In just her second tournament of 2017, Petra Kvitova recovered from a set down to dispatch Ashleigh Barty to win the Aegon Classic title in Birmingham.
WTA Staff

BIRMINGHAM, Great Britain - In just her second tournament since injuring her left hand during a home invasion, Petra Kvitova roared back from a set down to defeat Ashleigh Barty, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to win her first title of the year at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham.

"I'm very, very happy, of course," she said in her post-match press conference. "I didn't expect this in my second tournament of my comeback. So yeah, I think it's kind of a fairytale."

Attacked in her home during the off-season, Kvitova made a triumphant comeback earlier than expected at Roland Garros, where she won her first match since finishing the 2016 season with the Huajin Securities WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai title.

"I was nervous It wasn't the normal nerves as I had before. It's my first final after such a long time, and it was a bit difficult to handle. I struggled a lot. It's nice when you win and you're playing well, but most of the times the best days are when you win even if you are not playing well. So I'm happy that I was able to win it anyway."

Switching to grass immediately proved fruitful for the two-time Wimbledon winner, who rolled into her first grass court final in nearly three years without dropping a set in Birmingham.

Across the net was young Aussie Barty, another comeback kid who briefly left the sport at the end of 2014 to pursue a career in cricker. She made her return last year and is arguably better than ever, winning her maiden WTA title earlier this year at the BMW Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur and finishing runner-up at the French Open women's doubles event with countrywoman Casey Dellacqua.

Barty stunned 2015 Wimbledon runner-up Garbiñe Muguruza in three sets en route to her second final of the season and appeared poised for a breakout moment against Kvitova, losing just one point in her first four service games and staving off nerves to clinch the opening set.

"I think it was a pretty high quality match," Barty said after the match. "We both started well and I served particularly well in that first set and I think it gave me the upper hand."

Kvitova took control from there, racing out to a 5-1 lead in the second set and playing emphatic tennis in the decider to take the title after one hour and 47 minutes on court.

"Maybe it will sound weird, but I think it was nice to lose the first set, that I had to fight for the second and for the third. I think will give me some extra confidence that I am still able to fight, even if I lose the first set. I know I can still win long matches, so I think that's important, as well."

Swinging freely from the baseline, the No.7 seed struck 35 winners to just 25 unforced errors, smacking 13 aces and converting five of eight break point opportunities.

"I've been through a very difficult time in my life, and it wasn't about the tennis, but about being able to come back healthy and alive, moving my fingers properly and everything like that. This is something clearly special. It's some bonus to have my life and my career and everything.

"This is what I fought so hard to come back and play tennis for. I always said that I'm not here just to play tennis; I'm here to play my best and to win trophies, like today. So I have to say I'm kind of proud of myself that I did it today."

Despite the loss, Barty managed 14 winners of her own and only hit 12 unforced errors in three sets, forcing the former World No.2 to fight for the first title of her comeback. The day ended on a high note for the Aussie when she and Dellacqua paired to win the doubles title, defeating Chan Hao-Ching and Zhang Shuai, 6-1, 2-6, 10-8.

"It’s so amazing to have Petra back on the court. She’s such an inspiration. She’s always been a great champion but I think we appreciate that more now that she’s back playing week-in and week-out. Hopefully she is able to stay healthy and doesn’t have any more issues and I hope she has a really successful season.

"I think we have to be very happy with where the game is at. I’ve played some quality tennis and lost to only a couple of good players. So I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get to Wimbledon."