By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova
enters the U.S. Open on quite a roll.
Kvitova beat Maria Kirilenko 7-6 (9), 7-5 on Saturday to win the
New Haven Open, the 22-year-old Czech star’s second WTA tournament
title in three weeks.
The fifth-ranked player in the world has won 12 of her last 13
hard-court matches this season. She clinched the U.S. Open series
championship this week after winning her first title of the year in
Montreal and reaching the semifinals in Cincinnati.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “I mean, play three
tournaments in a row and win two. It’s great for me. I hope it will
continue in the US Open.”
The series championship, based on points earned in five U.S.
hard-court tournaments this summer, makes Kvitova eligible for a
bonus of up to $1 million depending on her finish in New York.
Last year, she lost in the first round and had never won in
North America before her win at the Rogers Cup two weeks ago. She
isn’t sure what has led to the improvement.
“I feel more shots, good moving,” she said. “Maybe because I
play lot of matches here, so maybe that’s why I’m feeling more like
relaxed and confident on the court.”
Kvitova didn’t lose a set the entire week, but had to battle in
both on Saturday.
The first set, which lasted an hour and eight minutes, had six
service breaks, and went to the tiebreaker when Kvitova failed to
serve out the match after breaking Kirilenko to go up 6-5.
Kvitova got a mini-break on the first point and was up 5-2, but
again had a hard time putting Kirilenko away. The Russian fought
off two set points at 6-4, and was serving for the set at 8-7.
But Kvitova won that mini-break and went on to win the
tiebreaker 11-9 when Kirilenko put a return into the net.
“It was a difficult first set,” Kirilenko said. “We were both
getting tired. I felt it. I think she felt it as well. We were a
little bit run down.”
Kirilenko seemed to find some energy early in the second set
with her boyfriend, NHL star Alex Ovechkin of the Washington
Capitals cheering from the player’s box. She went up two service
breaks and was serving at 5-2 to tie the match.
But there was no quit in Kvitova. She fought off a set point to
win that game, held serve twice and broke Kirilenko at love twice,
cupping her hand to her mouth as Kirilenko’s final serve went long.
“I just played, not thinking about the shots, about the
tactics, just put the ball into the court,” she said. “Then it
was 7-5. Surprise.”
Kirilenko, the seventh seed, was the fresher of the two coming
into the match. She had played just two full matches and five sets
to get to the final. Her second round opponent withdrew with a
stomach ailment, and four-time defending champion Caroline
Wozniacki retired from their semifinal match with a knee injury
after one set.
Kvitova easily beat NCAA champion Nicole Gibbs (6-2, 6-4), Lucie
Safarova (6-3, 6-3) and Italy’s Sara Errani (6-1, 6-3) on her run
to the final.
The seventh-seeded Kirilenko was coming off an Olympics in which
she won a bronze medal in doubles and advanced to the semifinals in
the singles after beating Kvitova 7-6 (3), 6-3.
“Even though I lost today, I still feel positive,” she said.
“I played really well this week. I played good match today.
Unfortunately, I was unlucky. But I have couple days to recover
because I know that I’m playing Tuesday. So two days, it’s good for
me to have rest.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)