It is easy to be disappointed if you are Petra Kvitova or one of her fans after a loss in the Dubai final on Saturday to Belinda Bencic. Kvitova had rolled through the second set, 6-1, and had reestablished the “P3tra” brand this week in the United Arab Emirates. Kvitova won three-setters in three other matches preceding the Dubai final: against Katerina Siniakova, Jennifer Brady, and Hsieh Su-Wei.
If the Australian Open shelved “P3tra” and recalled the “Del Petra” (copyright Hannah Wilks) dominance of 2011 Wimbledon, this Dubai tournament evoked the familiar and more recent iteration of Kvitova. This week displayed the performer who might lose the plot for one set but could gather herself well enough to win the other two and shake hands at the net as a winner.
It was — and is — impressive that after destroying six opponents in Australia and engaging Naomi Osaka in a high-level final, Kvitova put on her battle armor and won a bunch of difficult encounters this week.
She misfired in the third and final set against Bencic, which probably came as a surprise to most. She lost another final this season, which cuts against her history of being a great closer in championship matches. There are understandable reasons why she and her fans might feel disappointed.
Yet, when Kvitova wakes up on Sunday and looks at the whole of her season, the Czech has been the most consistent player on the tour. Three finals, one at a major and one at a Premier 5, make Kvitova the player who has been the most central presence on tour through two months of competition. This is not the route she normally takes, but as a priest from my college years reminded me, “Different is not bad.”
It is merely different.
Imagine a 2019 in which Kvitova remains the most consistent player on tour. That would be great for her and for tennis.
Don’t let the absence of championship trophies in Melbourne or Dubai allow you to lose sight of how good a season it has been for Petra Kvitova thus far.