Kvitova downs Cirstea to reach Miami Open final

MIAMI (AFP): Petra Kvitova powered into the final of the WTA Miami Open on Friday with a straight sets victory over Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.

Czech veteran Kvitova advanced to a Saturday showdown against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina with a 7-5, 6-4 win in 1hr 41min.

In a battle of two of the WTA’s more experienced players, Cirstea, playing in her first WTA semi-final in a decade, was fastest out of the blocks, taking a 5-2 lead in the first set.

But the Romanian, who is enjoying a revival in form having also reached the last eight at Indian Wells, failed to convert on either of the two set points she had on serve at 5-4, with Kvitova breaking twice to take the set.

The Czech’s momentum carried over into the second set where she broke Cirstea in the opening game, her third straight break, and from then it was smooth sailing for the 33-year-old.

The two-time Wimbledon winner lost just seven points in five service games in the second set as she advanced to the Miami final for the first time.

It was a disappointing end for the 32-year-old Cirstea, whose performances have been transformed since she began working with Swedish coach Thomas Johansson in the off-season.

Kvitova’s victory gives her the chance of a ninth career WTA 1000 title in what will be her 13th final.

The Czech hasn’t won a WTA 1000 since triumphing in Madrid for a third time in 2018.

Rybakina beat American Jessica Pegula in straight sets in the other semi, played on Thursday, and is looking to complete the “Sunshine Double” having won at Indian Wells earlier this month.

Kvitova and Rybakina have met twice previously with the Kazakhstan player winning in Ostrava but the Czech enjoying revenge in Adelaide in January.

“It’s 1-1 so we will see tomorrow who is going to take it. She’s playing very good, winning Indian Wells, returning here in the final. For sure it’s a great achievement,” said Kvitova.

“She’s a big hitter, big server as well. I’m the same. It depends really how we are going to handle the pressure from the opponent,” she added.

Cirstea tempered her disappointment at her exit with a reflection on a “Sunshine Swing” which saw her exceed most expectations.

“I worked very hard to be here and of course it’s nice to back up all this work with the results and definitely a quarter and a semi were great,” she said.

“Of course I’m a bit sad about today because I felt I had my chances but again I’m leaving the US with a smile on my face and with a lot of things to improve as well,” she added.

Kvitova opposes Wimbledon decision to allow Russian return

Two-times  Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova said she opposed the All England Club’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete at this year’s tournament.

Wimbledon last year banned players from Russia and Moscow-allied Belarus after the invasion of Ukraine and the Lawn Tennis Association also barred players from other events in the United Kingdom.

However, competitors from the two countries will be able to enter the Grand Slam in July if they compete as “neutral” athletes and comply with certain conditions.

“First of all, for sure I’m always staying against the war. For sure, I’m just more worried about the Ukrainian people and players,” Kvitova told reporters after winning her Miami Open semi-final against Sorana Cirstea.

“I appreciate that Wimbledon had a tough time last year not giving the points (after) the Russian and Russian didn’t play.

“I think they shouldn’t be allowed actually. In my opinion, (n)either to the Olympics. So I’m just a little bit on the Ukrainian side of this,” she said.

Kvitova said she was particularly concerned about Russian and Belarusian involvement in the Olympic Games.

“Not in the Olympics for sure, because I feel the Olympic Games are because we don’t want war in the world. So that’s my concern. I am really appreciating that Wimbledon didn’t take them last year,” she said.

Kvitova said that she and other players had not been consulted about the Wimbledon decision and the issue had not been discussed in the locker-room.

The All England Club, which runs Wimbledon, said the decision was made after talks with the UK government, Britain’s governing Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and international tennis bodies.

The men’s ATP tour and women’s WTA tour — who denied world ranking points for Wimbledon last year because of the ban on Russian and Belarusian players — welcomed the Wimbledon decision but Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned the move as “immoral”.