Kvitova beats Rybarikova to retain Birmingham title

Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic celebrates her victory during day seven of the Nature Valley Classic at Edgbaston Priory, Birmingham, England, Sunday, June 24, 2018. (David Davies/PA via AP)

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) Petra Kvitova fought back from a set down to beat Magdalena Rybarikova and retain her grass-court Birmingham Classic title on Sunday as the Czech player continued her impressive form ahead of Wimbledon.

Kvitova hadn’t dropped a set in Birmingham but was tested by Rybarikova before eventually prevailing 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

The two-time Wimbledon champion turned on the style after losing the first set and sealed the match with an ace at the end of a love service game.

”Can I win Wimbledon (this year)? Well, why not?” Kvitova said afterward. ”But many things can happen. You can get injured … It’s a little bit of a different mindset with a Grand Slam, and I will try to set up my mind for this tournament.”

It was Kvitova’s fifth title this year, more than any other player on the tour, and the most wins (37).

If she maintains this high level for another three weeks, everything seems possible for Kvitova, whose career looked seriously in doubt 18 months ago after a knife attack at her home in December 2016 which led to surgery for her left playing hand.

After first-set nerves, Kvitova was too good for Rybarikova, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, who made early progress with a mixture of slice and nimble volleying.

”I was not relaxed to begin with, as I was far too nervous,” Kvitova said. ”Magdalena put me under pressure with her (service) returns. It was difficult to fight back, and I have to try to be calmer.”

Kvitova played her worst service game of the tournament in the third game, twice hitting wide and once putting a usually trusty forehand drive into the net. After breaking back, she played another poor game and this time Rybarikova consolidated the break.

When trying to close out the set, Rybarikova slipped to 30-40 but produced two of her best first serves to avert the danger. She then produced a clever little dink which lured Kvitova into a volleying error for the opening set.

But Kvitova responded promptly by breaking Rybarikova at the first attempt in the second set, and then saving a break back point in the following game with a well-timed net approach and a forthright volley.

A few minutes later Kvitova was into a much higher gear and after that was almost impossible to stop. Rybarikova broke back only once against the pace and variety of Kvitova’s attacks.

At the finish Kvitova dropped her racket, embraced her opponent and thanked the crowd for their support.

”It does feel amazing,” she said.