Can Petra Kvitova's improved net play allow her to dominate the WTA Finals in Shenzhen?
It is coming up to almost three years since a knife attack that jeopardised Czech tennis star Petra Kvitova’s career - but this year she has shown signs of her getting back to her absolute best, which will be crucial at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova said she was "fortunate to be alive" after the attack in 2016 when she suffered severe lacerations to all four fingers on her left hand - her playing hand.
She allowed someone posing as a utilities man access to her apartment in Prostejov, Czech Republic and while defending herself in a struggle, suffered the injuries to her hand.
The world number six understandably took her time coming back from injury in the 2017 season, but 2018 was a real standout year for her with five titles on the WTA Tour, including the prestigious Mutua Madrid Open.
This year has been arguably even more important for the 29-year-old as she reached her first Grand Slam final since 2014 at the Australian Open, eventually losing in three very close sets to Naomi Osaka.
As part of our ‘Countdown to Shenzhen’ series, we look at the statistics that show how well Kvitova is performing again and how she has evolved her game in the years since bursting onto the scene.
Winning percentage is up there with her very best
In 2017 and 2018, even though Kvitova won six titles on the WTA Tour, there was a tendency to have one great win and not be able to back it up like she used to between 2011 and 2014. That was the time between her two Wimbledon crowns where she was one of the dominant forces on the tour.
But as can be seen from the chart below, the Czech’s winning percentage is up significantly on the last two years and that can also be seen in the stages that Kvitova is making at multiple tournaments.
This year, Kvitova has only failed to get past the first round of a tournament twice, whereas last year, that happened on five occasions.
By playing more matches consecutively over the last two years, she is rediscovering her touch after injury and that gives her more confidence to use her skills on the court.
She is more attacking than before
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When looking at the way in which Kvitova is winning consistently a few things stand out.
Her characteristic strengths are her power and ability to move her opponent around the court constantly and while she still does that on a regular basis, she seems to have added a few more things to her arsenal.
Throughout her career, Kvitova played rallies that lasted one to three shots almost 54% of the time, but this year that number has risen to 64.5%. Added to that, she is playing shots at the net 3.2% of the time, which is half a percent increase when compared to the rest of her career.