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Miami Final Pits Wimbledon Champion Rybakina vs. Kvitova

Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic will face reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the Miami Open final on Saturday. EPA-EFE/JAMES ROSS

Petra Kvitova knows the twists and turns of the tennis journey more than most.

So when Kvitova was staring down a couple of set points in today’s Miami Open semifinal, she didn’t panic.

Eyes locked on the spinning yellow ball, Kvitova revved up her racquet and accelerated through a committed comeback.

Kvitova saved two set points stopping Sorana Cirstea 7-5, 6-4 to advance to her first Miami Open final in her 99th career WTA 1000 appearance.

It is Kvitova’s 41st career final and sets up a stirring showdown of Wimbledon champions for the title tomorrow.

Two-time Wimbledon winner Kvitova will play for a 30th career championship—second only to Venus Williams among active women—when she faces reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in Saturday’s title match.

Indian Wells champion Rybakina, who knocked off Jessica Pegula 7-6(3), 6-4, on Thursday night, is playing to complete the Sunshine Double.

The final figures to be a first-strike shootout. They’ve split two career meetings with Kvitova winning 6-3, 7-5 in Adelaide in January to avenge a 7-6(5), 6-4 loss to Rybakina in the 2022 Ostrava quarterfinals.

Dictating play with her lefty side-spinning serve and first-strike skills, Kvitova was staring down set points and a 3-5 deficit when she turned this semifinal around.

At the outset, Cirstea was striking shots with more self-assurance and had good success belting her flat forehand down the line. The Romanian sometimes pounced out of a low crouch using her legs to help absorb the stings of Kvitova’s shots.

The world No. 74 served for the first set at 5-3 and earned a pair of set points. Kvitova cranked some deep drives to deny both set points. 

The left-hander’s forehand was landing with damaging effect as Kvitova hit down the line daggers to break back for 4-5.

The two-time Wimbledon winner breezed through a love hold leveling after 10 games.

A free-flowing Kvitova was smacking flat shots into both corners pushing Cirstea into defensive positions. Kvitova streaked through 10 straight points, stamping successive love games for 6-5.

Kvitova’s coach, Jiri Vanek, wearing a green Miami Dolphins baseball cap to ward off the afternoon sun, had to like the aggression his player was producing at crunch time.

Turning the tables, Kvitova reeled off five games in a row sealing the 58-minute comeback set with a defiant scream when Cirstea’s drive died in net. Kvitova hit 17 winners—six more than Cirstea—in the opening set.

Trying to slow the Czech’s roll, Cirstea was tossing in some slice backhands to try to change the pace.

A dialed-in Kvitova took her two-hander down the line breaking for her sixth straight game to start the second set.

Sliding her low slice serve out wide, Kvitova created open space and zapped forehands into the corners confirming the break at 15 for a 2-0 second-set lead.

Credit Cirstea for saving break points to stop her seven-game slide and get on the scoreboard, but there was no detour for Kvitova’s damaging drives once she got her game rolling.

An impressive aspect of Kvitova’s first Miami final is how she’s endured the elements like the champion that she is and can be again.

Kvitova suffers from asthma and breathing issues can be exacerbated in the thick, heavy air. Though the shadow completely covered the court by the time this semifinal started, Kvitova still had to endure the sticky-heat and a super-fit Cirstea, who knows the Czech well as they came up through the ranks together.

Still, Kvitova navigated all the challenges, didn’t face a break point in closing out her second match point completing a one hour, 41-minute win to set up a final of Wimbledon champions that figures to be a first-strike fest.