STUTTGART, Germany - After reaching the Stuttgart semifinal four times, No.3 seed Petra Kvitova is through to her first final at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, battling past clay court powerhouse Kiki Bertens in three tough sets.
Last year, Kvitova’s countrywoman Karolina Pliskova made history as the first Czech to reach this final - going on to lift the trophy - and now Kvitova’s 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-1 victory has made it two in a row for the Czech Republic.
“I think I had a really great two weeks of preparation on clay,” Kvitova explained in her post-match press conference. “You know me, I always need matches to get used to the clay.
“From the beginning today, I was playing much, much better [than yesterday], so it’s about playing and playing on the clay. You can’t really do that if you lose in the first match.”
“The key for playing well today was winning yesterday,” Kvitova joked. “I think we both played a really good match today.”
Up against Bertens, Kvitova was contesting a rematch of the pair’s Madrid Open final - a tight, three-set battle which unfolded very similarly to today’s Stuttgart clash. There was not much between them in the closely-contested first set, which ended in a tiebreak.
Kvitova got off to a strong start, breaking early to open with a 2-0 lead. But Bertens quickly broke straight back a game later to pull them level and consolidating for 2-2. The Czech player had a few more chances to break again more in the first set - had a point at 4-3 and a set point at 5-4 - but Bertens held firm both times and sent them into a tiebreaker.
They were neck and neck for most of the deciding tilt, but Kvitova’s level seemed to rise the longer it unfolded, reeling off the last 3 points in a row to take the set.
In the second set it was Bertens who got off to a quick 2-0 lead, shaking off the disappointment of seeing the first set slip through her fingers. She maintained her lead after the pair traded breaks, with Kvitova striking at 2-1, but Bertens broke straight back to make it 3-1 and eventually take the set.
With the players level at one set apiece, Kvitova raised her level and put on a clay court masterclass in the final set. She reeled off five games in a row, notching back-to-back breaks, and striking winners from all over the court to seal the match in emphatic fashion, claiming the victory after just over two hours.
“Definitely she’s improved a lot in the last couple of months [since I last played her] and in the last years,” Kvitova lauded. “She’s definitely not missing at all, so it was really difficult to play against her. She’s serving really well, especially in the first set in her first serve.
“Both of us had ups and downs during the match, of course, but I think the tiebreak I played a little bit better than her, she played better in the second set as well.”
“I was wondering if it would be up and down in the third set as well, but luckily it wasn’t,” Kvitova added, with a smile.
Kvitova rained down 29 winners and three aces on route to her WTA tour-leading 23 wins in 2019. Although she outpaced Bertens with 30 unforced errors to 26, she was more decisive in the big moments, converting four of her six break chances while the Dutch player was three for eight.
Up next, Kvitova will take on No.8 seed Anett Kontaveit in the final. The Estonian player received a walkover after Naomi Osaka had to pull out from their clash due to injury.
“We played last year twice on the clay - in Madrid and in French Open,” Kvitova recalled. “I lost in French Open, and won in Madrid. We practiced here before the tournament started, it was a fun practice.
“Anett definitely has improved. She knows how to play, especially on the key points - I think that’s what she improved, the mentality. I just need to be there and be ready for anything.
“I think it will be a nice final, even today the atmosphere was very nice to play in front of this crowd. Hopefully it will be the same tomorrow - there’s no German player so maybe they will support both sides.”
Kvitova will be looking to lift her 27th career trophy, after starting the season with a victory at Sydney and reaching finals at the Australian Open and Dubai.
With Kvitova going for her second title of the year, a victory for her tomorrow would also end a surprising WTA streak. There have been 18 tournaments played so far this season and 18 different players have lifted each trophy - making this the longest streak of consecutive unique champions in WTA history.