Istanbul, Oct 30: Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova will play Victoria Azarenka in the WTA Championships final on Sunday with the No. 2 ranking on the line as well as a check for more than $1.5 million.
Kvitova, a Czech lefthander with booming serves, rallied to defeat U.S. Open winner Samantha Stosur of Australia 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals Saturday, and Azarenka defeated Vera Zvonareva of Russia 6-2, 6-3. No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki was knocked out in the round-robin phase.
Kvitova beat Azarenka in the semifinals on her way to winning her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon this year and the pair will meet again, with the winner moving to a career-high second in the rankings.
Kvitova is counting on a mental edge after beating Azarenka in both the matches they played this year.
“Hopefully, it will be better for me, mentally,” she said. “We know each other very well.”
Azarenka said she would need to blunt Kvitova's powerful serve when the two meet at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul, which is hosting the championships for the first time. Some 12,000 people attended the semifinals.
“She really goes for her shots,” said Azarenka, who has won three titles this season. “So sometimes she doesn't find the rhythm. It's difficult, you could see, you know, she lost some of the matches probably a little bit unexpected. But at the same time, she can be on and just hit winners.”
Against Stosur, Kvitova took early leads in the second and third sets with the power game that has propelled her from outside the top 30 at the start of the year to No. 3.
“It was very tough to break her,” Kvitova said. “It was a great match for us.”
At 21, Kvitova was the youngest of the four semifinalists and hadn't dropped a set in the round-robin phase of the $4.9 million WTA Championships. She beat Stosur in their two previous meetings, including a tough third-round win at the Australian Open this year and a comfortable victory at the 2008 French Open.
In the first set, the Czech broke Stosur's serve in the first game, sealing it with a service return winner. The set stayed on serve until 4-3, when Stosur broke back on a flurry of errors by Kvitova. The Australian broke again and won the set 7-5 on a well-constructed point in which she hit two strong forehands and moved forward to put a smash into the open court.
In the second set, Kvitova went up a break early, and her attacking play again found its groove. She held for 5-3 with an angled forehand volley. Stosur dumped a groundstroke into the net on a set point in the next game.
Leading 5-0 in the third, Kvitova withstood a three-game run by Stosur to serve out the match.
Stosur said playing the left-handed Kvitova is difficult.
“She'd be hard anyway, regardless of whether she's lefty or right-handed,” Stosur said. “She's got the game where you will see a flurry of errors, but she'll flip it over and you'll see that streak of winners.”
Stosur, who beat Serena Williams to win the U.S. Open, plans to take two or three weeks off before preparing for the first Grand Slam in January.
“This was definitely my best match against her (Kvitova) so far,” she said. “At least I was able to come off the court knowing that I did everything I could.”
Kvitova, who was making her debut at the WTA Championships, beat Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon final. She has won four other titles this year, including Brisbane, Paris indoors, Madrid and Linz.
The No. 4-ranked Azarenka hit solid groundstrokes and benefited from errors by No. 6 Zvonareva, who was never able to gain lasting momentum in the match. Zvonareva held two break points in the last game, but could not convert them.
One game in the second set lasted nearly 12 minutes and ended when the Russian held serve to level at 2-2, but Azarenka broke her next two service games.
“The score doesn't say much about the game,” Azarenka said. “I really tried to hang in there and it was important to be consistent and aggressive, find the right balance.”
The WTA and BNP Paribas, the title sponsor, announced Saturday a joint donation of $250,000 to the Turkish Red Crescent to assist victims of the earthquake in eastern Turkey that killed at least 580 people on Oct. 23.
The WTA Championships will be played in Istanbul through 2013.