DOHA, Qatar - Former champion Petra Kvitova snapped a skid to reach her second final at the Qatar Total Open, earning a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory over top seed and World No.1 Ashleigh Barty in Friday's semifinals.
By virtue of scoring her first victory against the Aussie in their last five matches, the 2018 winner will play No.9 seed Aryna Sabalenka for her second title in Qatar and first of 2020.
For the Czech, who lost the Barty four times last year after winning their first four head-to-head matches and beating her en route to the final of the Australian Open, the key to a turnaround was all about tactics.
"I pushed myself a lot to go more deeper to the court, not to flying back on the Qatar sign," Kvitova assessed after the match. "I tried that she couldn't have put me away from the baseline that much, so I took time from her and she couldn't do that much with her forehand.
"That was kind of the key, to try near by the baseline and just play from there and still pushing to the court...I did have chances in the last meetings with her as well, but today I was just maybe...braver and that's how it is."
In a high-quality affair that lasted nearly two hours, each player held on to an early break advantage in the opening two sets, before Kvitova found an extra gear late in the match to secure victory.
The No.8 seed was the first to break in the decider at 2-2, and though she'd surrender serve immediately after for 3-3, she secured the decisive break in the seventh game.
"It was kind of physical. I think Ash started to play more slices in the beginning of the second set, so it took me awhile to get to used to and be back in my game with my aggressive game, which I tried to play in the first set," Kvitova continued.
"The match was pretty exhausting anyway, but I know that I can play those rallies every point, but if I have to, I'm really glad that I am able to do it."
The victory was Kvitova's sixth over a reigning World No.1, which ties her for fourth among active players.
"It's been a very positive week, it really has, and tonight was no different. It was an exceptional match. Obviously you look at a match and you debrief it to the nth degree, but I think another really great contest with Petra," Barty said.
"I love testing myself against her and [it was] a match in where she played extremely well and took the match away from me in key moments.
"I think Petra was able to take it away from three at the 3-all game. From, I think it was 15-30, she went two return winners in a row and off of good first serves. I didn't miss my spots, and you tip your hat. That's high quality tennis and Petra is an exceptional athlete and an exceptional competitor and tennis player, and she showed that tonight why she's a champion."
Having beaten a player she did not own much recent success against in Barty, Kvitova will next face Sabalenka for the fourth time, against whom she owns a 2-1 head-to-head edge. The pair have not played in over a year, when the Czech earned a 6-1, 7-5 victory in Sydney last January.
"It will be totally different. I think in this tournament... I played more kind of tricky opponents, like with the slice and drop shots and high balls. And so maybe Jelena [Ostapenko, in the round of 16] was kind of different, but it was so windy so it wasn't really about the tennis anyway," Kvitova said.
"This will be totally different opponent for me tomorrow, so I'm looking forward for that for sure. Enough of the slices from Ash today, so I'm glad I do have a little bit different opponent.
"It will be a lot of serve and return. It's the first two shots which is going to decide the match, for sure. And we played a few times already, she beat me, I beat her. And yeah, we'll see, it's similar game, so who knows who is going to be lucky."
Kvitova, who had an eight-match winning streak in finals stopped last year, will nonetheless look to improve her record in showpiece matches to a sparkling 28-9 should she come away with a second title in Doha.
"I think that I'm still playing better and better when I'm deeper in the tournament, so that's one of the good things which I have. I'm struggling sometimes in the beginning of the tournament, so that's how it is," she said.
"I always bring something else in the finals and I just love playing finals. That's why I'm playing tennis, for those trophies, and playing a final is something like that you are very close to have the title, but it's still very far.
"It's something bigger than I think, I think it's just very close there and I just put everything what I have left."