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By Chris Oddo/ Friday, September 27, 2013


Petra Kvitova outlasted a gritty Venus Williams to reach her first career Tokyo final, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2).

Photo Source: AP

They split their first two career meetings in three sets, so it's not really a big surprise that Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova went the distance during their Toray Pan Pacific Open semifinal in Tokyo.

What was surprising to find out was the fact that neither player had ever reached the finals of the prestigious Tokyo event.

Naturally, that streak came to an end when Kvitova defeated Williams 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) to keep hopes for an 11th career title and second of 2013 alive. “After winning it's always good feelings and I'm really happy with how I played,” Kvitova told the crowd after the match. “It was a really close match, every game was really up and down. It was about a few points.”

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There may be 10 years of age separating Williams and Kvitova, but there tends to be very little between them when they clash. That was true again tonight, as each player had her moments.

Williams took the first set behind fantastic returning, particularly on the backhand side. The 33-year-old American earned nine break points and converted two in the set, striking the pivotal blow in the sixth game. After Kvitova had saved three break points to get to deuce, she sailed a backhand long to hand Williams that pivotal break.

In the second set, Kvitova started to find her high gear after a rocky beginning. She had to go to deuce in the first two games, but avoided trouble with some brilliant serving to hold each time.

The 23-year-old then rushed to a 5-2 lead behind more solid serving that kept Williams off balance or on the stretch most of the time.

After meeting with her hitting partner and temporary coach David Witt for an on-court consult, Williams held to get within 5-3, but Kvitova served the set out to force her tour-leading 31st decider of 2013.

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Kvitova has gained a reputation for being a three-set savant this year and has now won 20 of her matches that have gone the distance against 11 losses.

With Williams playing her third three-setter in three nights and wearing heavy strapping on her right thigh for an undisclosed injury, the belief was that the edge in fitness was Kvitova's. Still, Williams pushed, showing no obvious signs of fatigue as the match pressed beyond the two-hour mark. She earned three break points at 2-2, but some brave shotmaking by the Czech led to another gritty hold of serve and a 3-2 lead.

At 4-all Williams would double fault to hand Kvitova a break point, then follow it up with a boomer down the T that Kvitova could only dump into the net.

It was a sign from Venus that there would be no surrender.

Kvitova didn't seem to want to yield, either.

A second consecutive love hold by the Czech forced a third-set tiebreaker between the former Wimbledon champions, but all drama ended there as Kvitova raced to a 6-0 lead thanks to some Williams flubbery. Particularly frustrating was the sitter on the first point of the breaker that Williams thunked into the net from a position where only a clean winner would have sufficed. It was a tantalizingly bad miss, and it seemed to be the pin that let all the air out of Williams on this evening.

For Williams to see her bid for a 45th career title go swirling down the drain at warp speed must have been frustrating, but the seven-time Grand Slam champion can take away the fact that she withstood all the physicality of five matches in five nights, the last three of which went the distance.

Meanwhile, Kvitova, still with so much promise at the age of 23, will play for her first Tokyo title on Saturday against either Angelique Kerber or Caroline Wozniacki.


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