London - Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion who is making a
courageous comeback from injury, will face unseeded giant-killer
Ashleigh Barty in the final of the Birmingham grass court tournament.
showed few signs of the appalling knife injuries to her left playing
hand, securing a one-sided victory by 6-1, 1-0 retired over her friend
and compatriot Lucia Safarova, who quit with a thigh strain.
on-court drama came later when Barty, a 21-year-old Australian who began
the year ranked down at 271 in the world, showed such dexterity with
grass court skills that she brought down the sixth-seeded former French
Open champion Garbine Muguruza 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Barty won the
Wimbledon girls title six years ago and proved a revelation in the way
she used slice to blunt her famous opponent's attack before
counter-attacking with heavy forehand drives.
The strongest emotions though were generated by Kvitova's continued progress.
is only her second tournament since a seven-month hole was torn from
her career, and it was only her sixth match - yet she reached her first
grass court final since her great Wimbledon triumph of 2014.
is already beginning to suggest she can again do well at the grass
court Grand Slam starting in nine days' time, and - perhaps against her
original intention - even she is beginning to admit it.
"I could not have imagined a comeback better than the one I am having now," she said.
"The hand is good which is the best news I could have, and I am not feeling any pain - and that's the best news," she repeated.
she said: "I am sorry for Lucie and hope she soon gets a bit better. I
love playing finals, I like big matches, and I've missed it over the
last six months. So this is quite a dream."
Kvitova had never lost
any of her nine WTA Tour encounters with Safarova, and this brief
encounter had a sense of inevitability about it from the start.
will have a very different sort of match against Barty, who began to
find a pattern which discomforted Muguruza mid-way through the second
Backhand slices halted the Spaniard's ground-stroking attacks
and set up opportunities for big counter-attack which broke serve for a
She closed out the set without fuss and then caused a
sensation by breaking serve twice more to go 2-1 and then 4-1 up in the
decider, which she consolidated to 5-1.
Muguruza fought hard,
attacked early when she could, and managed one break back, but never
quite solved the tactical problem confronting her.
exactly the way I wanted to," said Barty. "I like getting purchase with
my slice on the grass, and I didn't do much wrong.
"It is fantastic to see Kvitova back, and she is a weapon on grass, so hopefully I have nothing to lose in the final."
Results from the WTA tournament in Birmingham on Saturday (x denotes seeding):
Petra Kvitova (CZE x7) bt Lucie Safarova (CZE) 6-1, 1-0 - retired
Ashleigh Barty (AUS) bt Garbine Muguruza (ESP x6) 3-6, 6-4, 6-3