Kvitova upends Rybakina for women’s Miami Open title

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MIAMI GARDENS, Florida—Twelfth-seeded Petra Kvitova won the Miami Open in her 13th appearance, beating seventh-seeded Elena Rybakina with a marathon tiebreaker in a 7-6 (14), 6-2 victory Saturday.

The 33-year-old Kvitova, 10 years older than her opponent, snapped Rybakina’s 13-match winning streak and halted her bid to win the Sunshine Double (Indian Wells and Miami Open).

In winning with will, stalwart defense and one sensational forehand winner on the dead run that electrified the crowd in the second set, the lefty Kvitova captured her 30th Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) singles title and first one since 2018 in Madrid.

After Rybakina hit a forehand long on match point, Kvitova raised her arms and put her hands to her head. She was broken just once in the match. It was her 41st career WTA Finals appearance but first final in Miami. She also will vault into the Top 10.

“I take it as a positive I can still play with the best,’’ said Kvitova who earned a $1.26 million first prize. “I take pride, even at my age, I could win big tournaments.’’

Kvitova, who is from the Czech Republic, disagreed with the announcement Wimbledon would accept Russian players this year. Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion, is from Moscow but represents Kazakhstan.

A past Wimbledon champion, the 6-foot Kvitova won the first-set epic tiebreaker 16-14 on her fifth set point. A suddenly shaky Rybakina hit a forehand long to end the 22-minute tiebreaker; she had been undefeated at 7-0 in tiebreakers in 2023.

“The tiebreaker was going to decide the whole match,’’ Kvitova said. “The tiebreaker—oh, by God—was the longest in my career. I won the tiebreaker so emotionally I was on the better side. You could see the balls after the tiebreak. They were big fluffy balls.″

Rybakina, who won at Indian Wells, admitted to fatigue after the tiebreaker from the travel. The women’s tour will shortly head to Europe for the claycourt season.

“The second set I think overall it was not easy after the first set,’’ Rybakina said. “I think the second she was also more free to hit, to maybe risk a bit more. I think that in the second I just didn’t stay disciplined and was a bit rushing.’’

The set lasted 66 minutes during which each player held serve until 4-4 then exchanged service breaks. Rybakina finished with 10 aces for the first set while setting the record for most aces in a WTA Tournament, smashing Madison Keys’ mark. Rybakina, who had 12 aces total for the match, finished the tournament with 69 for the tournament.

Kvitova broke Rybakina in second game of the second set with a backhand winner on the service return to go up 2-0 and the streak was soon over for Rybakina.

“Maybe if the first set had gone my way it would’ve been different,’’ Rybakina said. “Because I was physically tired and that’s why I didn’t have discipline.

The men’s singles final is Sunday and pits Jannik Sinner, coming off his semifinal upset of defending Miami Open champion Carlos Alcaraz, against Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev has won 23 of 24 matches and beat Sinner in the Finals last month in Rotterdam. Sinner, the 10th seed from Italy, is 0-5 against Medvedev and coming off a physical, three-set, three-hour war with Alcaraz that ended late Friday night.

In the men’s doubles final, Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin beat Austin Krajicek and Nicolas Mahut, 7-6 (4), 7-5.

Image credits: AP

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