When a somewhat under-the-radar Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon, the expectations exponentially grew. She didn't handle the pressure very well until thoroughly dominating the end of the 2011 season with a year-end championship title and then leading the Czechs to a Fed Cup win. But it's a new year. Which Kvitova will show up?
Does she possess the drive to dominate the WTA for an entire season?
Greg Garber: This, it seems to me, is the question that will shape the women's debate going forward. Certainly, Petra Kvitova possesses the physical tools to win a number of majors. After breaking through at Wimbledon a year ago, her performance tailed off dramatically in the hard-court season. In theory, her game should travel well from grass to asphalt, but for whatever reason, it didn't. She's still only 21. I'm guessing she'll eventually figure it out.
Kamakshi Tandon: She clearly has the game, but the temperament is more of a question. Inconsistency has been a big problem for Kvitova, who has struggled with nerves and pressure after big results and doesn't like the celebrity demands of the job. The off-court attention will only increase if she reaches No. 1, which she seems likely to do sometime during the first half of the year. But if that happens, at least she can be glad that unlike the past few new No. 1s, she has a Slam to go with all the attention. That might help give her room to become a player who can eventually dominate for an entire season -- but likely not this season.
Ravi Ubha: Drive, yes. We saw that at the year-end championships in Istanbul, where she was at her fist-pumping, bird-shrieking best. I never thought "drive" was the issue for Kvitova. Rather, it was belief. Kvitova, I feel, now believes she can win many, many more majors. She's taken it up another level mentally. And here's a scary thought: She can still get better. Once Kvitova learns how to avoid those troughs in matches, look out. She'll dominate a season, although I'm not sure if it'll be 2012.
Matt Wilansky: Petra Kvitova, you can argue, is the only young star on the tour with enough game to thoroughly dominate for an entire season. But her post-Wimbledon letdown raised a lot of questions. She'll have to figure out how to handle the increasing pressure and maintain a strong mental game week in, week out. Right now, I'm not sure she's there. Although her year-end championship title was impressive (especially considering she won playing less-than-stellar tennis at times), her game is tailor made for the indoor swing. Kvitova won't be able to bully her opponents around quite as much on the slower courts of Australia.
What's the over/under on the number of Slams for Kvitova in 2012?
Garber: With Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters lurking for one more big run, let's give her one. She has a pretty good game on clay, but Wimbledon remains her best venue. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see her win the Australian or U.S. Opens if the draw falls her way. Remember, Serena and Clijsters will have to fight through some tough early-round matches because they're ranked outside the top 10.
Tandon: One. Winning none this year would be a step back, particularly after a stellar end to the season, which suggested she's ready to build on her Wimbledon win. Winning two would be a big step up, particularly given the anarchy on the tour these days.
Ubha: 1.5. It's not a matter of if she'll win one, but how many. And who knows where it'll happen. Kvitova is a multi-surface threat, winning titles in 2011 on grass, clay and hard courts. The days of losing early at majors would appear to be long gone. Just imagine a Kvitova-Serena matchup at Wimbledon -- maybe in the final. Now that'd be special.
Wilansky: Again, this comes down to whether her mental game can keep pace with her vast physical tools. If it does, she'll win at least two Slams, but the odds are that Kvitova will suffer through a few more growing pains before she really pulls it together. At this point, I don't see her winning more than one Slam in 2012. But as for 2013
Fill in the blank: Petra Kvitova will end 2012 ranked
Garber: I'll go for the slight reach and say No. 1. I liked what I saw from Kvitova last year and believe her game will continue to evolve. She has a surprisingly deft touch for someone who stands 6 feet and the ultimate weapon -- a nasty lefty serve. I'm sensing a big year from Serena Williams (assuming she bounces back from her Brisbane injury), but she has a long way to go to pass Kvitova in the rankings.
Tandon: No. 2. She's well placed to hit No. 1 in the next little while, but if one or two of the veteran champions step up, the bar for finishing No. 1 could be set a little higher this year.
Ubha: 2. Kvitova has a good shot at replacing Caroline Wozniacki at No. 1 early this season; the minimal gap in ranking points between the two coupled with her superior weapons and increased maturity means she'll likely get there. But if Williams continues to be healthy, preventing the American from ending the year at No. 1 will be difficult. Remember that Serena has points to defend at a mere six tournaments.
Wilansky: My initial reaction was Kvitova won't reach No. 1 Serena returning. However, the 13-time Slam champ's recent injury and ambivalence toward the game makes me wonder how long she can sustain solid plau in 2012. The only other player who realistically could dominate from the outset is Kim Clijsters, but she's also had her share of injuries. So by process of elimination, Kvitova should reach No. 1 and hang on to it for the entire season.