Sunday's final of the WTA Championships in Istanbul provided a glimpse into the future of women's tennis. Petra Kvitova defeated Victoria Azarenka, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to take the biggest non-major of the year and finish the year at No. 2, but this tournament was more about this match -- it was a warning shot to the rest of the tour that Kvitova and Azarenka could be ruling the game as quickly as next season.
Caroline Wozniacki remains the No. 1 player in the world, but Kvitova and Azarenka have developed an aggressive game with two different styles. There are plenty of good things to say about the young Dane. There she was again in Istanbul though, losing to a lower-ranked opponent despite her tenaciousness, perfect physical training and solid opponent. The other two women came through to the final.
Petra Kvitova possesses very unique abilities. She's playing faster than anyone and can be absolutely unbeatable when she's moving forward with good timing on her footwork. Matches are always in her hand: she can win or she can beat herself. Her fitness and her state of confidence can be the main reasons of her ability to win. When she's moving with the explosion and frequency needed for her high-risked kind of game and when she remains inside of the court and puts all her body in the ball with the belief she's going to win, then she can beat anybody. Right now she's flying above the Masters and as long as she'll be performing this tennis in full confidence she will remain the favorite on the WTA tour. Not bad for a woman who ended 2010 ranked No. 34 in the world.
Victoria Azarenka is in a totally different style of game and mentality. Yes she's an offensive player, but she's also plays the percentages. Contrary to Petra, she's not a winners or bust kind of player. Her style reminds me of Rafael Nadal's. She hits very hard with a lot of energy spent on each shot and uses top spin a lot a lot, pushing her opponents backward. Azarenka also plays very fast because she takes the ball early. Her defensive game is one of the best in the world because she is a real athlete. Unfortunately, sometimes she leaves the unpleasant feeling that she hasn't left everything on the court, like in her match earlier this tournament against Marion Bartoli in which she had already clinched a spot in the semifinals and barely put up an effort.
Kvitova got the better of Azarenka on Sunday but it won't be the last matchup between the two women in a big-time final. By next year, this could be the final of a Grand Slam.