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Veteran Kvitova defeats Rybakina for 30th WTA title

Petra Kvitova drew on all her experience to claim her 30th WTA singles title with a straight sets Miami Open victory over Elena Rybakina on Saturday.

Czech Kvitova, appearing in her first Miami final at the age of 33, triumphed 7-6 (16/14) 6-2 at Hard Rock Stadium, a victory which will return the two-time Wimbledon champion to the top 10 in the world rankings.

Rybakina came into the final on a career-best 13-match winning streak after winning the title at Indian Wells and was looking for the rare “Sunshine Double” of both WTA 1000 events.

It was a tight, serve-dominated battle until Kvitova broke to go 5-4 up but Rybakina, who represents Kazakhstan, immediately broke back.

That set up a tie-break and having a 7-0 perfect record in those contests this season, reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina would have been confident of her chances but Kvitova’s serve was strong and her determination stronger still.

The tie-break was a thrilling 22-minute, 28-second, 30-point shoot-out in which Kvitova saved five set points to emerge triumphant when Rybakina hit a return into the net.

Kvitova, a left-handed player, took that momentum into the second set, breaking early to go 2-0 up and from then on she never looked like letting her opponent, 11 years her junior, back into the contest.

Rybakina couldn’t convert a break point in the next game and then she herself was broken again when serving to stay in the match at 5-2 down.

Kvitova, who has now won 30 of 41 career finals, said the tie-break, which saw each player have five set points, had turned the contest in her direction.

“That was deciding the whole match for sure. I think it was the longest one I ever played in my life. Nothing is easy hanging out with Elena,” she said.

“(She hit) so many aces at the beginning of the tie-break, I was like oh my God, I couldn’t even play, so it was a little difficult,” added Kvitova, who now has nine WTA 1000 titles.

Rybakina is part of a talented new generation on the WTA Tour, along with world number one Iga Swiatek of Poland and Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, but Kvitova said she had been able to draw on her greater experience.

“I think it has played a good role in my mind. I have played so many finals. I know I can play well in a final, no matter who I am facing. So mentally that was important for me to know that,” she said.

Young Ones

“Of course this means a lot, that at my age I can still win big tournaments, the young ones are coming up all the time, it’s tough to face them all the time, it’s very tiring,” added the Czech.

Kvitova won 78 percent of her service points (52 of 67) and finished with 29 winners to 14 unforced errors

Rybakina fired 12 aces in the match and became the first player since Serena Williams at 2016 Wimbledon to hit 10 or more aces in six consecutive matches in a single tournament. 

The Moscow-born Rybakina said despite the disappointment she was well pleased with her Indian Wells title and runner-up finish on the “Sunshine Swing.”

“It was really tough in the first set and I think that made a big difference at the start of the second,” she said.

“I’m happy with the two weeks overall, not so much with the second set but I think it has still been a positive month here in the US,” she added.

“After so many matches, I feel confident, it is just about preparing well now (for clay)…keep on fighting, keep on working on technique, physique and all aspects of my game,” she said.

The ATP final on Sunday features Russia’s Daniil Medvedev against Italian Jannik Sinner, who beat Carlos Alcaraz in Friday’s semi-final.

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