Tennis: Kvitova into Birmingham final after Safarova retires

Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova embracing countrywoman Lucie Safarova (left) after the latter withdrew from the semi final due to injury.
Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova embracing countrywoman Lucie Safarova (left) after the latter withdrew from the semi final due to injury.PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - Petra Kvitova’s comeback from a lengthy injury layoff gathered further momentum on Saturday (June 24) as she reached the Aegon Classic final in Birmingham after Lucie Safarova retired from their semi-final with a leg injury.

Twice Wimbledon champion Kvitova, playing in just her second tournament of the year, was 6-1 1-0 up at the Edgbaston Priory Club when her Czech compatriot pulled out.

Kvitova will face Australian Ashleigh Barty who upset Spain’s Garbine Muguruza 3-6 6-4 6-3 in the other semi.

Kvitova is looking in impressive shape after her absence from the sport following a hand injury caused by a knife attack during an attempted robbery at her home in December.

She returned to action in the French Open, going out in the second round, but she has been confident and sharp on her favourite surface.

Kvitova won Wimbledon in 2011 and again in 2014 and she is clearly buzzing with anticipation for the return to the All England Club which she has called her “home”.

“I couldn’t have imagined to have a better comeback than I am having now. Paris was a bit weird and strange, and I couldn’t play the best over there,” she said.

“I am happy that I am able to show good tennis here. I played four matches already, so it’s a good record and good preparation for the final.

“The hand is good, which... I am not feeling any pain, and that’s the best news.”

Safarova was the latest player to withdraw in the latter stages of the WTA event.

On Friday, American Coco Vandeweghe retired with an ankle injury in her quarter-final against Muguruza.

In another last-eight game Barty also had a walkover, with Italian Camila Giorgi retiring with a leg injury in the first set.

The Australian, ranked 77th in the world, then made the most of the opportunity as she beat the 2016 French Open champion and 2015 Wimbledon finalist Muguruza to earn a chance to win a second WTA title.

The match turned when Barty broke at 2-2 in the second set after the Spaniard had looked comfortable.

“I didn’t really get a look in on her serve in the first set and once I knew I was in with a shot it was a little bit of a different story,” said Barty.

Muguruza saved two match points in the final set as she battled hard but after recovering from her first set reverse, the Australian, who has also played national level cricket in her homeland, looked in command by making great use of the slice.

“For me it is important to use my slice on the grass and I love coming out here, slicing away and getting a bit of purchase on the ball and I was able to do that and it was really pleasing” she said.