With two in-form grass-court players fronting up to this year’s final, it would be all about who could capitalise on the notoriously fickle surface. Magdalena Rybarikova certainly came out the more aggressive, breaking Petra Kvitova to love for an early lead.
The Slovakian was broken back after a hard-fought game, with Kvitova finally getting her breakthrough on the fifth attempt, but frustratingly for her, Rybarikova would strike again to love to regain the advantage to the end of the first set, although she had to fend off a break point along the way.
It was Kvitova’s turn to be the more decisive in the second set, breaking early for a lead, and then again before the end of the set to level things up and take it into a decider. With the momentum firmly on her side, she jumped swiftly out to a 3-0 lead.
Rybarikova hit back to get one of the breaks back but lost it straight after. The Slovakian was not quite done, saving a match point, and forcing Kvitova to serve out for the match. She obliged serving out for the championship to love.
By The Numbers | How Kvitova beat Rybarikova for the Nature Valley Classic title
Head to Head
Despite an overwhelming head to head total, Kvitova now leads Rybarikova 2-0 at a tour level, with both of those matches coming in finals, and ironically both where Kvitova was returning as a defending champion.
Kvitova already held a tour-leading four WTA singles titles this year (St. Petersburg, Doha, Prague and Madrid) and has notched up a tour-leading 377-7 match wins for the season with her win today.
Year to Date/Career W/L Record
All surfaces W/L
37-7 / 388-179
15-12 / 183-195
5-0 / 52-16
5-2 / 38-24
With Kvitova firmly back in the swing of things after the career-threatening injuries she received in a knife attack at her home in 2016, she has been consistent and steady. Her winning runs and back to back titles twice already this year has put her firmly in the potential starting line-up for the WTA Finals in Singapore and is already looking formidable for Wimbledon.
However, Rybarikova’s run to the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year was no fluke, and she ought to be considered a string contender, as they both intend to head down to Eastbourne, although it remains to be seen if they play.
Match Stats 2018
Probably a good job Kvitova was not pushed to a tie-break this time around as she has not had the best of luck with them this year, but for all the teasing of ‘P3tra’, when it goes to a decider, few would count against her pulling it off.
Rybarikova actually had the edge in the stats over the entire tournament, looking slightly stronger on her second serve points one, and a lot stronger on the return, as we saw in the first set. On the day though, Kvitova’s second serve points won helped push her over the line on a very close match-up.
What they had to say
Rybarikova might rue some chances in the last two sets which were perhaps not as one-sided as they looked, as she explained after the match:
“Against such a great opponent, you cannot have so much second serves. She’s going to use it and take advantage and she’s going to kill you. I had also second serves because I had so much also pressure from the first serve. Because I knew if I don’t place it well, serve it exactly the way I want, it’s going to be
difficult because the return is going to come back even faster. She put so much pressure.
“She’s a great player, amazing on grass. That’s why she won the tournament. She won so fast all the matches. I kept her longest in the match today. If my serve work better today, closer, maybe even win it.”
Kvitova admitted in her on-court interview that despite sharing a couple of laughs with Rybarikova before walking out, she was nervous the start of the match. After a couple of loose games by her extraordinarily high standards, she relaxed, and it showed with her dominance in the second and third set.
“Last year was kind of different, much more difficult by the mental side. I really enjoyed the time here last year. I didn’t really expect to win here. I just played match by match, being very happy to be on the grass and the tennis court. It was kind of little bit — not little bit, it was different compared to this time for sure.
“But not even this time, I didn’t expect to come here and winning the title. For me I’m surprised. But on the other hand, I felt good on the court from the first rounds. Meeting Jo in the first round wasn’t an easy draw. That match told me I could play well on the grass again. I was just keeping up the good performance on it. I think today was a great final to kind of fight. We played over two hours, so it was a great final to watch I think, I hope.”
Both players are due in Eastbourne in the final warm-up before Wimbledon.
And Finally – 10 facts from the Nature Valley Classic
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