Petra Kvitova ended the run of a resurgent Venus Williams at the Pan Pacific Open yesterday, winning a high-octane shootout 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) to reach the final of the US$2.3 million event, where she faces fellow “lefty” Angelique Kerber.
Germany’s Kerber had too much firepower for Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, the fifth seed beating the former world No. 1 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) to reach her seventh career WTA Tour final.
Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion from the Czech Republic, repelled everything Williams threw at her in a pulsating Tokyo semi-final, the seventh seed holding her nerve to tear through the deciding tiebreak 7-2 and complete the victory in 2 hours, 24 minutes.
“That was definitely one of my best matches of the season,” Kvitova said after playing her third match in two days. “I knew she would attack and I had a little trouble, so I just tried to do the same to her.”
A see-saw match which began in bright sunshine with Williams in the ascendancy caught fire in the second set.
Kvitova began ripping winners past the former world No. 1, who took the rare step of calling hitting partner David Witt to her chair for a pow-wow after being pegged back to a set each, but Kvitova refused to buckle, finding the sweet spot repeatedly — to the frustration of the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, whose ranking has plummeted to 63rd in the world after she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 2011.
The American unraveled at crunch time and an absorbing clash ended under floodlights when Kvitova, who had held a 6-0 lead in the tiebreak, converted her third match point by forcing Williams to hook a forehand long after another fierce salvo from the baseline.
“I guess I was a little tired, but she played an amazing tiebreak,” said Williams, who had taken more than three hours to win her quarter-final against Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard.
“There were a few painful misses,” added the 33-year-old, projected to rise to 38 in the rankings next week. “That happens. At least I went for it.”
Kvitova, who has been ranked as high as No. 2, had been forced to play twice on Thursday after rain caused a backlog of matches.
“I felt a little tired when I woke up, but I’m always like that in the morning,” said the 23-year-old, looking to capture her second title of the year and the 11th of her career after winning in Dubai earlier this year. “I knew how Venus would play and I had a strategy for her.”
Williams won the last of her 44 singles titles in October last year at the Luxembourg Open and she last won a Grand Slam with a fifth Wimbledon triumph in 2008.
“It will be very tough against Petra,” said Kerber after ousting 2010 champion Wozniacki.
“She is playing at a very high level, so I have to match that,” added the German, seeking a third career title and a first of this season. “I’ll try not to get too nervous and stick to my game plan.”
In the doubles, Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and her partner, Liezel Huber of the US, rallied from a set down to defeat Russia’s Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova of Australia 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 10-7 and make today’s final, where they face Zimbabwe’s Cara Black and Sania Mirza of India, who beat top seeds Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan and Peng Shuai of China 6-4, 6-2 in the earlier semi-final.
Additional reporting by staff writer