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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, February 3, 2018

Petra Kvitova is the WTA Tour’s premier indoor player.

The two-time Wimbledon winner raised the roof to reach her first final of the year in St. Petersburg.

Watch: Billie Jean King vs. Margaret Court

Kvitova cranked 11 aces defeating WTA ace leader Julia Goerges, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, to become the first wild card to reach the St. Petersburg final.

"It feels great definitely," Kvitova said. "I didn’t think I could get to the final playing here. I didn’t start the year playing well.

"I’m just going to try to keep it going. It’s just amazing feeling to be in the final."

The WTA active leader in career hard indoor victories, Kvitova raised her record to 63-27 on indoor hard courts and could climb to world No. 21 if she takes the title tomorrow.

The 29th-ranked Czech advanced to her first final since she beat Ashleigh Barty to win Birmingham last June.

Bidding for her 21st career title, Kvitova will face reigning champion Kristina Mladenovic in tomorrow's final.

Fresh off her run to the Australian Open doubles title with Timea Babos, Mladenovic rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over 20-year-old Russian Daria Kasatkina in today's second semifinal.

It's been a revitalizing run for Mladenovic, who endured the misery of a 15-match losing streak. Regaining some confidence with her Australian Open triumph, Mladenovic extended her St. Petersburg winning streak to eight matches advancing to her eighth singles final.

"I kept on being strong and working and saying it will pay off," said Mladenovic, whose parents embraced in celebration after today's win. "I'm back and I'm playing good. It's easy to talk and people don't see the work behind the scenes, and then you have to prove it with the results and it wasn't coming. But the negativity and the comments didn't affect me. The only thing that affects me is the work I do and my family and friends."

The 27-year-old Kvitova has won four of five meetings vs. Mladenovic. If Kvitova takes the title, Goerges is projected to crack the Top 10 for the first time.

The final has fascinating repurcussions for German tennis. If Kvitova wins, Goerges would surpass Angelique Kerber as German No. 1 and give the nation two Top 10 players in the same week for the first time since September, 1997 when Steffi Graf and Anke Huber were Top 10 players.  

The 12th-ranked Goerges entered the semifinal winning 18 of her last 19 matches, including title runs at the 2017 Moscow and Zhuhai tournaments and her season-opening triumph over Caroline Wozniacki in the Auckland final. 

A sharp Goerges was riding a six-match winning streak against Top 30 opponents and served for the opening set today, but could not close.

“It was very tough for sure," Kvitova said. "She’s playing really well. She’s in really good form from the end of the last year so it was very challenging and I’m very happy with my game today.”

Goerges was in good form at the outset powering through a love hold for 4-4. Forcing her opponent to counter off her back foot, Goerges drew a netted backhand breaking for 5-4.

Undaunted, the left-hander punished a series of crosscourt forehands breaking back in the 10th game.

That stand empowered Kvitova through eight straight points as she held at love and went up love-30 in the 12th game. A forehand swing volley earned set point and when Goerges scattered a backhand wide, Kvitova snatched the 52-minute opener on the strength of 11 winners.

Mixing in the drop shot with some timely trips to net, Goerges rallied in the second set. A forehand return winner down the line earned the German break point and when Kvitova double faulted, Goerges had the break and a 3-2 second-set lead.

A love hold propelled Goerges to a 5-3 lead. Serving for the set, she cruised through a strong hold winning 85 percent of her first-serve points in the 38-minute second set.

When Kvitova consistently finds the sweet spot, it’s tough to hang with her indoors. Jolting through a two-ace game to open the final set, Kvitova began punishing her returns. A forehand return right back at her opponent rattled out the error as Kvitova broke for 2-0.

Kvitova claimed a strong hold for 4-1.

Curling a slider serve into the corner, Kvitova capped a hold at 30 to extend her lead to 5-2.

Sweeping a forehand pass crosscourt, Goerges saved the first match point drawing applause from her opponent.

On the second match point, Kvitova was up quickly to a net-cord shot and lashed a forehand winner down the line. The shot was initially called out, but over-ruled and Hawk-Eye replay showed the ball touched the edge of the sideline sealing a two hour, five minute victory.


 

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