calm, which was important after the second set," she said in her post-match interview. "It was important to stay in the game, do my best and be aggressive."
Seeded sixth, Kvitová came into the final without dropping a set and boasting a 3-0 head-to-head record over Errani. She asserted that dominance from the outset, reeling off the first four games as the Italian found herself pinned to the baseline.
Errani, the world No. 8, upped her game in the second set to take the match into a decider and had her opponent on the ropes at the start of the third, before Kvitová nipped off for a tactical bathroom break. That proved to be the turning point, as she won the next five games, sealing the title with an unreturnable serve.
"I was quite down," Kvitová said when explaining her departure from the court. "I was in the locker room, and I was thinking I must stay positive and just play."
Meanwhile, Tomáš Berdych couldn't quite make it a Czech double as he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final of the Marseille Open, also Feb. 23. The top seed captured the opener and even had a match point in the second set tie-break before succumbing 3-6 7-6 6-4.
Berdych had defeated Tsonga in four of their previous five matches, but the Frenchman wasn't about to let that record dampen the spirits of a partisan home crowd. He fired down an ace to get himself out of trouble in the breaker and then carried that momentum into the decider, wrapping up the match at the first time of asking.
"I had a few chances, but Jo was able to serve well at the right time," Berdych reflected. "That's the sport. Here [in Marseille], I lost three tie-breaks. This one [in the final] was very important, but I was unlucky; I wasn't able to make it. It happens sometimes."
Football: So close, yet so far for Sparta
Sparta Praha suffered Europa League heartbreak as Eden Hazard's last-gasp equalizer for Chelsea knocked them out of the competition 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge Feb. 21.
David Lafata, Sparta's winter signing from Jablonec, leveled things up overall on 17 minutes, tapping home after good work from Václav Kadlec, and the last-32 tie appeared to be heading into extra time until substitute Hazard spared his side's blushes at the death, when he crashed a left-footed shot past the despairing dive of Tomáš Vaclík.
The Sparta goalkeeper had earlier kept the visitors' European journey alive with superb saves from Juan Mata and John Terry, while the 3,000 away fans who had made the trip from Prague, all sporting blue, yellow and red bobble hats, must have begun to think this was going to be their night.
Their side, well-organized and quick to counter, could even have made the game safe in the closing stages as first Captain Marek Matějovský and then Kadlec broke free, before Hazard struck to shatter their dreams in the second minute of injury time.
"We played a great match," said Sparta coach Vítězslav Lavička afterward. "We came with a 1-0 deficit, but we did the maximum to qualify. In the end, we just didn't make it, but such is football. We were helped by the fans who were just amazing. It was a great trip for them … and we hope they enjoyed it."
Despite Sparta's elimination, there will still be one Czech side in the Europa League's last 16 after Viktoria Plzeň completed a 5-0 aggregate success over Serie A title chasers Napoli. Having won 3-0 in Italy the week before, second-leg goals from Jan Kovařík and Stanislav Tecl eased Pavel Vrba's men into the next round, where they will face Fenerbahçe of Turkey.
Plzeň exited last season's competition at the last-32 stage (losing in extra-time to Schalke) but never looked like falling at the same hurdle this time around as Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri chose to leave the tournament's top scorer, Edinson Cavani, out of his starting line-up.
On a snowy night in west Bohemia, Kovařík effectively buried any hopes of a Napoli comeback when his low volley slipped under the body of Morgan De Sanctis six minutes after the break.
And although Cavani, introduced at halftime, was doing his best to breathe some life into his side's challenge, that was ended by another substitute, Tecl, who superbly curled in from the edge of the area with a quarter of an hour to go.
Jonathan Crane can be reached at