26 June, 2017
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova beat Lucie Safarova in the Aegon Classic semifinals on Saturday to reach the first final since her playing hand was injured in a knife attack at her home a year ago. "I couldn't have imagined a better comeback than I am having now".
Kvitova slipped a set down to the Australian - herself enjoying a fine return to the sport after a time away playing cricket - but roared back to win by taking the decider in convincing fashion.
But she produced a strong performance in the second half of the decisive set to claim victory after Barty had started stronger.
Barty won her first 11 points on serve, and conceded only one point in her first four service games.
But Kvitova stepped up her game at the start of the second, breaking for 2-0 and moving to the brink of levelling the match when she secured a double break to move 5-1 in front.
Safarova had had to battle like a trooper to reach this stage, saving match points against both Dominika Cibulkova, the third seed, and Daria Gavrilova, the ninth seed from Australia, and by the end of a first set lasting only 26 minutes it was clear her resources were seriously depleted. On Friday, American Coco Vandeweghe retired with an ankle injury in her quarter-final against Muguruza.More news: Sonnen says boxing's integrity on the line in super fight
Muguruza next plays Barty, who was leading Giorgi 5-2 when she became the second injury retirement on the day.
A dream final for to of the comeback queens on the tour beckons as Petra Kvitova will face Ashleigh Barty for the Aegon Classic title. "It was just about one or two points and one or two breaks", said Kvitova.
Kvitova next plays fellow Czech and friend since childhood, Safarova, who had her own drama, saving match points for the second time this week. She underwent almost four hours of surgery on her left hand and forearm, and her left hand is still not fully recovered. "I wish I could have more - I won't be sad if it is in a couple of weeks (at Wimbledon) but there is still a lot of work to be done", she said. I had a few opportunities but she was serving well.
Kvitova clung on and the match changed course.
The 27-year-old will head into the third Grand Slam tournament of the season as one of the favourites for the title, with reigning champion Serena Williams taking time out from the sport to give birth to her first child, and last year's runner-up Angelique Kerber having a hard season.
This has a feel of a three setter all over it, but we would give Kvitova the edge to lift the title in just her second tournament back. "I couldn't play for five or six months and I missed it". "I like slicing it around on the grass, and I didn't do much wrong".