Kvitova’s double delight: Wuhan title seals WTA Championships place

Petra Kvitova beats Eugenie Bouchard 6-3 6-4 to win the Wuhan Open title and qualify for the WTA finals

The tall, popular Czech, Petra Kvitova, may have got off to a slow start in 2014, but she has more than made up for it in the second half of the season.

After losing her opening matches at the Australian Open, Dubai, Stuttgart and Rome, and losing matches from a set up more often than she should, she finally found her form when she hit the grass.

It was at Wimbledon in 2011 that she first burst onto the scene as a 21-year-old, winning a first Major with the kind of big, powerful leftie game that seemed to assure her of still more success. Sure enough, she went on to reach No2 in the rankings and win her debut end-of-year WTA Championships in Istanbul.

She has not fallen short of the quarters at Wimbledon since, but this summer she won for a second time after failing to get beyond the third round of any of the other Majors since the start of 2013. And once again, the grass has proved to be the springboard for her best season since that 2011 breakthrough.

She has some way to go to equal the six titles she won back then, but this weekend, she picked up her third title of the year at the debut running of the Wuhan Premier in China, adding to the New Haven title she picked up after Wimbledon.

It could not have come at a better time, as she was once again see-sawing through the calendar, winning only one match in the Montreal-Cincinnati swing.

Kvitova was up against the young woman who also faced her in the Wimbledon final, Eugenie Bouchard. And to add a little spice to the proceedings, Bouchard was also set to qualify for Singapore if she won this title.

For the 20-year-old Canadian, who made such a strong impression in the Asian swing in her breakthrough season last year, was playing in her third final of 2014 and her second against Kvitova. And in a draw that had seen top seeds Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep all fall in the early rounds, she surged to the final via a straight-sets win over Caroline Wozniacki.

But just as at Wimbledon, she found Kvitova too hot to handle, though she did not suffer quite the 6-3, 6-0 whitewash of London.

Kvitova broke Bouchard in the opening game of both sets—indeed she led by two breaks in he second until Bouchard broke back at 2-5. But the Czech fended off a total of seven break points in the set to serve out the match at the second time of asking, 6-3, 6-4.

This was Kvitova’s 14th career title—11 of which are at Premier level or higher—and assured her of a fourth consecutive year at the WTA finale. She was, naturally, delighted: “From the beginning my season it was really tough. If somebody told me at the Australian Open that I would win Wimbledon and still be fighting for Singapore, I’m not sure I would have believed them. But I’ve had a great second part of the season.

“It all started a little bit at the French Open, and from there I just kept improving. I think early on I was expecting too much of myself, and it was really difficult to take the loss in my first round in Australia, but I kept working hard, and now I’m here.”

Bouchard will have to wait to confirm her place, but her Wuhan runner-up finish will boost her position alongside fellow contenders Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber and Wozniacki.

With just 19 days and a maximum of three tournaments left to add points, the top women now head to the richest remaining event, the China Open in Beijing.

Kvitova, seeded No3, and Bouchard, No8 are two of the four beneficiaries of first-round byes that have been awarded to the four Wuhan semi-finalists.

The Czech will face a Chinese opponent, either Kai-Lin Zhang or Shuai Peng, while Bouchard will play the winner between Sabine Lisicki and Chinese wildcard Shilin Xu.

Wozniacki has the unenviable prospect of either Francesca Schiavone or Sam Stosur in her opener, while the fourth bye, Elina Svitolina, has an even bigger task: either Kaia Kanepi or Sharapova.

Heather Watson’s hopes of regaining some form after three first-round losses took a knock when she drew No16 seed Venus Williams in her first-round match.

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