Two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova edged past an in-form Kristina Mladenovic to reach the semifinals at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham.
WTA Staff

BIRMINGHAM, Great Britain - The Petra Kvitova Comeback Train is picking up speed at the Aegon Classic. Playing just her second tournament of 2017, the Czech star outpaced Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 7-6(5) to reach the final four in Birmingham.

"It was close," she said during her on-court interview. "The second set was very close. I’m happy how I managed to win it, but it was really tight. Kristina played better than the start and that made it difficult to hold serve and play well."

The No.7 seed had won three of her four previous meetings against the Frenchwoman, the last coming in 2015. But Mladenovic has made massive improvements since their Fed Cup encounter, winning her maiden WTA title at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy and reaching back-to-back finals at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and the Mutua Madrid Open en route to a career-high ranking of No.12.

Kvitova and Mladenovic exchanged breaks to start, and the two-time Wimbledon winner took control from there, dropping just three points behind her first serve to clinch the opening set.

"Both of us play really fast on this surface. The grass suits her game as well, so it was about a few points here in there, one or two key breaks in the match."

In control of the second, Kvitova had the No.5 seed on the ropes when Mladenovic turned things up a notch to break back and get within a game of a decider.

"I was struggling [when serving for the match], feeling a stronger wind and I couldn’t hold serve. With Kiki it’s difficult when you’re not serving well. I’m happy that I managed it in the tiebreak."

Kvitova held on to force a tiebreak, clinching victory off a letcord return winner after one hour and 43 minutes on court.

In all, it was an aggressive display from both players, but Kvitova got the upper hand with nine aces and 27 winners to 28 unforced errors - against 13 winners and 21 errors from Mladenovic.

Up next for the Fed Cup stalwart is longtime teammate Lucie Safarova, who saved three match points to defeat Daria Gavrilova in an epic third set tiebreak. Kvitova has an astounding 9-0 head-to-head against Safarova - their last match coming at this very tournament in 2016 - and has won her last 21 matches against Czech opponents, dropping only four sets along the way.

"She plays a lot of long matches, and I think she likes them!" Kvitova joked. "We played last year in the first round here, so it’s funny to be in the semifinals this year. We are good friends, and know each other well from Fed Cup. It’ll be an interesting match tomorrow."