SYDNEY, Australia - No.5 seed Petra Kvitova had been forced to hang around for nearly five hours to begin her Sydney International semifinal - and was in no mood to extend that any further than necessary in overpowering qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-1, 6-2 in one hour and six minutes.
The win was sweet revenge for the No.1 WTA Upset of 2018, a 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 Wimbledon stunner in which Sasnovich had dismissed the Czech - the favorite for the title - in the very first round. Today, after heavy rain had prevented the match from starting until nearly midnight local time, Kvitova was razor-sharp in preventing a repeat, striking 22 winners and maintaining her focus throughout.
The very first point of today's tilt was a booming backhand winner from the two-time Wimbledon champion - a foreshadowing of what was to come, as that wing rose to the occasion to become the star of this late-night show. A battering of brutal backhands broke the Belarusian from 40-0 up in the second game, a superlative angle off that side saved the first of three break points en route to a hold for 4-1, and three more backhand bangers - down the line, crosscourt, down the line - snatched a second break for 5-1.
In total, 10 of Kvitova's 11 winners in the opening set came from the backhand - and, paired with clutch serving whenever Sasnovich threatened a momentum shift, it made for one-way traffic over the course of 30 minutes.
The World No.30 did not play badly by any means, and came up with several shots for the highlight reel: a canny dropshot here, a smoothly struck groundstroke winner there. But Kvitova, who came up with a ridiculous backhand pass en route to holding for 1-1 in the second set, was irresistible.
In the fifth game, her forehand joined the party, pummeling a spectacular return winner to reach break point and ultimately capturing the Sasnovich serve with a cleverly constructed point that the former World No.2 finished neatly at net.
Unable to find any sustained answers to the barrage, Sasnovich began hitting out too wildly and too soon, attempting high-risk shots even as she was being pushed back on her feet by her opponent's power. Errant forehands put last year's Brisbane runner-up down another double break, and Kvitova closed the contest out on her third match point with another booming serve to set up a repeat of the 2017 Birmingham final against local favorite Ashleigh Barty.