Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova moved closer to the second biggest title of her career here Saturday by beating US Open champion Samantha Stosur and reaching the final of the WTA Championships.
But the incisive left-hander from the Czech Republic had to recover from a set down and from within one point of a break down in the second set against the determined Australian before winning 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.
Kvitova will finish the season as world number two if she goes on to win the title on Sunday, and at her best she looked well capable of it.
Her serve was heavy and hard to read, her ground strokes flat and fierce, and her willingness to come to the net was always a threat.
But Kvitova also had a worrying spell after establishing a 4-2 first set lead, during which unforced errors began to spray from her racket. Stosur’s morale levels rose visibly, she broke twice in three attempts to steal the first set, and came close to breaking again.
During that phase Kvitova’s coach David Kotyza made an infrequent visit courtside to help his wavering 21-year-old charge.
“Petra doesn’t need a coach who speaks too much and too often,” Kotyza has gone on record as saying. “So I have to learn also.”
Whatever he said it was not demonstrative, but neither was it long before Kvitova improved. The essence of that was playing to her strengths and playing as far up the court as possible.
Fortunately Kvitova came up with a fine first serve when she was 30-40 down in the second game of the second set, when Stosur might have broken and taken control of the match.
It hurtled for an ace, and after Kvitova clung on to that service game, the match took a big change of direction, with the Wimbledon champion breaking serve and twice threatening to make it a double break.
“I have to be focussed on serve and return of serve,” Kvitova had said before the match, and now she began to follow her own advice much more completely.
Although Stosur served her way spiritedly out of trouble to avoid going 1-4 down, she was unable to prevent Kvitova breaking through again in the ninth game and levelling at a set all.
Kvitova did that with the help of a good net approach and two rousing forehand drive winners, and they signified that her momentum was increasing.
Sure enough she broke again at the start of the final set when she punished a second serve with a heavy forehand cross court return, and then broke again to love, putting her 4-0 up.
It broke most of Stosur’s resistance, and although the US Open champion did enough to pull back one of the breaks, Kvitova comfortably closed out the match at the second attempt, finishing with a lovely drop-lob combination.
Kvitova was due to play the winner of world Victoria Azarenka, the world number four from Belarussia, and Vera Zvonareva, the former Wimbledon and US Open runner-up from Russia.