SYDNEY, Australia -- No.5 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic pulled off a comeback win in a Sydney International final barnburner on Saturday, outlasting top-ranked Aussie and crowd favorite Ashleigh Barty, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(3), to win the title in Sydney for the second time.
2015 Sydney titlist Kvitova came into the championship match having won her last seven WTA finals and had beaten Barty both times they had played previously, including in the Birmingham final in 2017. The Czech dug deep to win her eighth straight final in a row, coming back from an 0-3 deficit in the final set and grasping the trophy after a grueling two hours and 19 minutes of play.
"I left everything out there, I was cramping in the end," Kvitova told the media, during her post-match press conference. "It was such a great final, to be honest, I think. It was a big fight until the end. That's the way [a] final should be."
For a long portion of the match, it seemed that Barty would better her finish in Sydney last year, where she also reached the final but fell one win short of the title, losing to Angelique Kerber. But Kvitova prevailed despite being broken six times in the match, coming through via a whisker-thin margin in the final two sets. Kvitova finished with 31 winners, to Barty's 23.
"It was pretty hard," Kvitova admitted. "[Barty] mixed it [up] a lot. She was different opponent which I had before, as well. So it was a bit challenging this time, for sure."
"I feel sorry for her that she couldn't make it today, unfortunately, but she really put everything out there today, and she really played a great game," Kvitova continued. "For sure, if she's gonna play like this whole season, then there is no chance she will not make [the Top 10]."
Wow!@ashbar96 has made a rip-roaring start to the @SydneyTennis final! pic.twitter.com/KDDagnibkn
— WTA (@WTA) January 12, 2019
Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, who led the WTA in singles titles last year with five, picked up her first trophy since defending her Birmingham title in June. As a result, 28-year-old Kvitova will see her ranking rise from World No.8 to No.6 on Monday.
Barty raced through the first set with nary a problem, as her exceptional defense and backhand slice extended points until Kvitova would frequently misfire on a groundstroke. The die was cast early when huge-serving Kvitova was broken in the first game on back-to-back double faults. Barty broke serve again for a 3-0 lead, dominating with deep returns and well-carved backhand slices to flummox the Czech.
Kvitova finally held serve, at love with an ace, to get on the board at 4-1, but that would not derail Barty’s momentum as she broke an error-prone Kvitova for a third time in the set to take the opening frame 6-1. In the set, Barty had four winners and an equal amount of unforced errors, while Kvitova’s three winners were overrun by her 13 unforced errors.
"I was still staying pretty positive," Kvitova said about her thought process after the first set. "I knew that I'm tired, I'm slow, but I was just trying to get back to the rallies and wait."
The very definition of "fine margins"...@Petra_Kvitova levels up in the @SydneyTennis final, taking the second set against Barty 7-5!
We're going three! pic.twitter.com/be2Gijgjrg
— WTA (@WTA) January 12, 2019
A much more competitive second set occurred, as Kvitova began to hit her spots with her powerful groundstrokes more successfully. Barty, however, raised her game as well, crushing serves to keep herself in front as the combatants moved through the set on serve.
The first sign that Barty was not destined for an easy victory came at 3-3, which was the first deuce game since the opening game of the match, but Barty powered through to a hold with a strong forehand. Kvitova then fell behind 0-30 in the next game, but conquered her nerves to hold for 4-4.
It was Barty who would finally succumb in the second set, as a blistering backhand down the line gave Kvitova a break point at 5-5, which she converted with stunning play from the forehand side. The Czech then served out the set in the next game with a brave backhand winner that clipped the back of the baseline on her second set point.
The second set finished as a very different story from the first -- Barty did not face a break point in the first set, while Kvitova had no break points against her in the second. Kvitova drastically raised her winner count in the second set, with 11 to Barty’s nine.
She's done it!
What an incredible fightback from @Petra_Kvitova !
Beats Barty for the @SydneyTennis title, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(3)! pic.twitter.com/g8HZgRQ1gD
— WTA (@WTA) January 12, 2019
Despite the disappointing end to the second set, Barty swiftly regrouped, using deep service returns to break for a 2-0 lead in the decider, and blasting an ace to claim a tough service hold for 3-0. However, Kvitova, normally a forehand maven, found exceptional range on her backhand side, using that wing to get back on serve at 3-2.
The Czech then had to grind at 4-4 to attain a break of serve, needing five break points before taking the lead and garnering a chance to serve for the match. That grueling game took its toll, as Barty quickly broke an error-prone Kvitova back for 5-5.
Another break followed, as Kvitova’s forehand found its flow, and she led 6-5 to serve for the match once more. But a seemingly fatigued Kvitova, bending over after nearly every point at this juncture, handed another break back to Barty with consecutive double faults at the end of the game.
"I didn't feel the best," Kvitova stated. "I was exhausted. I had cramps, as well. I didn't feel well from my stomach, as well. It was a long match, and I really need lots of energy, so every time I was on the bench I was still eating something. It was a lot of sugar," she said with a smile.
In the decisive third-set tiebreak, Kvitova struck first with a forehand winner to lead 3-1, but double faulted to get pegged back to 3-3. But that would prove to be Barty’s last gasp as Kvitova slammed two big backhands to reach 6-3 and triple match point. Finally, a bruising forehand winner crosscourt gave Kvitova a fourth straight point, and an exhausting, incredible title.