Petra Kvitova sunstantiated her credentials for a third Wimbledon title after beating Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova 4-6 6-1 6-2 in the final of the Nature Valley Classic, successfully defending the title she won in Birmingham last year.
The 28-year-old Czech claimed her fifth WTA title of the season, as well as a tour-leading 37th match win of the year, as she came from a set down to triumph and become the first player in thirteen years to successfully defend the Birmingham title at the Edgbaston Priory Club.
It’s amazing to defend a title. It’s not happened in a long time for me. I was too nervous and Magda put pressure on me in the first set. It was tough to fightback but I was relaxed and it paid off afterwards. Petra Kvitova
“I didn’t expect to come here and winning the title,” said Kvitova, whose run of matches this week included a first-round win over British No.1 Johanna Konta. “For me I’m surprised. But on the other hand, I felt good on the court from the first rounds. Meeting Jo in the first round wasn’t an easy draw. That match told me I could play well on the grass again. I was just keeping up the good performance on it. I think today was a great final to kind of fight. We played over two hours, so it was a great final to watch I think, I hope.”
Rybarikova started the final aggressively as Kvitova made 22 unforced errors including breaking her higher ranked opponent twice to take the first set.
Kvitova picked up her serving to roar back with two consecutive breaks to level the match and then moved up another gear to dominate the final set with a string of powerful forehand winners.
“It’s amazing to defend a title,” Kvitova said courtside. “It’s not happened in a long time for me.
“I was too nervous and Magda put pressure on me in the first set. It was tough to fightback but I was relaxed and it paid off afterwards.
“I’m going to Eastbourne (this week) for another tournament. We’ll see how it goes from there… but for sure Wimbledon is the next big one for us.”
However Rybarikova, herself a Birmingham champion in 2009, had shown what she is capable of.
“She’s a tricky player,” Kvitova added. “So it’s always time to get used to. She has a little bit different serve as well. We practiced one day here, one day before the tournament, but still match is match. I needed a little bit of time to get used to spins and slices and volleys and whatever she plays just starting a game. I needed some time.”
Maria Sharapova is the last woman to successfully defend the title in Birmingham, having won in 2004 and 2005. Only three other players – Bille Jean King, Pam Shriver and Lori McNeil have lifted the famous Maud Watson Trophy in consecutive years.
Rybarikova had started brightly and capitalised on the defending champions early nerves.
“I think it was at the end a good match, maybe cruel the result,” Rybarikova said. “She put so much pressure. She’s a great player, amazing on grass. That’s why she won the tournament. She won so fast all the matches. I kept her longest in the match today.”
This year’s tournament enjoyed record sales, thanks to one of the strongest player draws in its history and a week of good weather, including a sun-soaked final day.