Petra Kvitova took a big step forwards to convincing herself that she can make a full recovery when she reached the final of the Aegon Classic by outplaying her exhausted friend and Czech compatriot Lucie Safarova.
The twice former Wimbledon champion showed few signs of the appalling knife injuries to her playing hand in a thoroughly one-sided victory by 6-1 1-0 retired, which happened when Safarova, who had had two huge matches in the previous three days, pulled out with a thigh strain.
It is only Kvitova’s second tournament since the seven-month hole which was torn from her career, and this was only her sixth match, yet she has reached her first grass court final since her 2014 Wimbledon triumph.
So well has she been playing that it has become even more significant that this tournament is a Wimbledon warm-up event, for Kivitova is already beginning to suggest she can again do well at the grass court Grand Slam starting in nine days’ time.
“It’s tough to play against a friend like Lucie,” Kvitova said. “It’s hard to think about yourself and not your opponent. I am sorry for her and hope she soon gets a bit better.
“I’m pleased with how I am playing. I love playing finals, I like big matches, and I’ve missed it over the last six months. So this is quite a dream.”
Kvitova had never lost any of her nine WTA Tour encounters with Safarova, and this one had a sense of inevitability about it from the start.
She won her opening service game to love, took 14 of the first 15 points, and kept the rallies ultra-short by striking winners freely, especially with her hard-to-read flat-hit forehand.
Safarova had had to battle like a trooper to reach this stage, saving match points against both Dominika Cibulkova, the third seed, and Daria Gavrilova, the ninth seed from Australia, and by the end of a first set lasting only 26 minutes it was clear her resources were seriously depleted.
After dropping her serve in the opening game of the second set, she decided to call it off. She had won only 12 points.
That left Kvitova due to play Sunday’s final against either Garbine Muguruza, the former French Open champion who is seeking a repeat of her 2015 achievement in reaching a Wimbledon final, or Ashleigh Barty, the 21-year-old unseeded Australian who beat the twice former finalist Barbora Strycova, another Czech en route to the last four.