|Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova reacts during her women's singles final match against China's Li Na at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Montreal, August 13, 2012. (Christinne Muschi/REUTERS)
MONTREAL - In the end, power trumped experience Monday at the $2.168 million Rogers Cup, and Petra Kvitova has her first title of the season as she continues her march back to the top of women’s tennis.
The native of the Czech Republic pulled away from China’s Li Na to take the title 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 and is certain to improve on her world no. 6 ranking after a slight dip from her sensational 2011 season.
The 22-year-old, who had dominated her previous two opponents, simply outclassed Li toward the end of the title match with power punctuated by plenty of fist pumps.
When Li’s final return sailed out of bounds Kvitova screamed, put her head in her hands and threw a ball into the crowd. She said her goal had been to outlast the accurate and experienced 30-year-old native of Wuhan, China.
“I knew that I had to keep my serve and just wait for her to break,” said Kvitova, whose Rogers Cup championship. “Finally I played well in North America and I am so glad I could play here and we had amazing crowd here.
“I have to congratulate Li Na on a great game and I hope we can meet again in the final of the U.S. Open.”
Kvitova earns $385,000 for winning the championship. She had previously reached four semifinals this season but slipped in the rankings after a stellar 2011 season in which she reached no. 2 and won a WTA-leading six titles, including Wimbledon and the season-ending WTA Championships.
Kvitova struck first in the Montreal final, finishing Li off in the first game with the second of two aces.
But it was Li, the world no. 11 player, who got the first break of the match in the third game before the tide turned in Kvitova’s favour.
The match continued to build in intensity and by the eighth game both players were hitting rockets during baseline rallies, with Kvitova’s speed and athleticism being tested by Li’s deep shots and ball placement.
The Czech broke Li in the sixth and ninth games to tie it up at five apiece. After holding serve in the 11th game, Kvitova pushed Li to triple break point in the 12th before Li battled back to force deuce. The Chinese veteran then held off three break points but hit a forehand into the net to lose the game and the set, eliciting a scream of delight from Kvitova.
The high quickly turned to lows for the Czech, who was simply outclassed in the second set, dropping her first four games as Li overpowered with her serve. Kvitova woke up and won two of three games to pull to within 5-2 before Li finished her off in the eighth game to win 6-2 and tie up the match.
Both women held serve to start the third set. Kvitova displayed her power in the third game, building a 40-love lead and holding serve when Li failed on a return. Li was hampered by unforced errors throughout the set, at one point missing an easy overhead smash at the net with Kvitova out of the play.
Both women held serve in the fourth and fifth games and in the sixth, they battled to two deuces before Li double faulted to bring it to break point. She then sealed her fate by whiffing on a forehand to give her Czech opponent the crucial break to go up 4-2.
Kvitova was fired up as she seized control of the match and the championship, pumping her fist and screaming on several of her late game-winners. Li, wearing a black brace on her right knee, was unable to reach several balls at the net but insisted her health was not a factor
“I was healthy, I was running fast on the court,” said Li, who chalked up the loss to Kvitova’s power.
“I was feeling I have all (the) time to defend. (The) last two match, I can play more aggressive on the court, so I was feeling I have more chance. But today I was feeling maybe like 70% time was like defense to ... try to put ball back deep in the court.”
Li earns $193,000 for reaching the final. She’s now 0-3 in WTA finals this season after previously losing in Rome and Sydney.
NOTES: Organizers had a private jet waiting for both finalists immediately after the match. "That was part of our agreement with the WTA in order to have them sleep in Cincinnati (Monday) night," said tournament director Eugene Lapierre ... Kvitova’s win over Li evens up their career head-to-head series at two matches apiece ... By virtue of her berth in the Rogers Cup finals, Li gets a bye when she travels to Cincinnati. Kvitova had already earned a bye in Cincy. ... Unseeded pair Kristina Mladenovic of France and Klaudia Jans-Ignacik of Poland won the Rogers Cup doubles final Sunday in a 7-5, 2-6 and 10-7 upset over third seeds Nadia Petrova of Russia and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia. Mladenovic and Jans-Ignacik take home $110,000 for their effort... Martina Navratilova, who was in Montreal for several public appearances, has the most Rogers Cup doubles titles with six.