BIRMINGHAM, Great Britain - Nearly a decade after she first won it, Magdalena Rybarikova will again play for the title at the Nature Valley Classic.
The 2009 champion defeated Barbora Strycova, 7-6(1), 6-4 to reach her first final of the season after coming from a break down in both sets.
"I knew it was going to be a tough match, because she's such a tricky player and she's amazingly talented," Rybarikova said on-court after the match.
"Maybe she was even favored because she beat me before, and I think it was a very good match and we had some fun on the court."
From 3-1 up in the opening set, the Slovak trailed 5-3 but broke Strycova as she served for it, and dominated the tiebreak to the tune of the last seven points.
"I was leading her 3-1, but I knew it was going to be difficult because Barbora is such a huge fighter and returning quite well. I didn't help too much with the serves. I knew it was going to be difficult and I have to focus on my serve, but I lost the serve," Rybarikova told reporters after the match.
"She was 5-4, 30-love and I played a couple of good points, then the in tiebreak, I think she did quite a few mistakes. That helped me a lot. When I won the first set, I was really believing I would win this match. Then again, she had a break up and I was still fighting and still believing I can win it."
Breaking from 30-0 down proved to be the key for Rybarikova in the second set, as both of her breaks of serve came from that position.
After losing serve to 15 in the seventh game, the World No.19 hit back straight away as she dug herself out of the hole, and sealed the match by winning the last four points of the 10th game.
The former Wimbledon semifinalist scored her second career win against Strycova but first at WTA level, having last beaten her on the ITF Circuit in 2007.
Though there was little to separate the two between the lines, there was a little more distance on the statsheet over the course of one hour and 47 minutes.
Rybarikova struck 24 winners to 22 unforced errors over the course of the match, as Strycova was unable to overcome 30 unforced errors with just 18 winners.
"I think we've played first time on grass, so maybe I'm little bit more confident to play her on grass than maybe clay or maybe hard court, because grass is my favorite surface, but she's great player on grass also," the Slovak assessed.
"She has great results on grass. She's super skillful. She's very talented, so I knew it was going to be difficult and I had nothing to lose. I said to myself, 'Okay, now is maybe the time to beat her.' I knew it was going to be tough one, so I'm very pleased the way I was playing today.
In the final, Rybarikova will take on another good friend in defending champion and No.4 seed Petra Kvitova.
The two have played six times, but never on grass, with Kvitova leading the head-to-head, 5-1.
Of the two-time Wimbledon champion, Rybarikova said: "Petra is really one of my best friends also on tour. She's really amazing girl. We know each other so long. It's going to be quite funny to play her. The funny thing is that we played against each other only in semifinals or finals. I only managed to win one.
"When she's on fire, you can go shake her hand and say, 'Okay, I just want to leave from here.' She plays absolutely amazing. For me, Petra is one of the best players when she is playing really on fire, so we will see how it's going to be her day tomorrow. Hopefully, she is not going to be on fire, but if she is, then for me it's a great tournament.
"I will try my best. During practice, we played here today, but during the match, it's going to be something totally different. She's a really great player and she's the favorite of this match.