By Michael Stafford-Jones
- Petra Kvitova  def. Simona Halep  6-1 6-2
- Dominika Cibulkova  def. Svetlana Kuznetsova  3-6 6-3 6-4
- Kvitova will play Cibulkova for the 7th time in Wuhan final; she leads H2H 4-2
WUHAN, CHINA – Petra Kvitova powered past Simona Halep to reach the Wuhan Open final, where she will play Dominika Cibulkova, who produced an amazing comeback to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets.
Petra Kvitova  def. Simona Halep  6-1 6-2
Kvitova was excellent in the last eight against Johanna Konta, but she was even better in her 6-1 6-2 semi-final win over Halep. The Czech dominated the Romanian from start to finish in Wuhan, using her power to get on top early in rallies and never letting Halep settle.
It was an extraordinary victory, particularly when you consider Kvitova had never beaten Halep before. She tossed aside that statistic by striking the ball hard and, crucially, accurately throughout the match. Some of her shots were outright winners; others were simply difficult for Halep to return. This meant the world number five could not draw the Czech into any long rallies and find the kind of rhythm she thrives upon.
Once Kvitova established this pattern, she never let up, and hit 34 winners during a triumph that only took her 67 minutes to achieve. She also only made 16 unforced errors, which is a very low number for the Czech. When Kvitova plays as well as this, it is very hard for anyone to beat her.
As reported by wtatennis.com, Kvitova said: “It’s amazing. I came to this tournament and really didn’t expect this kind of performance. Physically I’m still so-so – I’m really happy that I’m not falling apart. But I played a really great match today in spite of everything, which really put the pressure on her.”
Dominika Cibulkova  def. Svetlana Kuznetsova  3-6 6-3 6-4
Cibulkova produced a stunning comeback to beat Kuznetsova 3-6 6-3 6-4 and book her place in the Wuhan final. The result puts the Slovakian seventh in the Race to Singapore, but after she was forced to play twice on Wednesday, few would have expected her to have enough energy for such a long match. It is a great testament to her fitness and determination that she did.
Cibulkova looked to be on her way out of the tournament when she lost her serve three times during a first set she lost 6-3. But she remained defiant and refused to let this opportunity to reach a final pass her by. Outgunned at the baseline in set one, the Slovakian turned the match around in set two by being more aggressive and coming into the net. Cibulkova is good at both drive volleys and drop shots and she used both effectively as she won the second set 6-3 with three breaks of the Kuznetsova serve along the way.
The deciding set was tighter, and both players saved multiple break points early on. It went with serve until the tenth game, when Cibulkova saw her chance. As Kuznetsova was serving to stay in the match, the Slovakian was able to swing freely. She took full advantage, pinning the Russian behind the baseline with her first backhand return, and then winning the point with a brutal forehand a few shots later. Cibulkova won the second point by bamboozling Kuznetsova with a drop shot and the third thanks to a double fault. Then the Russian hooked a backhand wide to hand Cibulkova the victory and the Slovakian shrieked with delight.
As reported by wtatennis.com, Cibulkova said: “It feels great. I’m really tired right now, but the feeling to be in the final is unbelievable, and that’s why I love it. I would say that nothing has been easy here. I’ve had really tough matches from the first round. I’m really looking forward to another final and I want to keep going, keep playing like this.”
Petra Kvitova  v Dominika Cibulkova  H2H: 4-2
Kvitova has produced unquestionably her best form of 2016 during this week in Wuhan. She has beaten the players ranked one, five and 14 in the world (Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep and Johanna Konta) and played some outstanding tennis along the way.
When the Czech is operating at such a high level, very few players can live with her. That is why she goes into the final with Cibulkova as the heavy favourite to win. Strangely, Kvitova has not beaten the Slovakian since 2011 and has lost twice to her in straight sets since then. However, given the Czech is well-known for her inconsistency, it seems likely that those losses came during bad runs of form.
This time around, Kvitova will look to dominate on serve, much as she did against Halep and Konta, and rip big groundstrokes to all corners of the court for winners and unreturnables. If the Czech starts the match at a similar standard to her previous two performances, Cibulkova will have to find a way of disrupting her rhythm. Perhaps she will adopt a first-strike tactic to prevent Kvitova from hitting powerful groundstrokes. Or maybe she will use her excellent drop shots to draw the Czech into the net.
Whatever the Slovakian attempts, she will have to have to make sure it works, as Kvitova is unlikely to allow her any margin for error. If the Czech does have a bad day and the match becomes sloppy, this will favour Cibulkova and she should win in this instance. But that seems unlikely as Kvitova looks to be in top form. I expect her purple patch to continue with a relatively comfortable win in the final.
Prediction: Kvitova in straight sets
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