Welcome to another Live Edition of “How the Match Was Won”! Today we have an intriguing match-up between two lefties: Petra Kvitova and Laura Robson. There is a 4 year gap in terms of age between these two, as well as 45 spots in the rankings. Naturally, there is more of a gulf between them in terms of accomplishments, with Kvitova winning 9 WTA titles already (one of which is the 2011 Wimbledon crown, of course), and Laura Robson still looking for her maiden title. The 22 year old from the Czech Republic and the 18 year-old Brit have never played each other.
However, there are plenty of similarities between the two women. As I mentioned before, they’re both left-handed. They’re both tall, and they’re both very aggressive. Neither one is known for their exceptional movement, but they’re both known for going through patches where they don’t seem to be able to hit a tennis ball into the ocean from the deck of a ship.
2013 has been rather unkind to Kvitova and Robson so far: they have identical 2-2 records for the year, with some strange one-sided losses: Kvitova got double-breadsticked by Cibulkova in Sydney, while Robson lost 2 and 3 to Niculescu in Shenzhen.
Neither Kvitova nor Robson had eye-catching starts to this Australian Open. I caught a little bit of Robson’s win over Melanie Oudin and felt like Robson was dying to make life more difficult for herself in a match that seemed like easy pickings. I missed Kvitova’s debut altogether, but the great Hannah Wilks provided a pretty convincing tale of an otherwise unconvincing display by the Czech.
Fortunately for the two women, they won’t have to wait much longer to get on court: Federer is currently up two sets and a break on Davydenko, so the final match of the day at Rod Laver Arena should have a relatively early start. I’m sure the women would prefer it if the men took a little longer, hoping that the extra time will allow for the temperature to go down a bit.
What to Watch For:
– Can Laura Robson cope with the big stage as well as she did at last year’s US Open? If I’m not mistaken, this is her first night match at a Slam. It’s a special atmosphere inside Rod Laver Arena, particularly for the evening sessions. However, if some patrons came to just see Federer, the setting might be a little underwhelming, which will simulate the half-empty Arthur Ashe stadium where Robson ended Kim Clijsters career. The teenager seemed pretty comfortable there.
– Will Petra Kvitova struggle with the heat? She mentioned at some point in the recent past that her asthma issues might flare up when it gets hot and humid in Australia. In related news, today was a very hot day in Australia. Pam Shriver said it was dry heat, though, so I’m not sure about the humidity issue. Still, something to watch for.
– Who will be able to force their opponent to hit that extra ball? Robson has made huge strides in her movement, and her court coverage and overall defense has improved significantly. If the young Brit can get Kvitova to hit one more shot than the Czech wants, watch out.
– How will Kvitova fare at net today? The Czech has been more and more inclined to come to net in recent times, and it’ll be interesting to see if she can hit comfortable volleys or if she will have to come up with something special to win those net points. I have no idea how well Laura Robson hits passing shots: that’s definitely something to watch for.
– Can Robson keep her serve under control? The Stella McCartney user is known for losing faith in her delivery, which inevitably gets her in trouble.
I’ll start providing updates as soon as the players get on court. Remember to refresh this page often, as I will be providing game-by-game updates throughout the match!
The ladies are on court! Here is what Laura Robson looks like:
There is already a Grand Slam that forces people to wear an all-white kit. I have no idea why Stella McCartney decided to bring the all-white to Melbourne, in what is her first kit for Robson. And because it’s McCartney, she manages to make a simple white outfit into a mess. The medieval armor-inspired top is just a mess.
And here is what Kvitova looks like:
No use mincing words: this outfit is awful., on so many levels. Poor Kvitova.
Laura Robson won the toss, and she chose to serve. Smart lady.
First Set – Laura Robson will serve first
0-0: Robson starts with a double-fault. Not the greatest omen out there. She compounds the mess by serving a second. 0-30. Oy. Now a FH UFE by Robson. This qualifies as the worst possible start, right? Yep – Laura dumps a simple volley into the net to get broken at love. That was atrocious.
Nightmare start for Robson. Essentially 4 straight UFEs to break herself at love.
1-0, Kvitova: The 2011 Wimbledon champion starts with an ace, and then a double-fault. Robson blasts a very nice CC BH winner, and she’s won a point through her own means for the first time. 15-30. Kvitova drives a piercing CC BH, and forces the error. 30-all. 2nd ace of the match by Kvitova, and it’s 40-30. Robson lobs Kvitova after a Czech onslaught, and Petra botches the overhead wide. Deuce. Double fault #2 for Kvitova gives Robson a chance to recover that early break. Robson challenges her BH return, which was called out. It actually caught the line. A lot of line, actually. Bad break for her. They replay the point, Robson gets a good return in play, and Kvitova nets the second ball. Game on!
That was a very shaky start by Kvitova, but I liked what I saw from Robson: she seemed to settle down, and already has a nice read on Kvitova’s serve. Could prove to be key.
1-1: Robson’s 3rd DF of the match makes it 15-30, but a token Kvitova errand FH DTL levels the game. Kvitova doesn’t misfire on the next FH DTL, which sets up an easy volley putaway, and she has a BP for the second consecutive game. The women trade bombs, and Kvitova sends one long. First BP saved by Robson. Ace by Laura! That was unexpected, after all the DFs. Nice slider up the T. And another slider ace! Robson with a very promising hold.
That was much better from Robson. Those lefty serves at the end were beauties. She does not seem overwhelmed by the stage anymore.
Unrelated, here are the two ugly kits, sort of side-by-side:
2-1, Robson: A nice BH CC winner makes it 40-0 for Kvitova, and a service winner clinches the game for her. Easiest game for the server so far.
2-2: Kvitova with some great improvisation from the baseline survives a long point to make it 15-30. Robson has a look at a FH putaway later, but she sends it wide. 15-40, and the break comes after a deep Kvitova return forces a Robson error.
That love hold sure seemed to give Kvitova a shot of confidence. She barely missed in that last game, and for once looked like the confident champion of happier times. As for Robson, she’s not as sharp as she needs to be to pull off this upset. That error at 15-30 ended up being quite costly.
3-2, Kvitova: A Kvitova error makes it 30-all, but a service winner gives the Czech a chance to hold. She goes for the slider, and Robson can’t place the return inside the court. An easy hold game again for the World Number 8.
4-2, Kvitova: Robson was en route to a comfortable hold, but a double fault at 30-all stops the momentum. A nice FH DTL on the next point impresses, and it’s 40-15. Kvitova approaches the net on a mediocre FH, but Robson can’t do much with the two passes she is allowed to hit. 40-30. A deep Kvitova shot forces Robson’s error, and it’s deuce. A gorgeous running CC BH by the lady with the ugliest outfit in Melbourne gives said lady a chance to break, and another deep return can’t be handled by Robson, who is now down a double-break.
Despite a promising stretch right after losing her server, Robson seems quite overmatched now. She’s having trouble dealing with Kvitova’s CC bombs, and even more trouble dealing with Kvitova’s deep returns off her serve. Robson’s barely getting a chance to attack, and she won’t win this match by defending.
5-2, Kvitova: Kvitova easily made it 30-all, but then double-faulted. 30-15. A service winner up the T makes it 40-15, or as they say in these situations, double set point. Yet another double-fault erases the first set point. And, you guessed it, another double-fault brings us to deuce. A rare Robson FH winner appears – a very nice inside-in shot. BP Robson, and the first “POJD!” from Kvitova comes after she staves off the BP with a nice slider serve. She tries that same serve from the other side of the court, and Robson sends a pretty inside-out FH return winner past her. BP again, but it’s erased by an ace. Deuce #3. Robson is given a third chance to break after yet another DF. Robson goes for broke on the FH DTL return, misses by about two soccer fields. Deuce #4. A nice return by the Brit can’t be handled by the Czech, and it’s BP again. Robson gets into the point, runs around her BH, but hits a tame FH right at Kvitova, who makes her pay for the bad court position. Deuce #5. Another great CC return by Robson, this time with her BH, and it’s BP yet again. Kvitova gets half a look at a BH DTL, and she pounces, forcing Robson’s error. BP averted, and we’re at deuce #6. Another nice inside-out FH return by Robson, another BP. We seem to be stuck on a loop here. BP #19842985985. Robson’s return gets called out, but very, very late. She somehow doesn’t challenge. Weird. Deuce #7. Kvitova FINALLY serves wide from the deuce court, and it’s an ace. Set point. Beauty of a lefty slider, it’s an ace, and Kvitova seals the set. Thank the heavens.
Robson and Kvitova need to stop, go back to the locker room, take a deep breath, and come back out. So nervy right now. #ausopen
— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) January 17, 2013
I would agree with that.
Here are your first set stats:
My eyes hurt from those serving stats from Robson. And the combined total for double-faults.
Second Set – Laura Robson will serve first
0-0: Robson gets overpowered once again, sends a BH well long, and it’s 30-all. The Brit then goes for a sharp CC BH, and Kvitova can’t handle it. A chance to hold for the Aussie-born Brit, and she does, after a good CC FH can’t be handled by Kvitova.
That hold was a must for Robson, after the way that first set ended. A great boost for her: at the very least, the second set has started much better than the first as far as she’s concerned.
1-0, Robson: The lady commentator from Australia says that Kvitova has been flying under the radar in terms of favoritism for this title. I would agree: I talked about the quarter she’s in in the inaugural Changeover Podcast, and didn’t even mention her. More telling: nobody called me out on the omission. Anyway, at 15-all, Kvitova double-faults again. 15-30, but a service winner makes it 30-all. Soon, it’s 40-30, and a DF makes it deuce. Oy, Kvitova. I got distracted, and Robson now has a BP, which disappears with a fantastic lefty slider + inside-out FH combo by Kvitova. That’s just solid tennis. Kvitova sends a 2nd serve into Robson’s FH, and the Brit just pummels it DTL. That was nice. A second break point for her. A very aggressive rally ends with a “POJD!”, since Kvitova forced Robson’s error with a very deep CC BH. Kvitova forces the error again, and it’s Ad-Czech. A Robson UFE seals the hold for the Czech.
Getting that break would’ve been HUGE for Robson, and for the sleepy Rod Laver crowd, who understandably hasn’t been able to get into the match.
1-1: Robson races to a 40-0 lead, but a pretty wrong-footing CC FH winner by Kvitova pegs her back to 40-15. A FH UFE by Robson makes it 40-30. Rinse and repeat, and it’s deuce. A sloppy FH UFE by Kvitova, and Robson has her fourth chance to hold. But she doesn’t, because she DFs again. Deuce #2. Kvitova has a short, simple FH putaway, and she misses it horrifically. A Robson service winner later, and we’re still on serve in this match.
2-1, Robson: Two straight UFEs from Kvitova (one FH, one BH), and we’re at 0-30. Kvitova is apparently serving only 43% 1st serves in this set. Robson fails to take advantage, since she sends a tame serve well wide. A bad miss. 15-30. Good serve + BH combo by Petra, and we’re level at 30. However, a deep return from Robson forces the error, and the Brit has a chance to break. That BP disappears with yet another gorgeous and deadly slider ace out wide. Deuce. A 2nd serve goes to Robson’s FH, and the teen pounces. BP again. Fabulous return up the middle by Robson, and she’s opened up a lead! She’s ahead in the match for the first time.
Robson finally got a good look at a return on BP, and she really took her chance well. A perfect, Djokovic-esque return up the middle left Kvitova with no time for anything.
3-1, Robson: Kvitova pummels a FH return up the line, and it’s 15-30. Robson started this game with, you betcha, a DF. Kvitova has a FH DTL lined up, but she barely commits to it, and sends it wide. 30-all. Unexpected ace up the middle by Robson – that was huge. Her kingdom for another one, I’m guessing. Robson strangely decides to rally to Kvitova’s FH, so moments later we hear a “POJD!”, as a FH winner goes by. Deuce. Kvitova then gets a look a simple FH, after a Robson shot clipped the line, and sends her FH into the net. Of course. AD-Robson. Mishit return by Kvitova, and Robson consolidates.
Kvitova has gone into one of her classic (and unfortunate) funks, and Robson seems ready to take advantage. Robson’s hanging on, still not playing her best, but slightly more confident as the match goes on.
4-1, Robson: At 30-all, Kvitova goes on a rampage, and forces the error. Her confidence seems to waver from point to point. She double-faulted to make it 15-30 after all. A penetrating return by Robson yet again forces Kvitova’s 2nd ball error, and it’s deuce. Kvitova AGAIN serves to Robson’s FH on the deuce court (a mistake she keeps repeating), and Robson sends a return winner past her. AD-Robson. The Brit gets the second break after yet another deep return.
This is very impressive stuff from the Stella McCartney spokeswoman. But for the life of me don’t understand why Kvitova keeps serving to Robson’s FH on the deuce court. She’s gotten manhandled almost every time she’s done that.
Unrelated: here is a weird insect that appeared on the court a little bit ago:
5-1, Robson: A Robson DF makes it 15-30. Kvitova seems to have hit a CC BH return winner, Robson challenges, but the ball landed smack on the corner. 15-40. However, a nice body serve saves the first BP. 30-40. Kvitova tries to open up the court with her CC angles, but Robson does a good job staying with her. Moments later, Kvitova sends a FH UFE wide. Deuce. Robson DFs, so it’s AD-Kvitova. Another DF, and Kvitova is still alive in this set. Somehow.
This screencap is from earlier, but probably illustrates Robson’s state of mind after that last service game:
9th double fault from Robson and Kvitova recovers one of the break. Has her towel over her head on the change. Robbo still up 5-2.
— Alexandra Willis (@alex_willis) January 17, 2013
5-2, Robson: Some good serving sees Kvitova race to a 40-0 lead. A Robson UFE later, and Kvitova has held at love. For some reason, she’s not wearing the headband anymore. I thought it was hot out there. Here’s proof:
Man, is that shirt atrocious.
5-3, Robson: Kvitova has about half an hour to set up for a BH, decides to hit a slice BH, and sends it into the net. 30-15, which turns itself into 40-15. A service winner later, and we’re going 3, against all odds, really.
Here are your second set stats:
It’s difficult to explain how someone who seemed to be fully in control, as Kvitova was, can then play such a terrible, terrible set. Robson managed to keep things under control, and avoid gifting away too many errors, but she hardly went up a gear to take this to a decider. She has started to get better results from her 1st serves – that much is obvious. Robson is also doing a good job of covering her FH wing, and Kvitova missed a ton of FHs DTL, which expose Robson’s BH corner, which has proved to be a problematic spot for the Brit to defend.
Anyway, here’s another screencap of an insect that happens to be on Rod Laver Arena:
A bug just crawled on Robson’s visor. It was huge. I need to remember not to go to Australia in the summer. I’m not a fan of insects.
Third Set – Petra Kvitova will serve first
0-0: A service winner gives Kvitova a chance to hold at 40-30, but a beautiful Robson FH return DTL makes it deuce. A thundering service winner up the T gives Kvitova another chance to hold, but another good DTL return gives Robson a chance to putaway a simple BH moments later. Deuce #2. Kvitova smartly goes to Robson’s BH on the deuce court, and it’s another unreturned serve. AD-Kvitova. As Robson nets a BH DTL attempt after a nice CC exchange, it’s “POJD!”, and the world #8 holds.
There was a huge bug on top of the net for that last point, and it hung on for dear life as Robson’s BH rattled it. That was funny.
1-0, Kvitova: Two strong returns by Kvitova, and we’re at 0-30 in a flash. Robson dumps yet another BH DTL into the net, and she’s now down 3 BPs, 0-40. Oy. Slider out wide saves the first BP, and a Kvitova BH UFE saves the second. They play a loopy point, and Robson finds herself in a position to drill a FH pass. She has plenty of time, and the ball sat up nicely. But the teen nets it, and Kvitova draws first blood, as they say.
2-0, Kvitova: In what feels like 3 seconds, Kvitova is up 40-0. She’s won 8 of the last 10 points. Robson gets another of her beautiful FH DTL returns in play, but Kvitova finds a way to force Robson into an awkward lob, and the Czech holds.
I would agree with this:
Much smarter from Kvitova. Getting to the net, putting on pressure, and not going for outright winners immediately. #ausopen
— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) January 17, 2013
It’s just amazing how unpredictable Kvitova is. She looked lost at the end of the second set, yet she comes out focused and primed to take a 3-0 lead in the decider. Out of nowhere, seemingly. Like an NBA shooter who had just missed his last 9 shots in the 3rd quarter and then hits 4 straight to start the 4th quarter.
3-0, Kvitova: “POJD!” after a blistering CC BH winner to make it 30-all. That was 2011-Wimbledon-esque. Huge moment for Robson, who hits an ace that gets called wide but Hawk-eye awards her. This is a must, must hold. A smart body serve by Robson clinches it.
Huge serving by Robson at 30-all. That was a great sign for the future, if not this match. Although…with the way things have gone, I wouldn’t call this one over yet.
3-1, Kvitova: A very pretty angled FH by Robson forces Kvitova’s error, and we’re at 30-all, but a great wide serve + a CC BH combo gives Kvitova a chance to hold. But what do we have here? A double-fault! Seems like the first one in a while. Deuce. Kvitova puts some oomph on that 2nd serve into Robson’s FH, and Robson can’t handle the extra play. Gutsy…but Robson HAD to put that in play. No matter: Kvitova DFs for the 13th time in the match, and we’re back at deuce. The Czech smacks her racquet against the ground in despair. She goes for a big 2nd serve, and misses by about 5 miles. That was just awful. Break point for Robson, which she converts with another of her trademark FH DTL returns. Kvitova looked at the verge of tears before that point even started. Those DFs were absolute killers.
Tremendous roar heard inside the media centre from RLA as Robson breaks back for 2-3. It keeps on rolling… #ausopen
— Alexandra Willis (@alex_willis) January 17, 2013
This match is absolutely impossible to predict. Just as Kvitova seemed to be in control, up 3-0, she throws up all those DFs and gets broken by the teenager.
3-2, Kvitova: A very silly BH up the middle by Robson gets pummeled by Kvitova for a 15-30 lead. Now we get a Robson DF, and it’s 15-40. A tame 2nd ball error from Robson follows, and Kvitova has regained her advantage. Somehow.
My reaction to that last game: ………….
4-2, Kvitova: Kvitova DFs, looks set to start bawling, and then Robson smacks a gorgeous return winner past her. 0-30, and then it’s 0-40 after an UFE. Kvitova once again allows Robson to get that FH DTL return going, and she gets broken at love.
I am stopping any analysis of this match right now. Because it stopped making sense. There are tactical errors, there are execution errors, there are just all sorts of errors coming from every possible place, and nobody seems intent on embracing that elusive concept called momentum.
This match is affecting me.
25 DF’s combined… please, this match needs to end.
— Mr. Pigz (@MisterPigz) January 17, 2013
On the plus side, at least we already have a top, top candidate for worst match of the year.
— Foot Fault (@FootFault_) January 17, 2013
4-3, Kvitova: BH DTL UFE by Kvitova, and Robson has a chance to hold. 40-30. On the edge of tears, once again. An ace by Robson surely won’t help. We’re tied at 4.
4-4: The women play a nice, powerful rally, and Robson’s beauty of a FH DTL forces the Kvitova error, and it’s 30-all. Robson with more great depth, and she now has a break point. Her composure in this set (except for the game after she got the break back) has been superb. But we get the loudest “POJD!” of the match after a clutch, CLUTCH ace up the T by Kvitova. She’s fighting, alright. Another ace up the T, and she has a chance to hold. Robson uses something that Kvitova did to great effect early on: use a sharp CC BH to force an error. Deuce #2. An incredible return by Robson, with her inside-out FH. But Kvitova challenges, and it’s out! Great challenge (and bad line calling). AD-Kvitova. Another great FH DTL by Robson, and then she calmly puts away the sitter, again with that FH. Very pretty. Deuce #3. Another super loud “POJD!”, and an ace later, and Kvitova finally holds.
That game might just have done it. Kvitova comes up with two huge aces, one of them on BP, and somehow survives a game she seemed destined to lose. This is why this woman won Wimbledon in 2011.
She held.Shocking.Petra looks exhausted and tired of life.
— Ataraxis (@Ataraxis00) January 17, 2013
5-4, Kvitova: Two points won by Kvitova in this game, and two extremely loud “POJD!”s later, and we’re at 15-30. A return error later, and it’s 30-all, and Robson finds some great depth on a FH into the deuce corner to force the BH error. Make that two in a row, and the Brit is still alive.
5-5: Robson fully engaged, keeps getting some nice depth and forcing Kvitova’s errors. But a great slider out wide makes it 15-all, but a fantastic inside-out BH winner by Kvitova makes it 30-15. And now we get a DF. No. 1954857895. 30-all. Kvitova coughs up a FH UFE, and Laura Robson has a chance to break. Unbelievable slider, even better return, and an errant FH later by Kvitova means Laura Robson will serve for this match.
Unbelievable. But Robson has stayed with this match throughout its many lulls. She has never looked as rattled as Kvitova has allowed us to see in this third set. Fully deserved advantage. But Petra Kvitova, you’re playing someone outside the top 50 who’s never won a title. You’ve won 9, including a Grand Slam. How do you collapse like this? How do you completely lose it?
6-5, Robson: The pair exchange missiles up the middle of the court, and Kvitova cracks first. 15-0. Kvitova then hits her first dropper of the match (!!!), and it’s 15-all. BH return winner, and it’s 15-30. Robson has a look at a FH DTL that would’ve been a clean winner…but she misses it long. 15-40. She then wildly misses a FH ball on the 2nd ball.
That was awful. Yes, Kvitova only gave away one point in that game, but Robson managed to out-do her in that department. Those last two FHs will stick with her, I think.
6-6: A good return by Robson makes it 30-15. Great wide serve can’t be returned, and it’s 40-15. A fantastic BH dipping pass by Robson forces Kvitova’s volley error, and it’s 40-30. But that trusty slider out wide clinches the game.
LOL second serve ace
— Amy Fetherolf (@AmyFetherolf) January 17, 2013
Can Robson manage to steel herself and hold? Who knows.
7-6, Kvitova: Two service winners and an ace make it 40-0 for Robson. She’s probably wondering why she couldn’t serve like this when a hold meant the win. She’s probably doing just that, because she just double-faulted. 2nd of the set, but 11th of the match. Oy. A deep FH return up the middle by Kvitova draws the error, and it’s 40-30. But another service winner seals the hold. Against all odds, like everything in this match.
7-7: BH winner by Robson, Kvitova DF #1984084805085 makes it 0-30. 7th of the set, 17th of the match. I have nothing. Service winner follows, though. 15-30. FH inside-out winner, 30-all. She’s now looking very determined, the Czech. An Ace-via-challenge makes it 40-30, but maybe not – the umpire asks for the point to be replayed. I think that’s bull excrement. Robson had no play on that ball. She did not stop because of the call. The bad decision by the ref is compounded by a horrible swinging volley miss by Kvitova. Horrible sequence of events there. Kvitova had played some great shots before the miss, too. Fortunately, the World Number 8 doesn’t miss another sitter, and sends us to deuce. Kvitova sends an unbelievable angled BH, and she has a chance to hold. Another slider out wide, another Robson return miss, and she held.
For justice’s sake, Kvitova had to hold there. Awful call by the umpire to have the serve replayed when Robson had no play on it whatsoever.
8-7, Kvitova: Two service winners, and then a gorgeous ace out wide. 40-0 for Robson. Where was this kind of serving at 6-5? Kvitova claws back to 40-30 after some aggressive groundstrokes (surprise!) and some very shot 2nd serves by Robson. However, Genie Bouchard’s BFF finds a picture perfect CC BH to froce Kvitova’s error and hold.
The level has actually risen these last few games (aside from that miss). Or at least the serving.
— Foot Fault (@FootFault_) January 17, 2013
8-8: It’s 30-15 after a good return from Robson forces a Kvitova error. But slider ace out wide #4299803085 makes it 40-15. In reality, that was ace #17, to match the 17 DFs she’s hit. The POJD!er misses a FH, but then POJDs after what I think was an ace.
I’m going to have to have a word with Miss Kvitova about that appalling shriek. I’m all out of paracetemol
— Neil Harman (@NeilHarmanTimes) January 17, 2013
9-8, Kvitova: A DF is followed by a service winner. 30-15. A sweet volley makes it 40-15 for Robson, who just won’t back down. Unless she’s serving for the match, of course. Robson holds after some nice FHs.
9-9: A nice winner by Robson is followed by DF #18 by Kvitova. Oy. 0-30. Robson gets a look at a BH CC winner, and goes for it without a hair of doubt. She misses, sadly. 15-30. Robson misses a BH DTL to follow, and it’s 30-all. I don’t recall Robson many good BHs DTL. Something to work on. Now we get a wild, WILD inside-out BH miss by Kvitova. Bad shot selection, even worse execution. BP for Robson. 2nd serve. EPIC FOREHAND DTL RETURN WINNER BY ROBSON TO BREAK!!!!
That was impressive by the 18 year-old. So impressive. Interestingly enough, she got broken easily the first time she served for the 2nd set. Same thing happened when she first served for the match. Can recent history repeat itself in this match?
10-9, Robson: Ace up the T to start. Couldn’t do it any better, the Aussie-born Brit. Service winner next. 30-0. Horrible FH approach by Kvitova misses by a mile, and we have 40-0. Triple match point. Missed return, and Robson completes the upset.
Clearly, the woman who was born in Melbourne almost 19 years ago just needs to serve out sets twice. Here is what winning felt like:
And here is what Laura thinks about her display:
Here are your 3rd set stats:
I can’t stop thinking about how impressive Laura Robson was in that third set. If anything, she was the one who played like the more experienced player: she didn’t get too down on herself after going down a break to start the set (and then again after recovering said break), and regrouped in rather remarkable form after failing to serve out the match at 6-5. That shows significant mental strength, with the added degree of difficulty of having to serve to stay in the match four times. Given how iffy Robson’s serve had been in the previous two sets (9 DFs in sets 1 and 2 combined, 1st serve % at around 50%), it just shows how much she believes in her own abilities. The 18 year-old’s serving after getting broken at 6-5 was simply spectacular. It takes a special kind of talent to summon great serving at the end of a tough three-setter, particularly given the age and accomplishment disparity between the two women on Laver today.
I was also impressed by Robson’s movement – it just keeps getting better and better. Laura also seemed to be in great shape: she looked perfectly capable of taking that third set into the teens, if need be. The announcers mentioned how Robson had been working with Murray’s conditioning coach in Florida. A great call, judging by this match, which was played in pretty rough conditions.
Lastly, Robson’s FH DTL is, simply put, a world class shot. The way she attacks with that shot during the rallies, but especially on the return of serve, is just stunning. It’s one of those strokes that have a beautiful smoothness to it: it just makes sense that she gets so much power with it, and that more often than not those shots go in. The lefty FH DTL is the equivalent of a righty’s BH DTL: it’s a wonderful shot to have, because your opponents are expecting you to hit cross-court. When you go down the line during a rally, your opponent’s response will be rushed, and a short ball or an error is forthcoming. And when Robson gets those FH down the line returns going on the ad court, she takes control of a point immediately. It was fitting that Robson fired a FH return winner from the ad court on break point at 9-all in the third set. It was an emphatic assertion of a trend she had established in her favor.
Now, about Petra Kvitova. She’s a top 10 player. She’s a former Slam champion. She’s played many, many big matches against way more heralded opposition. She was overpowering and outplaying Robson in that first set. She had a break advantage twice in the third set. Yet the POJD! queen just could not find a way to get the win. Her struggles with her serve were just painful to watch: those 18 double-faults are just staggering. What’s worse is that the doubles seemed to come at the worst possible times.
On Twitter I wondered if Kvitova is going through something similar to what Novak Djokovic endured in 2009 and 2010, the years after his first Slam win. Sure, Djokovic never slipped further than #4 in the rankings, but Kvitova actually made one more Slam SF last year than Djokovic made in 2009. But more than their accomplishments, the sad state of Petra’s game just reminds me a lot of the struggles Djokovic went through during those years. Djokovic famously lost control of his serve (we all know by now that he served more DFs in 2010 than aces), and struggled with his FH. Also notoriously, the current #1 had all sorts of problems with allergies and other fitness-related issues. Kvitova has asthma, which is worse, but doesn’t seem to have a specific wing that breaks down – errors can come from everywhere. Yet that struggle to deal with expectations of greatness, that general lack of confidence, of being lost in the spotlight and the sense that an elite set of tennis skills is decomposing before our eyes remains. Interestingly enough, Petra Kvitova is 22 years old, which is the same age Djokovic was during 2009-2010.
As we know now, Djokovic found some answers, in the form of a new diet, more self-belief, and a wacky and brief addition to his team. He got his act together in spectacular style. Kvitova is an elite talent, and she’s really, really young. A lot of the problems she faces are fixable, and some will inevitably improve with the inevitable onset of maturity.
However, one serious issue now is Kvitova’s ranking: she’s at #8 at the moment, and might slip further if her results don’t start improving. This just means that she’ll face tougher draws, which make getting better results more difficult. It’s a nasty vicious cycle, and one that Djokovic avoided by staying in that top 4 group.
Still, there is hope. With that kind of talent, there is always hope. I’ll give her the last word, since it highlights how much she wants to snap out of this rut:
Thank you to my fans for not giving up on me. I promise to come back stronger
— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) January 17, 2013
Final match stats: