Defending champion Petra Kvitova will take on 2009 winner Magdalena Rybarikova in the Nature Valley Classic singles final at the Edgbaston Priory Club.
Rybarikova came through an entertaining and tightly-contested semi-final against Barbora Strycova 7-6(1) 6-4 on Saturday before Kvitova put in a trademark display of power and precision to beat Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-3 6-2 to earn herself a shot at another title in Birmingham.
Kvitova and Rybarikova were the only two former champions in the 32-player singles draw and each already has a place on an illustrious list of former winners which includes Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Li Na, Maria Sharapova, Pam Shriver and Magdalena Maleeva.
When I was practicing before coming here, I couldn't really imagine to be here all week. But from the first round, I really felt relaxed. Even today, I was facing breakpoints and I was just pretty positive in the mind, which I'm happy with for sure because it's not happening every week Petra Kvitova
In the tournament’s 38-year history, only King, Shriver, Navratilova, Zina Garrison, Natalie Tauziat and Sharapova have won the tournament twice. Kvitova would become the first player since Maria Sharapova in 2004 and 2005 to lift the famous Maud Watson Trophy in back-to-back years, a feat only three other players – King, Shriver, Lori McNeil – have achieved.
Kvitova and Rybarikova have played six times, with Kvitova winning five times, although this will be their first meeting on grass.
“I think she (Rybarikova) is a different kind of player on the grass,” said Kvitova. “Definitely she showed in the result last year at Wimbledon as well here. She likes to mix the game a lot, approaching to the net, playing volleys, playing slice. That’s kind of great to have different opponents with different style that you can be really prepare for the next matches. I’m thinking positive. It’s the final, so I like playing final.”
Rybarikova and Kvitova are good friends off the court and Rybarikova said that while she was looking forward to being on court with Kvitova, she was well aware of the challenge facing her. “Petra is really one of my best friends also on tour. She’s really amazing girl. We know each other so long. It’s going to be quite funny to play her,” said Rybarikova.
“Petra, when she’s on fire, you can go shake her hand and say, ‘Okay, I just want to leave from here’. She plays absolutely amazing. For me, Petra is one of the best players when she is playing really on fire. So we will see how it’s going to be her day tomorrow. Hopefully she is not going to be on fire!”
Kvitova has been playing near-flawless grasscourt tennis this week, which is an ominous sign for the rest of the field at Wimbledon, which gets underway on 2nd July and where she has twice been champion.
The Czech admitted on Saturday that she has surprised even herself this week. “When I was practicing before coming here, I couldn’t really imagine to be here all week. But from the first round, I really felt relaxed. Even today, I was facing breakpoints and I was just pretty positive in the mind, which I’m happy with for sure because it’s not happening every week.”