ATP Finals: Anderson wins, Federer loses to Nishikori

Kevin Anderson has had such a solid year. The 33-year-old veteran has improved his backhand,  his speed, and net play. Go back five years and he was struggling mentally, but now, he is pretty calm and directed.

On Sunday in the ATP Finals in London, Anderson overcame the Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-3, 7-6(10), attacking the net regularly.

Thiem has also improved this year. He was always very good on clay, but he had to understand what he needs to do on hardcourts, which are much faster. However, both of them still have return substantially better, just like Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer do. And today, Nishikori also did it, especially serving.

Champions like Djokovic and Federer return well all the time, and that is why they have thousands of  break points. Indoors, in London, it is warm and there is no wind, so Anderson  can swing out — when he wants to. Maybe the South African can reach the semis, but he has a long way to go. He was nervous, but today, he settled in.

“I definitely felt a little bit nervous. But very quickly and find a really good rhythm, taking care of my service games nicely [and I] created quite a few opportunities on his serve,” said Anderson. “He wasn’t serving at a very high first-serve percentage. I felt I was getting into quite a few points. The second set could have been anybody’s set. When it’s 12/10 in the tiebreak, it really could have gone either way.”

At night, Kei Nishikori stunned the 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer 7-6 (4), 6-3. Now that was surprising, not because the Japanese has had a very decent year, but because the Swiss has played in London extremely well over the years, on grass and indoors on hard courts. But in his first match, he was frustrated.  

“I hope I don’t go on vacation with three losses. Let’s put it that way,” Federer said. And how.

So Federer lost, but it is a round-robin, so he can reach the semis, but he has to re-compose. He committed 34 unforced errors, and that is a lot. He does not do it often, but he received a code violation for banging a ball into the crowds. Ouch. Federer won the Australian Open, skipped Roland Garros, and then he was ousted at Wimbledon and the US Open. Recently, he won Basel again, but the 37-year-old might be aging a little more. That is inevitable.

“My season [in 2018] was never going to be exactly like last year,” Federer said. “I knew that going into the season. If you thought I was going to have, I think you are dreaming. I’m happy how I played this season. I didn’t feel like playing less was a problem.”

He did add that Nishikori had a very good year. At the end of 2017, he was hurt and he couldn’t play. He came back in February and it took him awhile to be comfortable. He is now.

“I’m really happy for [Kei] that he qualified for this event – not taking me out today – but I’m happy for him because he started playing challengers this season,” Federer said. “That was a bold decision early on and deserves credit and respect. I think we all have that for Kei because he’s a great fighter.”

Federer will plays Thiem on Tuesday, while Anderson will face Nishikori.

The United States lost 3-0 against the Czech Republic in the Fed Cup finals. That is the sixth time in eight years that the Czechs have won it. They are so good. Katerina Siniakova  saved two match points and won it 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 over Sofia Kenin. Close but no cigar for the Americans. …

Stefanos Tsitsipas won the Next Gen ATP Finals title in Milan over Alex de Minaur. The Greek will crack into the top 10 pretty soon. He is very tall and he just crushed the ball off of both wings.
The coach and broadcaster Darren Cahill has stopped coaching Simona Halep. “I’ve decided to take a 12-month break from coaching to be home more for support as our children enter important stages of their lives with the final year of high school, sports and college preparations all becoming more time consuming,” Cahill wrote.

Czech Lucie Safarova, who peaked by reaching the 2015 Roland Garros final, will retire at the Australian Open in January. Her body is declining. “I had a great career, but my health doesn’t allow me to continue,” Safarova said. That is too bad, she always hustles and she always smiles, too.

2018 Aussie Open, The Picks, Day 5

Maria Sharapova vs Angie Kerber
This should be an amazing matchup. Both of them have won Slams, both of them have been No. 1, both of them never, ever give up. They work out all the time, they are incredibly strong, they are very smart and they think about exactly what they should doing. Neither of them likes to come into the net.

However, Maria can crush the ball from both sides, and Angie goes side-to-side as quickly as just about anyone. They have played each other seven times: on grass, on clay and on hardcourts. Sharapova has won four matches, and Kerber has won three. Maria beat her at the 2012 Aussie Open, and Angie grabbing her at the 2014 Wimbledon Open. They haven’t played each other in nearly three years — too long. The veterans now each other well, and they both want to go on court and see who is playing as well as she can. Last year, Kerber was flat while Sharapova missed most of the year due to suspension and injury.

But perhaps they will rise this season and come very close to winning a major again. Perhaps, next week, but only one of them can reach the trophy. Over the past few weeks, Kerber has played excellent ball. Maria hasn’t played much during the past few months. Kerber will win in three sets, in a fun marathon.  

Katarina Pliskova vs. Lucie Safarova
I am still waiting for the former No. 1 Pliskova to finally win a major. This year? Hard to say, but she rarely backs off, which is good. Safarova is a terrific player at the net. Here is another tight contest. If the tall Pliskova is calm, she will win. If Safarova serves big and moves the balls into the corner, she will win. I lean to Katarina who will win with a few stunning and flashy down-the-line backhands.

Juan Martin del Potro vs Tomas Berdych
These two have known each other for many years, and once again, they are very close. The Argentine won a major a long time ago, at the USO, while the Czech has reached the final at Wimbledon. They are tall, they both have massive first serves, as well as some huge forehands. They don’t run very fast, but good enough, and when they get to the net, they can bend down and put it away. Berdych got hurt last year and he has yet to recover. DelPo has looked pretty good, but not spectacular — yet. Still, as long as the Argentine can hit his backhand — his one-hander and a two-hander — deep, he will win. DelPo dearly wants to reach to the second week. He will in four sets.

Alexander Zverev vs Hyeon Chung
Two young players are getting better each month. Zverev is already in the top 3, while the South Korean is more tempered now. He won the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan right at the end of the year. However, while Chung moves around the court quickly, Zverev is a gigantic hitter — everywhere. The German will win in four sets.

2017 top players: women’s 26-30 will review 2017’s top 30 women and men, our annual feature.

No. 26: Dominika Cibulkova
Domi entered the year and it looked like she could actually win a major. That didn’t happen. The long-time veteran can’t figure out how to mix up her shots and strategy. She has to, because if she can’t, she will never win a Grand Slam.

No. 27: Shuai Peng
Shuai has been around for a solid 15 years, and she is very steady and she can move forward. Her weakness is mental; she backs off when it is very close. At this point, it is better for her to focus on doubles.

No. 28: Aga Radwanska
That was a bad year by Aga, who has reached No. 2, and she has come pretty close at the Slams. Overall, she has improved a tremendous amount, but her forehand is still mediocre and that really hurts. Maybe she can pull out of this funk in 2018, but the clock is ticking. She may retire soon.

No. 29: Petra Kvitova
Props for Petra to come back after she was attacked at her home at the end of 2016. The Czech returned in late in May and, as she says, she has to start all over again. The two-time champion Kvitova has a tremendous amount of work ahead, but she is a darn good player, and she will come back eventually.

No. 30: Lucie Safarova
Lucie is another player who was injured and it took her a long time to get more healthy. The Czech has reached the final at Roland Garros a couple years ago, and she can be a big hitter. And she loves to rush at the net and put away the ball. Plus, she has won a number of huge events in doubles. She will rise again in 2018.

Sloane Stephens: ‘Everyone else is, like, huffing and puffing’

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, THURSDAY, AUGUST 10 — Sloane Stephens is coming back strong, upsetting Petra Kvitova and Angie Kerber in Toronto. While she was off for almost a year, she increased her practicing and got better.

American Stephens was hurt last year and had foot surgery. She stopped playing in August 2016. She returned to play on the WTA Tour at the end of last June.

“It’s kind of like I’m just starting my season and everyone else is, like, huffing and puffing. I feel good,” said Stephens. “Obviously I haven’t’ played, so I’m really looking forward to getting on the court every time I step on the court and just happy to be out there. And not that the other girls aren’t happy, but they’ve already had a really long season, and it’s been tough for them. So maybe that’s a little bit of an advantage.”

The 24-year-old reached the semis at the 2014 Australian Open, upsetting Serena Williams before losing against Vika Azarenka, who won the event. She cracked the top 10 that year. She didn’t do much in 2015, but in 2016, she won Auckland, Acapulco and Charleston before her injury stopped her stellar progress.

She said that before she came back at the tour, she practiced a lot and she is trying to improve.

“There was a lot of things I needed to improve. I was on a peg leg for, like, 15 weeks, so I couldn’t do anything,” Stephens said. “I was walking on that stupid thing. And then when I first started actually hitting on the court again, like, I couldn’t run full on. I couldn’t do anything.

“So, it was just like a lot of slow feeling and working on stuff. So, I had a lot of time to work on a lot of stuff that I didn’t want to work on. I had time to improve, keep playing and you have really good results.”

She will face against Lucie Safarova, who has already beaten Dominika Cibilkova and Ekaterina Makarova, on Friday.

WTA 2015 top 32: Pliskova rises, vets Kerber & Safarova so close

The top 32, 2015: The WTA, from No. 12-9

No. 12

Timea Bacsinszky

The Swiss had almost retired a couple of years back because she was seriously hurt, but she hung in there and in 2015, she flourished. She won Acapulco and Monterrey. She reached the Roland Garros semifinals, knocking off Petra Kvitova before she went down against Serena Williams in three sets. Let’s recall that she was up a set and a break in the second set, and she folded, not just because Serena began to play great, but because she panicked and lost 10 games in a row.

She does move forward constantly, and she can hit from both wings, reaching the quarters of Wimbledon and overcoming Ana Ivanovic in Beijing before going down against Garbine Muguruza in the final. The 26-year-old is not very tall and she isn’t the strongest player out there, but she is very smart and ambitious.


Karolina Pliskova is a player on the rise. Photo: Mal Taam/MALTPhoto

No. 11

Katarina Pliskova

The Czech is so incredibly powerful and when she is feeling right, she can take out anyone and anywhere. She has one of the biggest first serves; she can rip both her forehand and her backhand. She rarely hesitates. However, admittedly, she has played way too much in 2015. Yes, she has beaten a number of terrific players like Angie Kerber, Muguruza, Lucie Safarova and Ivanovic. But she can also be very impatient against the tricky players, like losing against Aga Radwanska and Robera Vinci, who know how to mix it up. Pliskova believes she can go deep at the Slams in 2016. But in order to do so, she has to be very calm and understand where exactly her racket is.

No. 10

Angelina Kerber

The German veteran never seems to get tired. She will play hour after hour, running around, going back and forth and, when she is feeling super confident, she will crush it down the line. However, the reason why she has yet to win a major is because she isn’t aggressive enough. On occasion she will, but when she is facing off against the top 10, she can hesitate. Obviously, the left-hander needs to improve her serve, but if she pushed herself and not become too conservative, Kerber can reach the final at a major in 2016.

No. 9

Lucie Safarova

It has taken Safarova such along time to rise up. And, finally she did, reaching the final at a major for the first time. She upset Maria Sharapova, Muguruza and Ivanovic, before finally going down against Williams in three sets. The 28-year-old Czech was more creative this year, her forehand is stronger and she is more directive. Unfortunately, Safarova got hurt just before the US Open and she was unable to play for six weeks. She managed to come back and play the WTA Final, where she lost against Muguruza and Petra Kvitova, but it was close. Then she bested Kerber even though she was already knocked out of the competition. She was still trying and pushing herself. Without a doubt, if she stays healthy, Safarova will stay in the top 10 in 2016.


Fed Cup Final: Kvitova & Sharapova both win, faceoff Sunday

Czech’s Petra d Pavlyuchenkova, Maria d Pliskova, locked at 1-1


Petra Kvitova with the Fed Cup, won in 2011.

PRAGUE – It was going to come to this, wasn’t it? Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova both won their contests on Saturday in the Fed Cup Final, with the Czech starting off the tie and besting Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6 6-1 6-1 and then the Russian beating Karolina Pliskova 6-4 6-3. The tie is knotted 1-1.

On Sunday, they will clash first, starting at 12 PM. Whomever wins, it still won’t be over as their homeland has to win three matches. Still, Kvitova and Sharapova are not only that the best players out there, but mentally, they are the ones who their teammates will look for guidance.

On Saturday, both Kvitova and Sharapova sounded self-assured.

But, without a doubt, the 25-year-old Kvitova needs to find some patience.Kvitova was off. Way, way off. In the first set, she couldn’t put a ball in play, not to the left or the right, or short or deep. She was bad and, then, worse. She was so nervous that it didn’t matter whether which way she was aiming, because the ball was headed in the net or extremely wide or long. She couldn’t crack her first serves, either.

Pavlyuchenkova was fairly consistent, and she really didn’t have to do much. The Russian tossed up some big first serves, she rolled her forehands deep and she spanked her backhands, which was good enough. Down 5-2, Kvitova was trying to get herself going, yelling at herself, but she wasn’t quite there and Pavlyuchenkova won the first set by charging forward, lifting her backhand off and sweetly touching her racket just over the net for a winner.

Clearly, Kvitova knew that the match had a long way to go. In the first game of the second set, she smacked a couple accurate returns and she was ready to rumble. Instead of falling backwards, she was leaning forward. She knew when it was time to attack. The lefty was more patient and she was in control. Kvitova raced through the second set, finishing it off with a twisting ace.

“I was a little down on myself,” Pavlyuchenkova said.

It appeared that the third set would be extremely tight, as they had played eight times before and most of the contests were pretty close (six to two for Kvitova). However, very quickly, the Czech raced away. Kvitova knew that she was in a comfortable zone and she figured that on the fast courts, she would out-hit the Russian.

The Russian couldn’t move her strokes around and she couldn’t go down the line effectively.

Later, Pavlyuchenkova said that she was gone mentally. The Russian didn’t think she could come back.

“I was like, ‘I don’t want to be there anymore,’ ” Pavlyuchenkova said.

Kvitova admitted that her start was rough. “I was nervous, I was so tight and my body was so heavy,” Kvitova said. “But I got a break to start the second set and that was the key.”

Sharapova starts on a roll

Sharapova is set for a matchup vs. Kvitova. JIMMIE48 TENNIS PHOTOGRAPHY

Sharapova is set for a matchup vs. Kvitova. JIMMIE48 TENNIS PHOTOGRAPHY

Sharapova came out super aggressive and didn’t stop. Pliskova has improved a ton this year, especially in the first half. Her improvement stalled after reaching the final of Stanford in early August and then she fell apart until last week in November in Zhuhai.

She can hit her first serve about as hard as anyone out there, but she can falter fast. When she is on, she can smoke the lines with her forehands and backhands, but she does not move particularly well going side to side. Plus, the 23-year-old needs to improve her returns.

Pliskova certainly had a few good moments/ Even though Sharapova was a bit off with her strong first serves, Pliskova could not figure her out.

The 28-year-old Sharapova nailed a number of winners down the line when Pliskova didn’t know which way she was going, likely because the two had not faced off before.

In Prague, the packed fans were working to help Pliskova raise her game to her highest level. Down a break at 3-4 in the second set, Pliskova was up 0-40, but then Sharapova crushed a couple serves, rushed to the net, swung with her forehand that was coming down from the top of the ceiling and put it away. She held, she breathed a sigh of relief and ended up winning 6-3 6-4.

“The courts were faster,” Sharapova said. ‘“She likes the fast ball and hits it deep and hard and try the angles, and make her move a little and some defense. The returns helped because I didn’t serve at all. When it mattered, I stayed up.”

Two weeks ago in Singapore, Kvitova and Sharapova played in the semis. The Czech won by the Czech as she edged the Russian in two tight sets. Sharapova is 6 to 4 head to head, having beaten Kvitova in two semifinals at the 2012 Australian Open and Roland Garros. But let’s not forget that in 2011, Kvitova stunned Sharapova in the Wimbledon final.

Sharapova has won five majors, while Kvitova has taken only two. Over the years, the Russian has been more successful, but in Prague, the Czech has to be given an edge, as she has been lights out in the Fed Cup. However, even though Sharapova said that she was nervous during the entire match against Pliskova, she wasn’t shaking. Perhaps she will be on Sunday, but we all know that Kvitova will be, too.

“We know each other so well,” Sharapova said. “She’s very tough, it will be a great atmosphere, and she’s a great player.”

Whoever wins, there will be a fourth match, between the Russian Pavlyuchenkova (assuming the somewhat hurt Ekaterina Makarova comes in at the singles) versus Pliskova (assuming Lucie Safarova will be healthy and can play singles). That is a toss up.

It could be 2-2 and the Fed Cup Final could go be the last contest in the doubles: maybe the fine, highly-ranked team of Makarova/Elena Vesnina against the talented Safarova/Barbora Strycova.

As the Russian captain Anastasia Myskina said, “There is a lot of pressure.”

And how.

Serena vs. Safarova in Roland Garros Final: Is she super sick?

Serena IW 15 TR MALT8371

DAY 13, ROLAND GARROS –  Serena Williams is sick, badly sick, which is why she didn’t show up to Roland Garros on Friday, saying that she needs to lie on bed and rest. Clearly, she was ill during her three-set win over Timea Bacsinszky, looking like she would vomit, or collapse, or just give up. But she hung in there and played an excellent third set and raced away.

So now, will she be OK more or less when she battlesLucie Safarova during the final? Perhaps not, but after two days, she will feel a little better and she will be ready to rumble. The 19-time Grand Slam always finds a way and she will need to. Safarova hasn’t played much better this year and during the past 13 days, she has been outstanding, knocking off Maria Sharapova, Garbine Muguruza and Ana Ivanovic, which is darn good. Safarova has improved her angles, from both her forehand and backhand, she can go down the lines, she is pretty fast and when she really wants it, he can kiss the lines with her first serves. Plus, her doubles have improved (she is in the final with Bethanie Mattek-Sands) which has helped her at the net.

Serena is bigger and stronger but she has struggled during the fortnight, having to win four three-setters. She will have to do it again, and this time she will have to go up into the wall, but once again Williams will win her third Roland Garros, her 20th Grand Slam overall. By the end of this year, she could have tied with the legendary Steffi Graf at 22. Who would have thunk it?

Novak Djokovic versus Andy Murray will continue on in the semis with the Serbian is up over the Scot 6-3 6-3 5-7 3-3. Murray came roaring back, but Murray had a big chance up a break early in the fourth set and let it go. If Murray can upset Djokovic (and yes Novak has beaten him seven matches in a row), he has to go super strong in the beginning. On Saturday, the will start at 1 pm.

Stan Wawrinka took down Jo Tsonga in four sets in nearly four hours. The Swiss has the best one-handed backhand in the business now, better over his buddy Roger Federer on that side over the past two years. However, Stan is way up and down and while he can whale from every side, we have no idea who is going to show up. We assume he will be happy, he will be fine and ready to go. He hopes. But if he is in the zone, he could beat either Djokovic or Murray to win his second Slam title.

Lucie Safarova vs. Ana Ivanovic reach Roland Garros semis, who will be calmer?

Safarova 2012


Roland Garros, June 4: Lucie Safarova and Ana Ivanovic have known each other for a long time, since 2007. Back then few knew who they were and they played each other in front of almost no one on a hot, smoggy day in Los Angeles, where Ivanovic prevailed 6-2, 6-2. There was no way to predict whether the teenagers would ever meet in the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament, but if you looked them in the eye, you could tell they were burning for desire.

In 2008, Ivanovic was already coming hard and she was at Roland Garros, crushing Safarova 6-2, 6-1 in the fourth round and eventually won the tournament. Ivanovic was never nervous; she was flying high, she was No. 1 and she could stay there forever.

But the world now knew who she was and there was tremendous attention and pressure. Within a month or so when she hurt her hand, she thought about every match, every moment, what she should be doing and what her opponent were thinking. She became was too emotional — too much and she began to slide, way down.

Safarova wasn’t moving up the charts quickly, but the left-hander knew how to handle herself.   On hard court, she pulled Ivanovic around, attacking her backhands, winning in Toronto and Tokyo in 2009. In 2012, Safarova had improved her first serve and forehand, beating Ivanovic in Sydney and then in the Fed Cup final at home in Prague, she won it 6-4 6-3, with aggressive net play. Safarova was the hero, taking down Jelena Jankovic and Ivanovic when the fans were very loud and she knew that the pressure was on top of her. But she loved the glory because the Czech Republic does not have a big WTA tournament and many knew about her compatriot Petra Kvitova, who had won Wimbledon twice. But Safarova wanted the fans to know about her, too.

She was gaining, little by little, and by 2014, both players were feeling confident. They were not playing perfectly every week, not by a long shot, but their self-reliance was growing.

In the 2014 French Open, Safarova was ranked No. 22 while Ivanovic was ranked No. 13. They met in the third round and for the second time they faced off, where once again, Safarova was very comfortable and on clay, she beat the 2008 champion 6-3 6-3. The right-handed Ivanovic slugs her forehand about as hard as she can and she moves left quickly, ready to jump. But sometimes she gets caught and hits the ball the wrong way. She gets anxious and then she isn’t sure how to attack.

In October, though, on hard courts, Ivanovic smashed Safarova 6-2 6-2 in Tokyo.

Ivanovic could reach the top 5 again, ifshe wasn’t up and down all the time, became calmer, came to the net more and found more consistentency with her backhand. She went 2-1 at the WTA Final (although she wasn’t able to reach the semis) and at in the beginning of January, she reached the final of Brisbane, where she was close against Maria Sharapova. But after that, she slipped again, changing her tactics way too much. She left her coach in early May, and she decided she would be out on her own, making her own way. In the last 10 days at Roland Garros, she fell in love in Paris and now she is the favorite at the semifinal as she has been here before.

However, Safarova takes a long time to decide when she would go for it against the very good players. Last year, she reached the semifinal of Wimbledon falling to Kvitova, but this time she was willing to knock off very sharp angles and also go down the lines. Last November, she and the Czechs won the Fed Cup at home again, over Germany. Here in Paris, Safarova knocked out two huge hitters, Maria Sharapova and Garbine Muguruza, and she isn’t getting nervous at all. She still in the doubles too, with her partner Bethanie Matter-Sands, who upended top-seeded Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis.

The semifinal will be super close, but in the end, Safarova will kill the corners and overcome Ivanovic in three sets.



What a nice story by Timea Bacsinszky but Serena Williams is a substantial favorite to win her 20th Grand Sla title. The Swiss is pretty fast and she seems to understand the court, but is she ready to win a very important semifinal and not be nervous? Even if she is having a great time, that’s doesn’t mean that she can actually beat Williams.

Novak Djokovic was spectacular. Mentally, he was finally able to play the right way, he wanted to play against Rafa Nadal, beating him on his own punch. His serves were much bigger and closer to the lines, his backhand was deeper and more consistent and he was just as good if not better with his forehand. He did everything right. The Spaniard Nadal finally let down deeply at Roland Garros for the first time. Yes, the nine-time RG champ did lose to Robin Soderling in 2009, but he was a bit closer and this time, after the first set, he wasn’t confident enough and by the third set he was completely gone. If he wants to have a chance at Wimbledon or the US Open, he has to play much better. He has to step up and believe in himself again. Perhaps it will take him the rest of the year.

Djokovic is a substantial favorite of Andy Murray, who beat David Ferrer 7-6(4) 6-2 5-7 6-1. Yes, Murray has improved on the dirt, but he hasn’t beaten Djokovic since 2013 Wimbledon and that’s almost two years ago. If Murray doesn’t play a super aggressive contest and mix it up from all the angles of the court then he will have no real shot. He will try hard though.

On fire again: Czechs Kvitova & Safarova out hit Germans

Kvitova IW 12 TR MALT1546

PRAGUE – Petra Kvitova began firing and she wouldn’t quit.

The 23 year old knew exactly what he would do on a super-fast hard court and she was swinging away. Yes, she did throw in a couple of sweet drop shots, but other than that, she banged the balls and believed that she would out hit Andrea Petkovic.

That is exactly what she did. Kvitova took down Petkovic 6-2, 6-4 to lead the Czech 1-0 over Germany in the Fed Cup final. Essentially she walked on the court, stared at her foe and said, “Can you slug it out harder than me?”

She could not. Although Petkovic moved much better in the second set, she was always behind. Petkovic had to deal with more pressure and, when she didn’t, she went down fairly quickly.

Kvitova decided that she wasn’t concerned about different tactics. The tall lefty hooked her serves that would swerve out wide. Petkovic would try to get the balls back in, but the Czech was all over the returns, which she powered out of the German’s reach.

The world No. 14 Petkovic is pretty fast, but the balls were racing like lightning. So it didn’t matter that should couldn’t get into the points. The German had to start attacking immediately but Kvitova punched her lights out.

Up 5-1 in the first set, Kvitova went into a walkabout and she was broken to 5-2, but she came right, smoking on a backhand down the line.

Petkovic pushed her hard in most of the second set, but could the German disturb Kvitova? She could not. Petkovic fought off break points serving at 3-4 with two terrific serves. In the next game Kvitova nailed a big ace to go 5-4.

Then the pressure rose and Petkovic could not settle down. With the 12,000 sold out screaming, at 30-all, the German missed a simple slice that flew away and a forehand that disappeared.

She was gone and Kvitova once again showed that more than anyone of the top 10, she has committed to Fed Cup time and time again.

Kvitova scored 25 winners, while Petkovic only came up with seven.
Kerber upset by Safarova

World no. 10 Angelique Kerber of Germany went out to fast and furious, and was up 4-2 in the first set, but No. 17 Lucie Safarova had other plans. Safarova has been pretty good since 2007, when the now 27-year-old can knock out some of the better players, but she has rarely been a major factor in the Slams. However, the lefty reached the 2014 Wimbledon semifinal, which shows that she doesn’t mind if she has to bend low. In fact, she likes to move quickly, set up for a shot and swing it super hard.

Two years ago, Kvitova was ill and Safarova has to close out the Czech Fed Cup final in Serbia. Safarova was electric, crushing Jelena Jankovic to the win 2012 Fed Cup in Prague.

Now, she was ready again, knowing that she could knock out Kerber if she was willing to be more aggressive. The two had more rallies than Kvitova and Petkovic did, but which of the lefties would swing out? That was Safarova, who knew exactly where and when she should go for her shots.


At 5-4 on set point down, Kerber crushed her forehand and believed that Safarova wasn’t going to touch it. So Kerber yelled in delight, but Safarova had run over. Kerber said, “Come on” very loud. However, Safarova hit the ball and returned. The chair umpire calls it a hindrance, so Kerber lost her point and the set.

Kerber kept trying and broke, but Safarova rushed forward and was willing to hit out anytime she could. At 5-4 in the second set, Safarova cracked a forehand and nailed an overhead to get to match point. Kerber fought off two match points when the Czech was a bit wild. But Safarova finished her off, when Kerber rushed to the net and instead of crisply knocking it away, she lazily put it in the middle of set and Safarova stroked a forehand into the corner. Lucie grinned after another win, this time 6-4, 6-4.

The Germans were afraid, while the Czechs were dancing on their heads. Safarova ended with 20 winners, while Kerber could only manage 10.

The Czechs are up 2-0 and are ready to go on Sunday. Kvitova will start with either Kerber or perhaps Sabine Lisicki, who would sub in. Lisicki has fast burners, reaching on the 2013 Wimbledon final, but she has not played great this fall in the past six weeks. Her German coach, Barbara Rittner, might change another coach, but Kerber is there best player overall and she would be saddened if she had to sit.

Safarova will play after Kvitova if the top Czech is upset, but won’t care if she faces Petkovic or Lisicki. She has a healthy amount of ultra confidence.

Kvitova key to Fed Cup final between Czech Republic v. Germany

MVP Safarova proved more than a fine No. 2 to No. 1 Kvitova

MVP Safarova proved more than a find No. 2 to No. 1 Kvitova in 2012.

PRAGUE — How many women love slick courts? Not many, that’s for sure.

But Petra Kvitova would prefer to hit as hard as she can … just booming it. Forget it about engaging 30-plus rallies; she would rather wipe her serves into the corner and break them way out wide. Even if it’s punched back by one of her opponents, she will step in and power her forehand for a winner.

Kvitova has won two Grand Slams, in 2011 and 2014 at Wimbledon. Her foes in the finals, Maria Sharapova and Genie Bouchard, couldn’t even blink as the Czech hit with power so quickly that they couldn’t touch her shots. That is exactly what Kvitova has done for the Czech Republic in the Fed Cup: She was her lights out, nailing the corners and winning two of the past three Fed Cup finals at home in Prague.

And guess what … she can do it all over again. Coming up this weekend in Prague, the world No. 3 will be favored again. The Czechs, including Lucie Safarova, were tough and aggressive in 2012 when they stomped Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic to win the title. Kvitova was not perfect that weekend, as she was sick, and Ivanovic played well to grab one of the points. But, in the end, the Czechs won anyway because the left-handed Kvitova kept swinging and Safarova was on ultra-speed.

This is different though. Kvitova has become more mature during the last year or so, but she knows that she cannot go on a walkabout. They will play against Germany, led by Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic, both of whom say that they know to keep balls in play until the tall Kvitova grows tired and wild.

The 24-year-old Kvitova says she is faster than she was as a baby back in 2008 when she played her first time in Fed Cup. She could only split against Israel, but they won anyway. From then on, she kept on playing in the team competition.

Kvitova loves Fed Cup so much that she has played 15 times already. She has played twice against Germany before, in 2010 in World Group at home when she beat Petkovic and lost to Anna-Lena Groenefeld but the came through anyway. Then she won a classic match in 2012 when the Germans chose hard courts, but Kvitova edged Julia Goerges 10-8 in the third set and then out-pushed Sabine Lisicki in the third set.

Goerges and Lisicki are on the German team this week and could play the doubles, or the 2013 Wimbledon finalist Lisicki, who also loves to bang the ball, may play in Sunday’s singles

But, it really doesn’t matter what strategy German captain Barbara Rittner employs. The key is whether or not Kvitova can make big swings and find the lines. If she does, the Czechs will win the Fed Cup again and Petra will once again be perfect.