ISTANBUL, Turkey - Agnieszka Radwanska was the first winner of this year's TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul 2012, defying the odds and beating Petra Kvitova in the first round robin match of the White Group.
Despite being ranked No.6 compared to her opponent's No.4, Kvitova had a lot of things going her way - winning 25 straight matches on indoor hardcourts, winning this title last year, and perhaps most importantly winning all three of her previous meetings against Radwanska, two of those in straight sets.
But there was one not-so-encouraging number in Kvitova's corner as well, an 0-4 record against Top 5 players this year, a stark contrast to the 7-2 from 2011.
Radwanska came out strong, winning the first seven points of the match and the first three games, even getting to triple break point with Kvitova serving 0-3, 0-40 - the Czech got it going and won the next three games to even the set, 3-all, but the tone of the match was already set, as Radwanska got control again and eventually closed out a routine 63 62 win, Kvitova saving the first two match points with winners before Radwanska blasted an ace out wide on her third.
Radwanska finished the match with a very clean +6 differential of winners to unforced errors (11-5); Kvitova went a bit wild with a -18 differential (23-41).
"I'm just very happy about my performance," Radwanska said on court after the match. "The first match is always tough and adjusting to a new surface is never easy, but I was playing really well from the beginning to the end of the match.
"It was still a little bit up and down today. There were a lot of breaks of serve in the match - the serve should be a big weapon, and it wasn't in this match! But I just stayed focused and I'm happy I closed this match out in two sets."
Radwanska was thrilled to be back in Istanbul, too. "The atmosphere here is always great. I remember the crowd last year. They really love tennis and are so supportive. For sure I enjoy playing here, and I'm really happy to be back again.
"I hope this year I can make the semifinals, at least."
Radwanska is now also 5-0 against left-handers this year, not even losing a set (two straight set wins over Varvara Lepchenko, two straight set wins over Angelique Kerber and now one over Kvitova). It is much different from her losing records against lefties the two years before (2-3 in 2010 and 4-5 in 2011).
Kvitova talked about the pressure of being the defending champion in her post-match press conference. "The nerves were there, for sure - I was nervous the whole match. My fingers and my legs weren't moving. I'm disappointed in myself. I made a lot of errors in the match today; it wasn't good tennis from my side. But it's the WTA Championships, and I have another chance."
Kvitova was then asked if she broke any racquets after going back into the locker room. "No, that's not my style," the classy Czech smiled.
And like Radwanska did earlier, Kvitova professed her love for the tournament. "I love playing here. When I was coming on the court, the crowd was unbelievable - when I heard the people, it was so nice to have those memories back. I know I have really good Turkish fans. It's very nice. I'm really happy to be back."