MADRID, Spain - Petra Kvitova is in the midst of one of the best - if not the best - season of her career. And it's not even mid-May. The 28-year-old Czech star won her tour-leading fourth title of the season on Saturday at the Mutua Madrid Open, with a physically gritty 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3 win over Kiki Bertens in the final. With the win, Kvitova became the first woman to win the Madrid title three times (Simona Halep and Serena Williams have won it twice) and tallied her 11th consecutive win and 30th win overall, a tour best.
Kvitova has now won five titles since returning to the tour after a horrific hand injury last year at Roland Garros. This time last year, Kvitova wasn't sure if she would ever be able to play the level of tennis that won her two Wimbledon titles and rocketed her to No.2 in the world. Now she as the luxury of rolling her eyes at the mere mention that she might be a favorite to win the French Open in a few weeks time:
Q. With this title, you're also earning a spot on the list of the favorites for Roland Garros.
PETRA KVITOVA: (Rolling her eyes).
Q. Do you think you can win the French Open or that sounds completely crazy?
PETRA KVITOVA: It's crazy (smiling).
An exhausted Kvitova joined the WTA Insider Podcast after her Madrid win to reflect not only on her triumphant week but on her remarkable return to form after traumatic injury. Are we seeing the best version of Petra Kvitova in 2018? The affable Czech certainly didn't dismiss the idea.
"Actually, it's unbelievable that I've won five tournaments," Kvitova said on the WTA Insider Podcast. "I know that my 2011 season was a great one, but for me, this one is much more special. I couldn't really imagine myself playing tennis again, and now I have five titles after coming back. It's kind of a dream. I think it's not real, really."
Hear the full interview with Kvitova, as well as her coach Jiri Vanek, in the newest episode of the podcast below:
WTA Insider: You lead the tour in match-wins, with 30 this year. You have four titles, the most of anyone on tour. You're riding an 11-match win streak, back-to-back titles in Prague and Madrid. You won a record third title in Madrid. That sums up your season so far. How does it feel to be Petra Kvitova these days?
Kvitova: Well you kind of surprised me with those statistics. It sounds great, obviously, but I don't really care about that. Right now I'm just enjoying winning Madrid. I'm pretty exhausted, my body is falling apart a little bit. I'm happy to be still walking (laughing).
It was a great final today. I left everything out there. It's been a great season so far.
WTA Insider: Do you continue to surprise yourself?
Kvitova: When I was in the locker room after the match, I was like, yeah, I surprised myself. I'm pretty surprised still that I was able to find the energy to play well.
I had to play well against Kiki. It was long rallies. Those matches on clay are painful. Kiki loves playing on clay. I knew it was going to be difficult, but I didn't think it would be that difficult (laughing). I was sitting on the bench, wondering if I could move my legs again, trying to find the energy after the long rallies when she made me really move a lot.
But then when you stand up and your opponent is waiting for you, when you can't really breathe, you need to kind of really concentrate your body for the next one. That was really important.
WTA Insider: When you're that fatigued, are you telling yourself anything or are you just playing on instinct?
Kvitova: Obviously I had a tactic for this match. For sure I think I was doing a good job of it. In the third set when I had the break and then I lost my serve it was tough mentally because I know how tough it is to break her. You really have to play a great game.
I told myself that I need to fight, otherwise I can't really win. That's what I knew, that I need to be there, play every shot 100%, make her run as well, and not really miss easy shots. That's what I was telling myself.
WTA Insider: What does it mean to you to win the Madrid title?
Kvitova: It means a lot, actually. I know that it's the fourth title this year, which is amazing. Winning here in Madrid on the clay is special, to win it for the third time. There must be something in the air. It's amazing, I couldn't really expect it, coming from Prague straight after the final to play my first round, to have just one day off during the tournament.
I'm surprising myself every time actually, as I see myself playing those tough matches against Puig, Kontaveit, yesterday against Karolina it was very tough mentally. I'm very proud of myself that I've been able to focus mentally. It's great.
WTA Insider: You've now won five titles since returning to the tour at Roland Garros last year. I assume each title has a different story, a different significance to you. What makes Birmingham different from St. Petersburg, different from Doha, different from Prague, different from Madrid?
Kvitova: Every title has a different story. Actually, it's unbelievable that I've won five tournaments.
I know that my 2011 season was a great one, but for me, this one is much more special. I couldn't really imagine myself playing tennis again, and now I have five titles after coming back. It's kind of a dream. I think it's not real, really.
Winning Birmingham, being back on the grass, playing the tennis that I love, this was different than the other four titles. Prague, it's different, playing and winning at home. It's something very special. Madrid, a huge tournament on the clay. Doha, beating so many great players, and then St. Petersburg, where I asked for a wildcard after coming from the Australian Open after I didn't play well. Yeah, it's all a different story.
WTA Insider: Are we seeing the best Petra Kvitova right now?
Kvitova: I think we can compare. It's tough to say if it's the best because, not only me but everyone is growing, so for me, it's difficult to say if I'm playing better than 2011. At that time I was a little bit of a kid, playing without pressure.
This time it's different. I have the experience, I had a tough time in my life. I'm probably more mature right now, just trying to play my best. Physically I'm in the best shape so far. Tennis-wise I think we are working on the right things and just thank you to my team.
WTA Insider: I just spoke with your coach, Jiri Vanek, for the podcast. What has he brought to your game?
Kvitova: My team stuck with me in a tough situation. We agreed to work together before the  season, and then this thing happened, and those guys stuck with me even though they didn't know if I would play tennis or not. That's one thing I love about their personality. They are still there. Even if I'm not playing well, they are still believing in me. That's the most important for me because sometimes I do have those troubles by myself.
I think Jiri sees women's tennis really well. He played tennis himself, so he knows how the player is feeling on court. That's a good advantage to have. I think he's doing a great job with me, same with David on my fitness. I think my team is great. Hopefully we are in the good way to work. Of course, there was a time when everything had to be set up. I couldn't practice for six months with Jiri normally, so afterwards I think he was happy because he could do the things he wanted to train with me. Hopefully he's happy.
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This article was first seen on www.wtatennis.com.