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Sunday, March 3, 2013
Updated: March 6, 8:10 AM ET
Kvitova is making her presence felt

By Greg Garber
ESPN.com

When Petra Kvitova hits the ball, she hits it big.

Petra Kvitova
Very few people can hit a ball as hard as Petra Kvitova, who says unforced errors are "part of my game".

That means, on more than a few occasions, those low liners sail out of the tennis court. Among the truly elite players in the game -- along with Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, for instance -- Kvitova might play with the slimmest margin for safety.

Would she maybe, possibly consider taking just a little bit off some of those screamers -- like those three named above -- to keep some rallies going, in search of a higher-percentage winner?

"My big shots, if they're working good, well, that's always better in my mind," Kvitova said last week from her home in the Czech Republic. "Unforced errors are part of my game."

She laughed as she said it.

We saw the dazzling components of her game all in sync at Wimbledon in 2011, and at the WTA year-end championships. And then, well, what?

In 2012, Kvitova won titles in Montreal and New Haven, but never resembled the revelation from the year before. Already in 2013, though, there have been flashes of her former form.

A few weeks ago in Doha, she was up on Serena Williams 4-1 in the third set of their quarterfinal match and, despite losing, came away encouraged.

"It was a really good match from my side, a good fight," Kvitova said afterward. "I mean, it was just one game when I lost my serve, and that was the key of the second set. The third I had some chances to finish the match."

Williams, clearly, was impressed.

"I think Petra played unbelievable, and I think she was just hitting shots I had no chance to get," she said. "I don't think anyone on this tour could have gotten."

Kvitova is 6-feet tall -- in the same wheelhouse as the top three -- but she has one thing they don't: left-handedness. Kvitova and Angelique Kerber are the only lefties in the top 10 and it gives them an advantage, particularly when it comes to serving. Kvitova has all the physical tools to succeed, she just needs more confidence.

In Dubai she knocked off three top-10 players -- Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska and Sara Errani -- on the way to the title. She'll have opportunities to beat the marquee names on the upcoming Indian Wells-Miami swing.

Last week ESPN.com chatted with Kvitova, who turns 23 on Friday.

ESPN.com: In Dubai, you beat three of the top 10 players ... how did that feel?

Petra Kvitova: I served out three big wins, but I don't think it was only three top 10s. I consider Ana Ivanovic -- a former No. 1 -- a top 10 player, so it was a really good tournament for me. It's been awhile since I felt that good, after losing at the Australian Open (to British teenager Laura Robson in the second round). But I came back in Fed Cup, played two great matches, one of them against Samantha [Stosur]. I fought a lot against [Nadia] Petrova in Doha, so it's been coming together.

ESPN.com: Even though you lost to Serena in Doha, how important was that match in gaining confidence?

Petra Kvitova
In 2011, Kvitova put it all together to win Wimbledon.

Petra Kvitova: Well, when I play against Serena I know I have to play my best. I played very well and very close, and I took a lot away from it. Even though it's so early in the season, this match gives me a lot of confidence. I know I can play against great players. I just have to work harder off the court and it will happen.

ESPN.com: You hit your shots so big. Do you ever think of taking a little bit off?

Petra Kvitova: Well, no, I don't think so. I mean, yes, I am trying to play more rallies and not play for two shots. I know I can play in the rallies. The things I have to improve are my serve, for sure, and my fitness. I need to be quicker to the ball. I'm also working on playing more volleys and slices. My game is changing. But in the big moments, I know I need to go for my shots.

ESPN.com: You won Wimbledon in 2011, but haven't reached a Grand Slam final since. What do you have to do to get back there?

Petra Kvitova: For me, I think it's a lot about confidence. You know when you are high in tennis [rankings], everyone has the forehand, the backhand, the serve. But not everyone has a lot of confidence all of the time. If you are feeling very well, feeling the ball, everything is much easier. So, if I can run more, catch more balls, hit all the shots, well ... [laughing] that's a lot of things, isn't it?

ESPN.com: With Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams playing so well, do you feel like you can win another major this year?

Petra Kvitova: Well, it depends, of course. When I won Wimbledon, all those things worked together. Everything I did those two weeks worked really well. I hope one time I can replay that tournament, but I never know when it's going to be. I am working hard to win, that's for sure. Of course, they are great players. Maybe I can play them again and it will all be good.