BRISBANE, Australia - From a set and a break down, American Madison Keys rallied to reach the final at the Brisbane International with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory over former champion Petra Kvitova.
In the latest chapter in a competitive rivalry between two of the WTA's biggest hitters, Keys trailed 6-3, 2-0 before turning the match around by winning 12 of the final 15 games.
"Petra was playing really well, and I felt like I had chances to be in the match but didn't really close on those opportunities," Keys said.
"I feel like the momentum kind of kept going back and forth, but I was able to get a little bit of confidence and feel like I could work my way back into the second set. I had a quick break at the start of the third, which also helped me feel like just carry on that momentum and confidence."
The American has now beaten the two-time Wimbledon champion in four of their seven career meetings, but Saturday's match was the first between the two in over three years.
After losing five of the first six games of the match, Keys slowly started to gather momentum, despite being behind by a set and a break when her comeback effort began.
"I think Petra and I always have super long competitive matches," Keys continued, "so it's always great to be able to come out from those matches, and not only just for this tournament, but just to be able to have a lot of great matches right off the start going into the new season.
"I think in the third set it was a little bit back and forth. I think we were both returning really well, so it actually, the return games were actually very competitive. I think from getting broken in the second set on I think I played a pretty high level."
Kvitova dropped serve to love at her first attempt of serving out the opener, and needed four set points in the ninth game to ultimately build a one-set lead.
After breaking the Czech's serve three times in the second set, and never facing a break point after she dropped serve in the opening game, Keys came through in a battle of wills in the decider which saw five breaks in the last six games.
"I think we are playing similar games and it was a little bit in waves," Kvitova assessed. "Sometimes I played better, then she played better, then she just kept it until the end, which I think in the end I didn't have the serves I wanted, probably. I was doing pretty well, but the serve really didn't help me in the end, which was probably the biggest difference.
"I know how Madison can play well, and then she just showed it in the end of the second set and in the third as well. I had my chances in the third when I came back to break her serve and I lost in the game, so it was a bit difficult mentally in this case, but she was there mentally as well and she was hitting it pretty well and pretty clear.
"Definitely, I'm going to take a lot of positive things, for sure. I think in the beginning of the year it's a good tournament to have and I played great four matches so I'm pretty satisfied with everything how it went. I'm not injured. That's good as well."
The 24-year-old Keys advances to her 10th career WTA final, all of which have come at Premier level or higher.
Having won a pair of titles in Charleston and Cincinnati in 2019, Keys will look to extend her winning streak in finals two three when she faces either No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova or No.3 seed Naomi Osaka.
"I've played Naomi a few times. She, obviously, beat me the last time that we played and has gone on to do a lot of really great things," she said.
"It's always tough when you play someone who is a Grand Slam champion. And she's really found her game since the time before the last time that we played each other, so that's obviously a difficult one. And then Karolina has been No. 1 in the world, she's the ace queen, so there's a lot of challenges no matter who wins that match.
"It's always great to start the year playing some really good tennis. I've definitely started the year playing some really terrible tennis, so it's nice to be on this side of things for once."