Petra Kvitova moved into the Western & Southern Open final for the first time in her career after overcoming 2019 champion Madison Keys 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-3 in their Saturday semifinal showdown.
The occasion also marks the 40th Hologic WTA Tour singles final of Kvitova's career. Kvitova, who is 29-10 in finals, will aim for a milestone 30th career singles title on Sunday.
World No.28 Kvitova of the Czech Republic took 2 hours and 18 minutes to outlast American Keys, ranked 24th, in a battle between former Top 10 players and power hitters.
Words from the winner: "It was an incredible battle," Kvitova said in her post-match press conference. "I have to say Madison played a really great match. It was a really, really tight one.
"This is very special, to be honest. I was going to the match today, and I was telling myself that I have never been in the final here. ... I had many, many finals but never here. So finally it's here. Actually, who knows how it will end tomorrow, but this is already a big step for me."
Fast facts: Kvitova and Keys came into their latest clash with a deadlocked 4-4 head-to-head. Their most recent meeting took place in the first round of this event one year ago, where Kvitova triumphed in straight sets.
After barely dropping the first-set tiebreak, Kvitova rebounded to take another Cincinnati victory over Keys and edge ahead in their rivalry. It is the Czech’s first win in a Cincinnati semifinal, having previously lost in this round in 2012 and 2018.
Kvitova was nearly ousted in the first round this week -- she had to save a match point in her opening clash against last year's runner-up Jil Teichmann.
Instead, Kvitova is into her 12th WTA 1000 final, and she is a win away from her ninth WTA 1000 title. Only Serena Williams (13), Victoria Azarenka (10) and Simona Halep (9) have won more WTA 1000 titles than Kvitova since the tier was created in 2009.
Despite the loss on Saturday, Keys posted another stellar showing in Cincinnati this week, including a Round-of-16 victory over top seed Iga Swiatek for her first win over a current World No.1 player. Keys also beat reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the quarterfinals.
Match moments: After splitting the first two sets, Kvitova fired a massive forehand return to break Keys in the opening game of the decider. Keys nearly pulled herself back on serve with a 0-40 lead on Kvitova’s serve at 4-3, but the Czech powered her way out of peril to hold for 5-3 and maintain her break advantage.
In the next game, Keys used a forehand winner and a stunning serve to erase the first two match points she faced, but a blistering Kvitova backhand return gave the Czech her third match point. That one proved to be the charm after Keys sent a forehand wide to end the big-hitting affair.
In fact, Keys had four more winners and four fewer unforced errors than Kvitova on the day. But Kvitova was more successful on break points, converting five of 12, while Keys went 2-for-8.