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By Adrianna Outlaw | Friday, June 23, 2017

Strapping wrapped around her right thigh, while match point pressure tightened around Lucie Safarova.

Daria Gavrilova had match points, but Safarova had self-belief.

Watch: Federer Two Steps From Ninth Halle Title

A spirited Safarova fought off three match points for a rousing 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (5) triumph over the ninth-seeded Gavrilova in a Birmingham thriller.

The reigning Roland Garros doubles champion reeled off the final four points of the third-set tie break rallying for an epic three hour, three-minute victory.

Safarova saved two match points navigating a tense hold for 4-5 in the decider, then saved another match point to break back for 5-all.

“It such an amazing fight between both of us—and amazing match—I’m so happy I won,” Safarova said. “She was playing really well, playing well down the lines and serving well as well.

“I’m really happy with my game, that I stayed positive and fought to the end. I just believed I can still pull it out and win.”

The left-hander saved two match points defeating third-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in her Birmingham opener.

The 30-year-old Safarova, who took a medical timeout to treat her right leg strain, says the art of the comeback is all about belief.

“I know how to play in match point situations,” Safarova said. “The key is to still believe and for my shots—and it worked.”

Safarova will try to shake off the leg injury in time for tomorrow’s semifinal against good friend and frequent practice partner Petra Kvitova.

The two-time Wimbledon champion continued her comeback from a horrific off-season stabbing with a 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory over Roland Garros quarterfinalist Kristina Mladenovic.

“It was a mix of emotion because the match point was lucky,” Kvitova said. “So I was happy, but on the other side I was like, I'm sorry. Like overall I'm happy that I won, for sure. I mean Kiki has great runs this year. She's very high ranked. For me it's the second tournament of my comeback it's a good match playing on the grass. So overall I'm very happy with my performance.”

Kvitova holds a commanding 9-0 lead in her head-to-head series with Safarova, including a straight sets win in Birmingham last year.

“You know, it's so weird. I mean we practice a lot together,” Kvitova said of her reunion with Safarova. “We know each other well from the Fed Cup. I mean she had a great run and momentum that year. She's playing well on the grass.”

Asked why she believes she’s dominated their rivalry, Kvitova suggested familiarity may be a factor.

“And I'm not sure. I just think that we know each other well, on the court as well,” Kvitova said. “And sometimes the score looks a bit easier, but it's not always like that and it's about a few points in the set. That's how I think it will be tomorrow as well. And she played great today. I mean epic match I have to say. And yeah, it will be interesting tomorrow with a lefty.”

In an Australian Open rematch, sixth-seeded Garbine Muguruza was level with CoCo Vandeweghe, 4-6, 6-4, when the American retired with a foot injury.

Vandeweghe said she will undergo and MRI tomorrow and does not expect to play Eastbourne next week.

"I had tweaked my foot in the first round and was recovering," Vandeweghe told the media in Birmingham. "I mean I felt like out of ten I was pain wise three out of ten and did another move again first set.

"I got re-taped just to reinforce it, but pain was just couldn't move anymore. So felt sort of potentially maybe even doing something more or causing another injury or something, might as well just, unfortunately for everyone else, just to stop."

The 2015 Wimbledon finalist will play Australian Ashleigh Barty in tomorrow's semfinals. Barty held a 5-2 lead when Camila Giorgi retired from the day's final quarterfinal. 


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