SYDNEY (Reuters) - Petra Kvitova completed her preparations for an assault on a third grand slam title in triumphant style on Friday by downing fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova 7-6 7-6 to win the Sydney International title.
It was a contest every bit as close as the scoreline would suggest with the two Czech six-footers pounding the ball off the flexicushion surface at each other for one hour and 51 minutes.
Pliskova gave as good as she got but the world number four’s superior second serve and greater experience of playing key moments in big matches got her over the line.
“I’m just glad how I played today,” the twice Wimbledon champion said. “I mean, it was a very tough match to really handle everything.
“Two tiebreakers, it’s always very difficult. Karolina played really well and she served very well and was really difficult.”
Left-hander Kvitova was broken in the opening game of the first set but got back on level terms for 5-5 with a superb backhand pass before winning the tiebreak 7-6 when Pliskova went long.
The second set was just as tight with the pair exchanging a single break of serve but Kvitova raised her game when it mattered to claim her 15th career title with a 8-6 victory in the second tiebreak when Pliskova again went long.
Kvitova will take a big confidence boost into next week’s Australian Open, where she reached the semi-finals three years ago and will face a qualifier in the first round.”It’s nice to come into grand slam with a trophy and with a little bit of confident from the matches what I had,” the 24-year-old said.
“But it’s tennis, and every week is just different. I go to Melbourne tomorrow and I need to forget about the Sydney trophy to be ready and focused for Melbourne.”
Few, however, will fancy facing world number 22 Pliskova at Melbourne Park in the form she has displayed this week at the Olympic Tennis Centre, especially in her semi-final humbling of fifth seed Angelique Kerber.
“I’m not really sad. She was really better today and deserved to win. It was a good match for me,” she told reporters.
“I’m happy that I played a good week here before Melbourne, it’s definitely better to go there with some matches like what I won here, good matches.”
Earlier, Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin beat fifth seeded Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-4 6-4 to set up a men’s final against fellow qualifier Viktor Troicki, who thrashed Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-2 6-4 in the second semi-final.
Editing by John O'Brien/Sudipto Ganguly