World No.3 Petra Kvitova arrived at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Champions with no expectations. Her tennis has proved therapeutic.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
February 22, 2019

DUBAI, UAE - No.2 seed Petra Kvitova has found her solace on the tennis court once again. The big-hitting Czech came through back-to-back three-set contests in her first two matches at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and she had to dig deep to fend off Hsieh Su-Wei in Friday's semifinals.

Kvitova has now played five tournaments in 2019 and advanced to the final of three. She won her 26th title in January at the Sydney International, made the Australian Open final, and will now play her 35th career final in Dubai. On Monday she will take over the No.1 spot on the Porsche Race to Shenzhen Leaderboard. 

Kvitova, who can return to No.2 in the rankings if she wins the title, admitted she's more than a little bit surprised to find herself playing in Saturday's final against Belinda Bencic. 

"It's a bit weird, to be honest," Kvitova told reporters after her semifinal win. "I didn't really expect anything like that. To be honest, I didn't expect anything that I already achieved this year. For me, everything is just a bonus.

"As I mentioned, the tennis, it's a bit like escape this week. This is unbelievable to be in the final when I'm escaping from something."

In an interview with WTA Insider before the tournament, Kvitova said the weeks after the Australian Open had been physically and mentally draining. 

"I'm not feeling really fresh, to be honest," Kvitova told WTA Insider before the tournament. "I'm not feeling empty as well. It's just the mix of everything, of all the emotions, physically and mentally it's been a lot on me right now. 

"I'm just trying to find a way out of it. That's what I'm dealing with right now."

Kvitova said then that all she wanted was to be able to escape to another world. Instead, she escaped to the court. After her quarterfinal win over Viktoria Kuzmova, Kvitova said things were starting to look up.

"I felt tennis is the way how I can escape to other things," Kvitova told reporters after her quarterfinal. "Maybe sometimes I don't look like that I'm really enjoying being on the court and play tennis, but inside I'm really enjoying it.

"To be honest, I think today was the first day of the better days hopefully to be on the court, off the court. Yeah, it's been tough since I come from Australia and from St. Petersburg. I'm glad that it's on the way up."

Kvitova brings her sparkling 3-0 record against Bencic and 26-8 record in tournament finals into Saturday's showdown. Kvitova and Bencic played just last month at the Australian Open. Kvitova won 6-1, 6-4. 

"The score looked a little bit easy, but it wasn't easy at all," Kvitova said. "I saw her playing some matches. She's really on fire, playing really well. I think the surface suits her game, as well. I think it's pretty fast. That's what she likes to play."

But the effort to hold off Hsieh took a lot out of Kvitova, and she admitted to feeling the effect of her hard week's work after the match. 

"[With Hsieh] you have to be really, really low," Kvitova said. "I really had to. She didn't give me any high balls. I really had to be very, very low, bend my knees, whatever I really needed. Played some longer rallies, as well.

"Yeah, I'm a bit tired right now, to be honest. I have a final tomorrow, so I don't know how I'm going to recover."