January 31, 2020,

Peeking at the women’s tennis draw and schedule, you’re often looking for what could potentially be a firecracker match.

Typically there are some clues. Elements that indicate it can be.

First off, it usually is a little off of the radar. It is not the prominent feature match of the day.

Then, it is often between a rising star and a falling one or a prominent one, who of late, has been inconsistent.

When we looked at the schedule and saw that the rising star Maria Sakkari, who just dispatched of Madison Keys, was about to face last year’s semi-finalist in Petra Kvitova, we sensed a firecracker match was in the makings.

We were right.

Femcompetitor Magazine was enamored with Petra and wrote about her. 

2019 AO, Petra Kvitova Routines Danielle Collins To Reach …

Petra Kvitova, Czech Tennis Super Star, The Glass Is Always …

Quietly peering back at last year’s 2019 Australian Open, as the eighth seed, Petra Kvitová cruised into the quarterfinals without dropping a set, recording wins over Magdaléna Rybáriková, Irina-Camelia Begu, Belinda Bencic and Amanda Anisimova.

Her win over Bencic saw her through to the second week here for the first time since 2012, and for the first time at a Grand Slam outside the US Open since the 2015 French Open.

In the quarterfinals, she moved past Barty in straight sets and then beat Collins in straight sets to advance to her first Grand Slam final since 2014, and her first outside of Wimbledon.

There, she faced fourth seed Naomi Osaka, with the world No. 1 ranking at stake.

Petra returned to the world No. 2 ranking for the first time since June 2015 after the tournament’s conclusion.

Maria Sakkari’s rise to glory is very different and just as fascinating.

We’ve watched her fiercely fight through one victory after another in 2019. We also wrote about her triumphs as well.

US Open 2019 3rd Round, Maria Sakkari’s Spirit Of Sparta

Maria won her first WTA trophy in Rabat, defeating Johanna Konta in the final. She also qualified for the Premier 5 Italian Open in Rome, reaching the semi-finals.

Meeting Petra Kvitova in the fourth round would be a test of Grand Slam proportions.

After the warmups and introductions, the battle began.

Sakkari immediately breaks her. Kvitova is determined to break back but can’t. Sakkari is looking in top physical form with strong tight muscles and strong shoulders.

She goes up 2-0.

Kvitova is very determined and holds at 1-2 in the first set. One of the keys to the match becomes very clear and that is can Sakkari be able to fight off Kvitova’s power?

After back and forth battles, the set score is Sakkari 4, Kvitova 2.

Kvitova has been close to being number one in the world for 6 to 7 years apart and just couldn’t get there. Barely missing it. Here she settles in and has a great service game.

Sakkari is leading 5-3 but can she hold and serve out the set?

She is fierce and determined. She needs to be as Kvitova is becoming steadier.

Can Kvitova up her game to stay in the first set? Can she break back? Every juncture like this will be a test for the young Sakkari.

Nerves seems to be seeping in. Sakkari hits the forehand long. Now the score is 15-40. Feeling the nerves? Seems to be. Big backhand return from Kvitova squares it at 5 all.

Kvitova is serving and attempting to try and go up for the first time in the match.

She had an opportunity to hit a winner cross court when she has Sakkari on the run and plays it safe and Sakkari passes her at the net. Once again she has Sakkari on the defensive and presses her but instead of hitting a fiercer angled shot, she plays it safe and Sakkari passes her down the line. What a missed opportunity.

Sakkari leads 6-5 and once again can serve out the first set.

Can Sakkari keep her nerves in check as she serves for the set?

The Australian Royal Air Force doesn’t help by continuing to fly overhead with loud noises.

Sakkari is letting the elements of the big stage get to her, getting bothered by other things and out of challenges. Kvitova comes back with a deep ground stroke on the line and evens the set at 6-6.

Time for a tie- breaker.

Kvitova goes up 2-1.

The battle rages on and with a screaming return on Kvitova’s serve, the score is knotted at 2-2.

The irony is that, though Sakkari wins the point, she believes she is getting bad calls and in no uncertain terms lets the umpire know about it.

Up 3-2, this is not the time to start arguing with the chair umpire. Stay focused.

Unfortunately she isn’t focused, still worried about the previous point which she won.

Again, she won the point. Move on. If she is wise.

Soon Sakkari leads 4-3.

It is now Kvitova’s turn to serve. To the crowd’s surprise, when it matters most, she double faults.

Sakkari seems encouraged. It is her turn at 5-4 to serve for the set. She gets the next two points with big serves. The last being line a Major League Baseball gem, sliding inside and wide right.

Sakkari takes the first set in a tie break 7-4.

Though not a complete surprise, we wonder if there is an upset in the making.

Time for the second set.

The good news for Sakkari, besides being up one set, is that she is winning 67 percent of her second serves. Kvitova clearly needs to become more aggressive on those second serves.

We’re shown a video of Sakkari’s incredible workouts and we can see where her muscle strength comes from.

Kvitova is still off and misses a great opportunity on a second serve and dumps it into the net. Kvitova’s unforced errors are starting to creep in. When she is off, she gives you a lot of free points. Sakkari keeps giving her second serves and she keeps dumping them into the net.

Sakkari is now up 2-1 in the second set.

Okay Ms. Kvitova. We are waiting for you to finally bring you’re A game. For now we’ll have to keep waiting.

Kvitova starts her serving with a double fault. Next hits an unforced error. Her game is starting to go off the rails. Sakkari smelling blood is starting to out power and out hit Kvitova. Two break points.

Interestingly Kvitova’s game goes up and now Sakkari hits two into the net. Kvitova holds at 2-2.

Can Kvitova break? Sakkari will give her a second serve once again. Can Kvitova swing away without dumping it into the net? She doesn’t have to as Sakkari does it for her and double faults.

Does anyone want to win this one?

Can Kvitova finally find some consistency and get back into this match? Sakkari starts to out hit her once again. Up 3-2 but can’t seem to cement it. Throws in another double fault. Sakkari out hits her again.

It is three to three in the second set.

Sakkari should have put Kvitova away when she had the chance.

Kvitova is up 4-3. She is still a little streaky but starting to find her range.

Now she is also starting to hit big shots and has Sakkari on the run. It would be extremely unusual if she can get a routine hold. That is a big point. She can’t seem to just get through one service game.

Kvitova hits a big shot and after some back and forth, finally does. She finally wins a 16 shot rally, the longest of the match. Great. Now she has some break points. Once again, Sakkari surprisingly helps her out with a double fault.

As the third set begins, finally Kvitova is starting to hit her shots. She begins to outhit Sakkari who is starting to falter. Down 0-3, this now becomes a must hold for Sakkari.

If she can hold on to the serve, Sakkari should keep reminding herself of how many times that she broke Kvitova. She does just that. She claims her first game of the third set and is down 1 game to three, one set a piece.

Now can she break back?

The first point is an unforced error by Kvitova as she dumps the ball into the net. Then she has a chance to hit a clean winner and hits it out. Finally she comes up with some big serves. She also comes up with some big ground strokes. Hitting the ball flat, the power of Kvitova, when she is on her game, can take your breath away.

Now things are starting to go as expected. Kvitova is up 4-1 in the third set.

Heat today is not an issue.

Sakkari is serving to try and stay in the match. She does. Now is only down 2-4.

Kvitova establishes her serve and finally has a more routine hold. Couldn’t come at a better time.

She is up 5-2.

Kvitova begins to become intense and disciplined. She was down the first set, became steely eyed and puts the hard charging Sakkari away and screams in delight as Sakkari dumps the last shot into the net.

Despite the raucous and annoying Sakkari fans near the third row of the court yelling and screaming coupled with having lost twice to Sakkari previously, when it really counts on a huge stage, Kvitova comes through.

Like a champion.

Kvitova wins 6-7, 6-3, and 6-2.

The women’s tennis pecking order remains in place.

For now.

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