Commentary

2011 Awards: Kvitova steals the show

Updated: December 27, 2011, 2:53 PM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

It's been more than seven weeks since the last meaningful shot fell to earth in the women's game.

In Moscow, the doubles team of Lucie Hradecka and Kveta Peschke lifted the Czech Republic to the Fed Cup title over Russia. It was the first title for the visitors in 23 years, going back to when the country was known as Czechoslovakia.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, Ana Ivanovic prevailed in the year-end tournament of champions.

"Very unexpected, actually," Ivanovic said afterward.

A fitting postscript to the 2011 season, actually.

It began conventionally, with a Kim Clijsters victory at the Australian Open. After that, things got delightfully weird. Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur all became first-time Grand Slam singles winners.

For the first time in five years, neither Serena nor Venus Williams won a major.

As a public service -- consider this an early holiday gift -- here's a look back at some of our favorite things from this WTA season:

Player of the Year: Petra Kvitova. Previously, her best major finish was reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon a year ago. This year the 21-year-old lefty from the Czech Republic broke through at the All England Club, beating Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova in the last two matches.

Kvitova later banked $1.75 million in winning the year-end WTA Championships and helped win the Fed Cup. She was ranked No. 34 when the season began, which is why she also won the WTA award for Most Improved Player. She is long -- 6 feet tall -- and has one of the best serves in the game. Kvitova employs a rare combination of brute power and finesse. And she's getting better.

Comeback Player of the Year: Serena Williams. The WTA version of this award went to Sabine Lisicki, who started the year outside the top 200 and overcame an ankle injury to finish at No. 23. Fair enough, Lisicki was terrific.

But … Serena overcame some serious health issues and, after missing nearly a year of tennis, came back to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon and win Stanford and Toronto, plus six matches at the U.S. Open -- beating Azarenka and No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets.

Lost in the hysteria of her second straight temper tantrum in New York was the fact she competed well before falling to Stosur in the final. Serena won 22 of 25 matches and, although she turned 30 before the end of the season, promises to be a major player in 2012.

The last time Serena failed to win a major in a calendar year? She came back to win the Australian Open in 2007.

Freshest personality: Andrea Petkovic. She speaks a handful of languages, but can also dance. In a sport that historically encourages homogeneity, the Petko Dance constitutes a cultural revolution of sorts.

The 24-year-old German by way of Bosnia reached three major quarterfinals, went 54-17 and finished at No. 10.

Most well-received victory: Li reached her first major final in Australia, then broke through at the French Open, defeating defending champion Francesca Schiavone in the final. At the age of 29, she became the first Asian-born player -- man or woman -- to win a Grand Slam singles title. The fact that she lost two of her three remaining major matches did nothing to diminish that sublime win in Paris.

[+] EnlargeFrancesca Schiavone
Greg Wood/AFP/Getty ImagesFrancesca Schiavone made history at the Australian Open with her four-plus-hour win over Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Wardrobe malfunction: Venus Williams was wearing a modest little black dress for an exhibition in Milan, when -- whaaaap! -- her left strap broke as she hit a running forehand. Venus slowed down, covered her top and watched Flavia Pennetta hit a winner. Venus laughed and the sellout crowd of 11,000 did, too. After a quick change -- Pennetta hit with a ball boy while Venus changed into a more functional outfit -- they continued and Pennetta won in straight sets.

The longest match: Schiavone, ever the scrapper, prevailed over Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in the fourth round of the Australian Open. The match ran 4 hours, 44 minutes.

Here's to the victors:

Most titles: Kvitova, Wozniacki (6).

WTA main-draw wins: Wozniacki (63).

Hard-court wins: Vera Zvonareva (44)

Clay wins: Anabel Medina Garrigues (23)

Grass wins: Kvitova, Sabine Lisicki (11)

Most aces: Marion Bartoli (270)

Forward spin: Kim Clijsters, 28, faces a narrowing competition window; it looks like 2012 might be her last season before she retires to have a second child. The four-time Grand Slam singles champion won Down Under, but didn't play an official match after August.

Unofficially, though, she met No. 1 Wozniacki in an exhibition earlier this month and won, 6-2, 7-6 (5). For good measure, Clijsters and her younger sister, Elke, beat Wozniacki and Yanina Wickmayer in doubles.

Sure, it didn't count, but the result suggests Clijsters should be a factor, even early in 2012. Maybe Australia, where she is the defending champion?

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.