Magdalena Rybarikova has a smooth, smart game. Long, lean and athletic, she’s as apt to playfully juggle a rogue tennis ball soccer style before kicking it back to a ballboy as she is to craft a perfect forehand slice to baffle her opponent.
Perhaps most importantly, however, the 24-year-old Slovakian is as cool as they come, and she rode that consistent composure to a second straight Citi Open title Sunday in a 6-4, 7-6 (6-2) victory over Andrea Petkovic. She has never lost a Citi Open match.
“It’s a great city and I love to play here — I would like to play all of them here,” said Rybarikova, who’s won four WTA titles. “I feel so good here. I like playing here in the stadium in front of this crowd.They’re really nice.”
With a smooth game and seemingly constant cool, Rybarikova showed off her range and agility as she zig-zagged across the court chasing Petkovic’s shots.
Once ranked No. 11, Rybarikova had little problem chasing down most of them. She forced Petkovic to craft untouchable, perfectly placed winners — and Petkovic did with so much regularity early on that she jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
Undeterred, the pesky and consistent Rybarikova clawed her way back, tying the set at 4 and then taking a 5-4 lead with the help of some Petkovic double faults and other mis-hits.
“She’s just so easygoing,” Petkovic said of Rybarikova. “She’s so relaxed in the locker room even before matches. . . . It’s always a pleasure to have her around.”
The often fiery, sometimes streaky Petkovic showed her frustration as the set went on and Rybarikova, whose outbursts most often consisted of a frustrated tilt of the head, rallied to the 6-4 win.
“I was just thinking to win one game, not even to win the set,” Rybarikova said. “I didn’t expect that I could still win the set, I was thinking ‘win this game’ and maybe things will be better.”
Her strategy worked. Rybarikova’s win streak grew to eight as she took the first two games of the second set as well. Petkovic held serve in the third — though barely — needing deuce to stall the calmly charging Rybarikova.
Petkovic seemed to regain her form, making a few particularly brilliant shots in her next service game, one of which drew a “nice one” from her quiet opponent. But Rybarikova rallied, forcing deuce and breaking serve to take a 4-1 lead.
Then it was Petkovic’s turn to stage a comeback. She broke Rybarikova, then held thanks to a favorable bounce from a shot that hit the net and flipped over. That moment saw Rybarikova as near to rattled as she’d get, as she tossed her head back and pleaded her case with the cloud-spotted late afternoon sky.
Petkovic had taken the momentum. She tied the set at five games and then held serve for a 6-5 lead.
Rybarikova held too, so the pair headed to a tiebreak. Once there, Rybarikova used a consistent serve and capitalized on Petkovic’s mistakes to outlast her. She turned in the signature moment of the match when she hit a drop-shot winner while falling down, staying composed as it landed softly on the other side of the net — and as she landed not-so-softly on her backside.
Even so, she didn’t crack a smile until winning the final, championship clinching point in a 7-2 tiebreak win.