PRAGUE, Czech Republic - A stunning first set comeback helped No.2 seed Petra Kvitova book her place in the final at the J&T Banka Prague Open over Zhang Shuai on Friday, 7-6(6), 6-0.
Trailing 5-1 in the tiebreak, the two-time Wimbledon champion hit three winners in the next six points en route to leveling the action to later steal the set, and rolled her momentum into the final with a bagel in the second set.
The Czech No.2 struck a staggering 37 winners -- 15 of which came in the last six games -- in the match to just 17 unforced errors overall, and never faced a break point to level her head-to-head against the Chinese No.1 in their fourth career meeting.
"I was a better player for one hour and almost lost the [first] set," Kvitova said of her Houdini act after the match.
"This would've been extremely difficult for my head to cope with. I started the tiebreak very badly. I missed two returns, played poorly. I tried to calm myself after it and tried to play bit softer. I knew I wouldn't get some aces from her, so I knew I still would have chances."
In a first set which lasted just under an hour, neither player lost serve as just two games in 12 reached deuce.
Zhang saved the first break point against either player early on in the third game, and later saved two more under high pressure.
China's No.1 saved two set points on serve in the 10th game, toughing out the longest game of the match with a trio of deuces to stay even, as the set wound through to its dramatic tiebreak.
"I had my chances during the set but didn't take them, which fortunately didnt put me [down]," Kvitova added. "After the first set I was extremely calm, I was feeling very good and I believed in myself."
Looking to post her third victory in four career matches against the two-time Wimbledon champion, it was Zhang who got off to a quick start in the tiebreak, taking five of the first six points and two of three behind Kvitova's serve.
However, Kvitova would not go quietly - and with the home crowd fervently in her corner - powered her way through the deficit as winners flew from her racquet.
Though Zhang had her own say in the late stages of the tiebreak when she crunched a backhand return winner down the line to save a first set point, she was unable to serve her way out of the second -- and handed over the set with her third double fault.
The Czech's marked aggression helped her back her way out of a corner to win the first set, as she hit more than three times Zhang's winners (22 to 7), and had a postive ratio with just 14 unforced errors.
Riding her momentum into the second set, Kvitova poved relentless, and hit just three unforced errors to her 15 winners once she held a one-set lead.
Making her debut at the tour-level tournament in Prague in its fourth edition, Kvitova will next face No.7 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu, who pulled off a comeback of her own against Italian Camila Giorgi in the other semifinal.
"It's strange, that another tournament [in Madrid] already begins and I still play here," said Kvitova, who is a former champion at next week's Premier Mandatory event and will look to add a home trophy on clay to her career haul on Saturday.
"I dont think about Madrid at all. I like to play finals, and I am thrilled to play one in front of amazing crowd here in Prague."