DOHA, Qatar - With her back against the wall, Petra Kvitova made another one of her famous three-set comebacks to out-hit World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki and take her place in the Qatar Total Open final, where Garbiñe Muguruza awaits.
Last year’s finalist Wozniacki came into the matchup having lost her last three hardcourt meetings against Kvitova - a streak dating back to 2015 New Haven - but coming off a torrid run of form that had seen her notch 12 semifinal victories in a row.
That streak came to an end against Kvitova’s relentless attacking as the Czech game back from a set and a break down to win 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-5.
“I knew that I need to play aggressive and go for the winners,” Kvitova said in her post-match press conference. “I know that she is catching everything, which she did. And I just probably wasn't as patient with the balls and with all the winners.
“So in the second set I was just trying to calm a little bit and not putting that much pressure on myself and on all the winners and just try to move her a little bit, but not like crazy.
“I was just counting like point by point and didn't really look to the past or too much forward.”
After lifting the trophy in St. Petersburg and notching a pair of Fed Cup victories, Kvitova extends her winning streak to 12 in a row, the second-best winning streak of her career. And, should she triumph in the championship match, the No.21-ranked Kvitova has a shot at return to the WTA’s Top 10.
A Kvitova victory looked far away for much of the first set and a half, though. A scrappy, error-prone game from the Czech handed Wozniacki the first break of the match at 4-2, though Kvitova grabbed it right back with a barrage of forehand winners in the next game. But Wozniacki stayed focused and reeled off the next two games to take the opening set as Kvitova’s form continued to take a dip.
Wozniacki’s dogged defending absorbed Kvitova’s firepower and drew out the errors from the Czech’s racquet, and Wozniacki started the second with another break for a 2-0 lead. Kvitova raised her level considerably to pull of a slew of hotshot-worthy winners and get the break back at 3-3. Stayed toe to toe for the rest of the set until four straight breaks of serve at the end of the set - with Wozniacki serving for the match twice - left them level.
The tug of war continued in the tiebreak, with Wozniacki grabbing the early mini-break and Kvitova roaring back to make it 3-3. Pumped up, Kvitova raised her intensity and reeled off the last four points to send the match into a third set.
— WTA (@WTA) February 17, 2018
With both players dialed in, the third set featured tense and close games as the first eight games went to the server, the momentum swing between the two. This time, it was Kvitova who was broken while serving for the match, as the players traded breaks at 5-4. But Kvitova didn’t let it get away from her, saving her best tennis for last to close out the nearly two-hour and 40-minute battle.
“[It’s] definitely disappointing when I had a chance to serve it out twice in that second set,” Wozniacki said in her post-match press conference. “I didn't get many first serves in in the first game, and in the second game she played aggressively and I made a few unforced errors.
“I felt that was frustrating because I had my opportunities there.”
— WTA (@WTA) February 17, 2018
Kvitova finished the match with a dizzying 50 winners, far outpacing Wozniacki’s 14 and outweighing her own 59 unforced errors. She also fired off five aces and 11 double faults, winning 66 percent of points behind her first serve.
Through to the final in Qatar for the first time in her career, Kvitova will take on Garbine Muguruza for a shot at taking home two WTA titles in a row. The Spaniard defeated Caroline Garcia in three sets in the quarterfinals but received a walkover into the final when Simona Halep withdrew citing a foot injury.
“I think it will be a different game compared to today for sure,” Kvitova said. “She's aggressive player, and she will really go for that. I think that she will try to put the pressure on me, and that's what I'm going to try as well. So it will be kind of similar game plans.
“She's near the baseline, pushing the opponents. And I think I'm just going to try to be the first one who is going to push her.”