We who cover tennis for a living will not lie to you: Petra Kvitova versus Serena Williams would be good for blogs and podcasts and TV shows. That Australian Open final would be good for business.
However, we can’t wish that final into existence. We need to allow each round to play out, so it is premature to talk about what it would mean for Kvitova to win this major tournament. Let’s watch the semifinals and get back to you on that topic if it is still on the table.
For now, after Kvitova lost just five games against Ashleigh Barty in a feel-good Australian Open quarterfinal on Tuesday, let us consider something more immediate and important in the progression of Kvitova’s career. It is something which — if sustained — will give her greater staying power in this sport, and a chance to add to her already-considerable legacy.
That ingredient: efficiency.
The excellent Hannah Wilks is a friend of the Tennis With An Accent Podcast. She writes for Live Tennis in the United Kingdom and can be found on Twitter at @newballsplease. Hannah coined the term “Del Petra” before anyone else did at the start of this decade.
Kvitova’s 2011 romp through the Wimbledon field with her belted groundstrokes was a sight to behold. It is always a jaw-dropping experience to watch the (lefty version of) Juan Martin del Potro of the WTA Tour when she is in full flight.
Everyone knows, of course, that before and after the knife attack she suffered, Kvitova has been hit-and-miss with her shots. She would often and typically go in and out of the zone, many times within the same match. Up-down-up-down.
Much as a timed sporting event is sometimes decided by which team has the ball last, and can therefore score with no time left and not give the opponent a chance to respond, many Kvitova matches have often been decided by whether Petra surged or misfired at the very end.
The terms “P3tra” and “PetraCoaster” — or the deluxe combo, “P3traCoast3r” — have been coined and maintained over the years to refer to Petra’s pronounced penchant for pulverizing the pill and producing pain or pleasure, pending the portions of precision pertaining to her powerful, purposeful, popping punches. Riding the ups and downs of a Petra match is a time-honored experience for tennis fans and commentators in the social media age.
After her thrashing of Barty, however, Kvitova stands on new ground. The P3tra reality has been shoved aside, and the old “Del Petra” terminator (terminatrix?) is back, baby.
Kvitova, in five matches at this Australian Open, hasn’t lost more than five total games in any match. The cumulative scoreboard in terms of games won and lost: 60-22, just under 75 percent of games won. Two opponents have won four games in a single set against her.
This is what it is like to be Petra-fied.
As the tennis world waits to see what happens against Danielle Collins in the semifinals, let’s simply say this: If Kvitova gets on top of matches and stays on top of them, not going through walkabout second sets which turn into complicated three-setters that deplete her fuel tank in hot weather, we could see a return to the 2012 standard Kvitova set.
This semifinal is the first non-Wimbledon major semifinal for Kvitova since 2012 Roland Garros. It is also her first Australian Open semifinal since 2012. In that year, Kvitova did not win a major, but she made the fourth round in all four majors, the quarters in three, and the semis in two. Even before the knife attack, Kvitova had lost her edge at majors. She hadn’t come remotely close to her 2012 standard in 2013-2016, before the attack occurred in December of 2016.
This Australian Open has witnessed an improved version of Petra Kvitova, in which the number “3” is no longer part of her name. If this efficiency can stick to any appreciable degree at the other 2019 majors, “Del Petra” — who is still just 28 years old — could belt out many more crowd-pleasing hits.