By Jim Fuller, special to the EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com.
It’s a fairly safe assumption that Petra Kvitova’s days of struggling during the North American summer hardcourt season are a thing of the past.
Kvitova had never won more than one match at a US Open Series event heading into the Montreal event earlier this month. Kvitova won that event, reached the semifinals in Cincinnati and then won the New Haven Open championship without surrendering a set in four matches.
"I think it is unbelievable," Kvitova said after Saturday’s 7-6, 7-5 win over Maria Kirilenko. "I played three tournaments in a row and won two. It's great for me. I hope it will continue in the US Open."
That’s not to say that Saturday’s championship match wasn’t a struggle for Kvitova.
The 2011 Wimbledon champion broke Kirilenko to take a 6-5 lead but was unable to serve the first set out. She squandered her first four set points before Kirilenko sent a backhand wide as Kvitova won the tiebreaker 11-9.
Kirilenko had won eight of her last nine tiebreaks including one in the first set of a win over Kvitova at the Olympics and admitted she was surprised to drop the tiebreak.
Kvitova seemed to have barely any energy, despite winning the opening set, and allowed Kirilenko to jump out to a 5-2 lead much to the delight of the crowd of 4,840 which included Kirilenko’s boyfriend Alex Ovechkin of the NHL’s Washington Capitals.
Kirilenko held a set point on her serve but was unable to close out the second set. The break seemed to be just what Kvitova needed to get back into a winning groove as she won the final four games, including a break of Kirilenko at love in the final game of the match.
"After 5-2, we had a long game on my serve and a couple unlucky points," Kirilenko said.
"She started to play a little bit differently. She didn't hit the ball as hard as she did in the first set. She just tried to make long rallies. I was not too patient. I had to be more patient and wait for the easy ball to finish Sometimes I choose the wrong ball to hit a winner."
Kvitova, who clinched the US Open Series title when she reached the semifinals in New Haven, said she’d like to return to the tournament in 2013.
"I enjoyed it much more than two years ago because I was (out in the) first round," Kvitova said. "I didn't have a lot of time to enjoy New Haven.
"It's amazing. It's very calm here. It's five minutes from hotel to here, so it's pretty easy for us, for the players. You can go out to downtown for good dinners. We had a lot of opera here, so we could choose something we want to do."