MELBOURNE, Australia - No.8 seed Petra Kvitova is back into a Grand Slam final for the first time since 2014 after ending unseeded American Danielle Collins’ dream run at the Australian Open.
Kvitova has been in imperious form during the entire fortnight, and she’s through to the final without having dropped a set, blasting past local hope Ashleigh Barty in the last round to reach the semifinals.
Up against the giant-slaying Collins, who stunned WTA World No.2 Angelique Kerber en route to the final four, Kvitova had a fight on her hands in the first set but steamrolled to victory in the second, claiming the victory 7-6(2), 6-0 in an hour and 30 minutes.
"It means everything," she said. "This is why I work very hard to be in the finals of tournaments and the finals of majors."
Kvitova outgunned her opponent, raining down 30 winners against the American, and kept the aggressive Collins game contained to just nine. Her serve was firing too, with four aces and winning 75% of points behind her left-handed first serve.
Despite coming into the Australian Open without having won a Grand Slam match in her career, Collins played like a veteran in the first set against Kvitova on Rod Laver Arena. She claimed the first break with confidence, taking advantage of Kvitova’s misfires and ripping a return winner on a sitting-up serve to edge ahead at 3-2.
But Kvitova replied in kind a game later, punishing any of Collins’ occasionally short groundstrokes and roaring to a break back at 3-3 after converting her fifth set point of the game.
Per the Australian Open’s Heat Rule, the roof on Rod Laver Arena was closed at 4-4 as temperatures soared in Melbourne, much to the Czech’s relief as they marched into a tiebreak.
"I like playing indoors," she admitted. "It helped me a little bit, but if it was open, I was still going to fight."
Collins, meanwhile, was not so pleased with the change of conditions.
"Honestly, I like playing in the heat," she said. "Don't get me wrong, it has its challenges, but I grew up in Florida and am used to it being really hot all the time.
"Indoor tennis is a different game."
And so it would prove as in the breaker Kvitova’s big-hitting game finally clicked together as she dominated the tiebreak, hitting through the court and raising her level as Collins’ frustration only grew.
After edging through the tough opening set, Kvitova didn’t look back. She ground out a tough early break of serve to start the set 1-0, and then steamrolled through the next five games in untouchable style. Collins couldn’t seem to find an answer for the barrage of winners coming in her direction, and she couldn’t threaten the Kvitova serve as she was broken three times to put an end to her Australian Open Cinderella story.
Kvitova’s victory extends her winning streak to 11 matches in a row after coming into Melbourne with a title at the Sydney International. And it also marks a big milestone for Czech tennis: Kvitova is the first Czech woman in an Australian Open singles final since Jana Novotna in 1991.
Into her first Grand Slam final in Melbourne, the two-time Wimbledon champion will await either reigning US Open winner Naomi Osaka as she seeks to add the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup to trophy cabinet.
She also stands one win away from claiming the WTA World No.1 ranking for the first time. With Kvitova and Osaka both in the race for the top spot, her appearance in the final assured that the championship match also became a one-match shoot-out for the No.1 ranking.
Currently on a 7-0 winning streak in finals, Kvitova believes that will help her come Saturday.
"I really love playing finals and I love playing on the big stage," she smiled. "I'm really looking forward to it."