MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Petra Kvitova was proud of her second-set fightback against Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open final on Saturday but was left ruing her inability to convert her chances in her loss to the Japanese.
Tennis – Australian Open – Women’s Singles Final – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 26, 2019. Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova gives a speech after losing her match against Japan’s Naomi Osaka. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
The 28-year-old Czech was down a set and a break and was facing three match points when she produced three big serves to hold then level the set and take the final to a decider much to the liking of a packed Rod Laver Arena.
She saved another match point before Osaka served out for a 7-6(2) 5-7 6-4 victory in two hours and 27 minutes, securing a second straight Grand Slam title after winning her maiden major at the U.S. Open in September.
Kvitova had five break-point opportunities in the opening set but could not convert any of them and then went on to lose the tiebreaker in her first meeting against the Japanese.
That was also the first set she had lost at Melbourne Park in the last two weeks.
“It’s painful, for sure,” she told reporters. “I don’t know how long it will take me to get over it.
“When I look back, I did have my chances in the first set when I had 40-love on her serve. Did have a few breakpoints.
“I don’t think I played something really badly, but I just think I should maybe have gone a little bit more aggressive on one or two rallies.”
Coming into Saturday’s clash, Kvitova had lost just seven out of 33 career finals and was unbeaten in her last eight.
“I really fought back in the second set. I’m proud of myself in that case,” she said.
“And, yeah, the third set was just one break. That’s how tennis is. It’s the final. I think you will just get few chances. When you don’t make it you lose. And I think that was also the case today.”
Kvitova’s victory would have capped one of the most inspiring comebacks in the history of the sport.
The double Wimbledon champion had to undergo nearly four hours of surgery on her playing hand in 2016 after being attacked by a knife-wielding intruder at her home in the Czech Republic.
“It’s hurting a lot today. I wanted to win and have the trophy. But I think I already won two years ago,” she said.
“So for me, it’s amazing. I think I still don’t really realize that I played the final.
“I’ve been through many, many things, not really great ones. Still few things which I can improve, and we’ll do it. So it’s not the end. Yeah, I will be back for sure.”
While Osaka will become the new women’s number one, replacing Romanian Simona Halep, when the world rankings are released on Monday, Kvitova will be a spot behind.
“I wanted to be back to my greatest level probably as I played before,” said Kvitova. “I knew it will be very, very difficult because my hand, it’s not 100 percent, and never will be. It’s just how it is.
“I’m just trying to make maximum from the minimum. I feel great. I’m playing great tennis.”
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Toby Davis