Perth - Petra Kvitova helped the Czech Republic reach the Hopman Cup final on Friday, defeating world number one Caroline Wozniacki in another sign the Dane's days at the top may be numbered.
The most-anticipated match of the tournament lived up to expectations, with the left-handed Czech Republic player and world number two triumphing 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-4, in two hours and 16 minutes.
In the men's singles, Tomas Berdych secured the Czech Republic's place in the final, with a straight sets win over Frederik Nielsen, 6-1, 6-3. The third match in the tie, the dead mixed doubles rubber, was not played.
World number seven Berdych had shown some indifferent form in the other group ties -- 76th-ranked Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov took him to three sets in a match lasting over two hours – but he made quick work of the Dane.
In Saturday's final, the top seeded Czech duo will meet second seeds France, represented by Marion Bartoli and Richard Gasquet, who have shown impressive form in their group ties against Spain, Australia and China.
Although no ranking points were on offer in the women's match, the two 21-year-olds played as if there were, trading blows from the back of the court in a thrilling match, and Kvitova's jubilation at victory told a tale.
Both players had played down the significance of the match before, but Kvitova admitted it was a nice fillip ahead of the Australian Open, starting Monday week in Melbourne.
"It was a great match from both of us," she said. "I am glad that I won because it was a small test of how we are prepared for the Aussie Open."
Wozniacki brushed off the significance of the result.
"It could have gone either way... I feel like my form is starting to go up and I always play better with a few matches under my belt."
It was a match of contrasting styles, with the Czech hitting twice as many winners as her opponent, but Wozniacki, who played vastly better and with more venom than in her two previous singles outings this week, made very few errors.
The match swung on the sixth game in the deciding set, when Wozniacki was up 0-40 on the Kvitova serve but the Dane could not convert her break points, and Kvitova won through to lead 4-2 and never let go of her advantage.
Kvitova trails Wozniacki, who has been the women's number one since late 2010, by just 115 ranking points.
Both will compete at the Sydney International next week in their final Australian Open preparations.
In the day's other tie between Bulgaria and the US, Mardy Fish's poor week continued when the world number eight was thrashed 6-2, 6-1 by the on-form Dimitrov. With a mixed doubles victory, Bulgaria won the tie over the US, 2-1.
On Saturday, it will be France and the Czech Republic's second appearance in the Hopman final, though France is chasing its first victory after Mary Pierce and Cedric Pioline lost in 1998, while Jana Novotna and Petr Korda won in 1993.
Representing Czechoslovakia, Miloslav Mecir and Helena Sukova also won the inaugural Hopman Cup in 1989.
The title is decided from a best-of-three tie involving men's and women's singles matches and a concluding mixed doubles contest.