STUTTGART, Germany - No.2 seed Angelique Kerber outlasted rival and former World No.2 Petra Kvitova to advance to a second straight final at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, ousting the two-time Wimbledon winner, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
The reigning Australian Open champion trailed in her overall head-to-head with Kvitova 3-4 before their semifinal, but won their most recent encounter at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. Kerber looked on course for a similarly efficient victory as she raced out to a 4-1 double break advantage - behind some stirring play and surprising double faults from her opponent.
"It's a little bit different," Kerber told press when asked about playing a fellow lefty. "The serve is a little bit different when it comes from a left-hander. I was warming up today with a lefty so that was maybe good for me. But still it's always tricky to play against a lefty as well. I mean today after like the first few games I got used to it. But it's always not so easy and a little bit different."
Kvitova, who opted out of the Czech Republic's Fed Cup semifinal as no to interrupt her clay court preparation, showed off her signature shotmaking to reduce the deficit, and while Kerber served the opening set out to love, it was still anyone's game in the second set.
Things stayed level until the tenth game, when Kvitova broke through and converted her third break point of the set (she would have 13 overall). Kerber needed a lifeline that came in the form of German pop singer Helene Fischer's "Atemlos," which played over the loudspeaker much as it did one year earlier in the final against Caroline Wozniacki.
"The crowd really gave me a lot of energy today. They really pushed me to my limits, because I was a little bit down after the second set and then I was just trying to focus again and pushing myself. The crowd gives me so much energy to do that, and with the song and with the support of all of them, they gave me the chance like to start very well in the third set."
Kvitova: Hit a wall in the third set. Needs a few days to recover physically. But positive result in Stuttgart sets up Madrid defense.
? WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) April 23, 2016
Undaunted, Kerber immediately reclaimed the advantage with a break of her own, ultimately racing out to a 5-2 lead in the final set; saving three break points when serving for the match, she only needed one match point to defeat the No.5 seed in just over two hours.
"I knew how she's playing; she's playing really hard and aggressive and also the serve is always good. So, I was trying to move good and mentally be ready to have a great battle against her and taking this challenge. I think I was mentally ready for the match."
A high quality match throughout, Kvitova maintained an impressive differential in winners to unforced errors (47 to 33), but hit nine double faults by match's end - nearly doubling her total from her first three matches combined. Kerber, by contrast, kept things far more even with 17 winners to 14 unforced errors, and convered five of her 10 break point chances.
Looking to defend her title in front of a home crowd, Kerber will have to defeat either top seed Agnieszka Radwanska - who took back the No.2 ranking from Kerber last week in Charleston - or countrywoman Laura Siegemund, who is in the midst of a career-defining week after emerging through the qualifying to defeat Simona Halep and Roberta Vinci en route to the semifinals.
"I think it will be a good semi; Laura has nothing to lose. So, she will for sure go out there and try to beat Aga. But Aga will try to get into the final here as well. So, I think it will be a good match from both of them and I will be watching the match on the TV."