Istanbul carries happy memories for Petra Kvitova

Istanbul carries happy memories for Petra Kvitova

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Istanbul carries happy memories for Petra Kvitova

After a stunning performance in 2011, when she won the Wimbledon and the WTA Championships titles, Petra Kvitova had a relatively disappointing season but the Czech aims to close the year on a high note in Istanbul. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

It has been a long year since her victory at the WTA Championships, but for Petra Kvitova the memories of Istanbul are still fresh.

“I remember the last point,” she said with a beaming smile.

The Czech player is one of the world’s eight top-ranked women’s tennis players who will participate in the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships line-up, which starts in Istanbul tomorrow. The title is now hers to defend, as the 21-year-old Kvitova capped a tremendous season in Istanbul last year with a victory over Victoria Azarenka in the final.

She is happy to return to the Sinan Erdem Dome.

“My memories from the last year are great. It’s nice to remember again,” Kvitova said. “To feel everything, the atmosphere, to be on the court in the practice sessions.”

“Last year, it was unbelievable to win all five matches. That’s something you never expect before the championships,” the tennis star said.

Last year’s WTA Championships were not only a big success for the Czech player, but also for Istanbul, which will host the event until 2014. For six days, the Dome, originally a basketball arena but transformed particularly into a tennis court for the event, will host at least 10,000 spectators every day, erasing questions over whether traditionally football-mad Turkish fans would embrace a top tennis event.

“I was surprised how many people came to support us, to watch us,” Kvitova said.
As the fifth-ranked player, Kvitova is not the heavy favorite this year, but it is still her title to defend.

Istanbul carries happy memories for Petra Kvitova

DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan

Wide-open race

“I will fight to defend the title of course. Speaking about defending championships, it’s hard, all eight players can play so well, that’s why we are here,” she said, gesturing to a tournament poster bearing the images of three top-ranked players, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams. “I can’t say what my chances for winning are. These three girls on the poster had a great season, they play very solid. But anybody can beat anybody and the games are very close.”

“I didn’t expect to win last season, so we’ll see,” she said.

Kvitova said she was particularly looking forward to playing against Williams. “We had a great match in Wimbledon and she won the title after.”

This year, Kvitova did not have the best season. She advanced to two semifinals in the Grand Slams, but her Wimbledon campaign ended in the quarterfinals and she could not win a single WTA title until August.

“I had good Grand Slams, but I didn’t have titles,” she said of her overall performance this year. “I don’t think this season was really bad. I mean, I was more consistent in Grand Slams this year.”
Perhaps the pressure was taking its toll after winning a Wimbledon and the WTA Championships to finish the year in second place.

“Maybe, [there was] a little bit of pressure of course, but it was hard to start from the beginning,” she said. “I was injured a lot during the season, I was sick and in Beijing I had a a stomach illness. There was always something this season.”

She says she hopes “to improve in the off-season” and come back stronger next time. For a 22-year-old, there is always room for improvement.

“It will be nice if I can improve my game in fitness and tactics,” she explained. “I will try to improve everything. Fitness, first of all. My fitness preparations can be much better, I have to be quicker and stronger than I am now and of course not have as many injuries as I had last year.”