Apia International Sydney Tennis - Sydney's Biggest Stage

Sydney Olympic Park
Tennis Centre

11 – 17 Jan 2015

Apia Sydney International

Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre 11 – 17 Jan 2015

Petra Kvitova celebrates her victory against Angelique Kerber in the final of the WTA Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo; AFP/Getty Images

Petra Kvitova will return to the Apia International Sydney in red-hot form and with a strong pre-season under her belt as she attempts to re-scale the heights of the women’s game.

Two years ago, Petra Kvitova entered the Apia International Sydney in the form of her life.

The big-hitting Czech has completed a season to remember in 2011, capturing six titles – including her first ever Grand Slam title in a dominant display at Wimbledon, as well as the prestigious WTA Championships – to end the season at world No.2.

When she arrived at the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre, Kvitova knew that winning the title would deliver her the No.1 ranking, completing the journey from emerging talent to women’s great and icing the cake on an exceptional 12 months.

Unfortunately for Kvitova, that wasn’t to be. Li Na stopped her in an absorbing three-set semifinal, and although she again came close to No.1 after reaching the semifinals at Melbourne Park the following fortnight, the top ranking has so far evaded her grasp.

So too has her best form, at times. Although the 23-year-old has remained a top 10 fixture for much of the next two years – she briefly dipped outside to No.11 following the 2013 US Open – she’s struggled to replicate those highs of 2011.

“I don’t think about ranking, I didn’t think about it then and still don’t. But for sure, I want to play my best tennis again. I know if I play my best tennis then I can win matches,” Kvitova told apiainternational.com.au.

“I am a different player now (compared with 2011). I have been through a lot mentally since then and have had to learn to fight and win even when not playing my best tennis. I have also had to learn to cope with pressure on my back. “But I keep working on my game and I always want to improve. So I hope I can be even better than 2011.”

The signs are already there that that could indeed be the case during 2014.

Following an illness-affected third-round US Open loss in late August, Kvitova began working with a new fitness trainer. The results were immediate; in her very next event at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, she stormed to the title, overcoming quality opposition such as Svetlana Kuznetsova, Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber to hoist her first trophy seven months.

Then came semifinal finishes at the China Open in Beijing and WTA Championships in Istanbul, helping the Czech close her season on a high by winning 10 of her last 13 matches and rising to world No.6.

Yet if her punishing pre-season regime is anything to go by, she’s not content to stop there.

“I have worked really hard on my fitness and my body is very tired at the moment, but I also feel that the hard work is going to pay off. I know that if I feel good physically it will help mentally too,” she revealed.

“I am excited to get to Australia and to put everything together in matches.”

There’s also the motivation to atone for what was an underwhelming Australian summer 12 months ago. Kvitova lost in the second round in Brisbane and at the Australian Open, with a 6-1 6-1 first round defeat to Dominika Cibulkova at the Apia International sandwiched in between.

Looking on the bright side, it means she has few points to defend when she touches down in Australia for the new season. And strong results on the blue Plexicushion in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne – her schedule to open 2014 – would help her continue on her recent upward trajectory and back towards her peak position of 2011.

A free-swinging Kvitova, especially one playing without the burden of pressure, is a scary prospect for her fellow competitors. With a viciously biting left-handed serve, devastating power from the back of the court, and impressive polish when she moves forward to attack, she’s one of the more complete players on tour.

And when her big game is on, she is arguably without peer.

The fact that she’s returning to the Apia International Sydney is a boon for fans in the Harbour City, who will get to see the Czech unleash her power on the rest of the field in her quest to return to the top of the game.

“I love Sydney as a city and the tournament is great. I feel very comfortable there and we get good support,” she said.

“Last year I did not have a good start in Australia and that affected my confidence. So I want to forget about last year and try to have some really positive results in Australia this time. It’s good motivation for me.”

Get your tickets to see Petra Kvitova in action at the Apia International Sydney on 5-11 January 2014.

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