The key to the match?
The rain amazingly held off.
Otherwise, Andrea Petkovic might not be the Family Circle Cup champion today.
The 26-year-old daughter of a former University of South Carolina tennis player lost focus only once, but never lost the way to win. There was no hurry or rush to finish, maybe partly thanks to the excellent weather for at least the 79 minutes Petkovic needed to post a 7-5, 6-2 win over Jana Cepelova.
Petkovic simply played her game nearly flawlessly en route to the biggest win of her career and the $120,000 payday that goes to the singles champion of the Family Circle Cup.
Cepelova always seemed to be in a hurry to go no where after recovering from a 0-3 start. She rushed her shots, especially her backhands down the line that she let up on before completing her stroke. The high part of the net made the Slovakian pay dearly for her impatience.
Except for a four-game rally by Cepelova to take the lead in the first set, the 42nd Family Circle Cup final belonged to Petkovic. She was solid as a rock from the service line and baseline, picking Cepelova's game apart.
A statuesque German, Petkovic won most of the big points, particularly in the decisive last three games of the first set when Cepelova could do almost nothing right.
Petkovic's excellent footwork and strategy to move the ball from side to side until an opening developed appeared to strike panic in her opponent. That three-game swing was the story of the match as Petkovic won a total of eight straight games to practically put the match on ice.
Cepelova's urgency led to numerous errors in the big games when she repeatedly attempted to make up for bad positioning by over-hitting. That was a trait fans had not seen often during the week, especially not in her giant-killing victory over Serena Williams in the second round or three-set win over 17-year-old qualifier Belinda Bencic in the semifinals.
When Cepelova failed to outpatient and outmaneuver her opponent, the 20-year-old's consummate clay-court game fell apart.
She didn't have a workable alternative. She tried to go bigger and bigger, but her over-hitting didn't work this time.
Outplayed and outmatured
Cepelova was outplayed and outmatured. About the only part of Cepelova's game that worked consistently was her arsenal of drop shots.
Petkovic now appears to be headed for even bigger days with a game that has few weaknesses. The Family Circle Cup could do far worse for a poster girl.
A year from now when she returns as the defending champion, "AP" has the game to take her back to her previous place as an elite player among the world's best.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.
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