PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Last year, she was a spectator. This year, she's a champion.
No.2 seed Petra Kvitova claimed her third title of the season at the J&T Banka Prague Open on Saturday, as she rallied from a set down to defeat No.7 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was still recovering from a hand injury as a result of a winter home invasion at this time last year, but nonetheless made an appearance as an interested spectator for last year's final between compatriot Kristyna Pliskova and Mona Barthel.
A year later, Kvitova made her debut on the court at the International-level event on home soil this week and lost just one set en route to her first clay court title in three years.
The win is Kvitova's third title of the season in three different environments, as she was also crowned champion at two hard court events earlier this season - indoors at the St. Petersburg Ladies' Trophy and outdoors at the Qatar Total Open.
Also making her debut in Prague this year, Buzarnescu had an eventful week of her own: the Romanian celebrated her 30th birthday with her semifinal victory and also reached the doubles final.
The Romanian spoke of being eager to face the two-time Wimbledon champion - whom she watched on television - for the first time after her semifinal victory, but got off to a slow start against Kvitova in front of the latter's partisan fans.
After losing the first three games of the match, however, Buzarnescu came alive and won six of the next seven games to pocket a one-set lead.
The pair ground out marathon game after marathon game, as three straight multi-deuce tussles highlighted the middle of the set, but Buzarnescu secured what proved to be the pivotal break on her fourth chance in the ninth game, and served out the set to love to win five straight games.
However, Kvitova started to find her range in the second set, and quickly sprinted out to a 3-0 lead by winning the first three games to 15.
Her early lead stood up to send the match to a decider, though an insurance break in the sixth game proved crucial to the Czech's efforts.
With Kvitova serving for the set, Buzarnescu earned herself a bushel of break points, but converted on her seventh of the game to prolong proceedings.
Having not gotten to set point on serve, Kvitova nonetheless made a statement in the ensuing return game, winning the last four points to break again and send the match the distance.
Kvitova found her best serve in the decider, as an early break of the Buzarnescu serve stood up to help her win her fifth straight final.
The Czech No.2 did not face a break point in the final set, as she was taken to deuce just once, and secured an emotional victory as Buzarnescu's final shot floated long after two hours and 17 minutes of play.