Simona Halep

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova dropped just three games to dismiss Simona Halep in two sets in the semi-finals at the Wuhan Open Friday.

The Czech displayed the tennis that once saw her two match wins from ascending to world number one as she beat Halep 6-1, 6-2 to reach her second final at the $2.6 million hard court event in China.

The Romanian fourth seed denied Kvitova her first match point with an unusual backhand volley, taking the second set to 5-2, but was unable to swing the momentum of the game in her favour.

“I tried, but (it) was too late to change something at 6-1, 5-1. It’s a bit too late with someone that is playing this way,” Halep told reporters after the match.

Despite the loss, by reaching the Wuhan semi-finals Halep has booked her spot in the year-ending eight-player WTA Finals for the third consecutive year.

Kvitova’s return to form in China comes after a choppy year that began with her splitting from coach of seven years David Kotyza and has seen her slip to 16 in the world rankings — her lowest spot since 2011.

She made a series of early round exits this season, failing to get beyond the fourth round at any of the Grand Slams, until a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics appeared to turn the tide for the 26-year-old.

“From the time (Rio) I felt better as well mentally, and the confidence was there. I played great matches in Rio. I think that helped me for the tournaments after Rio,” Kvitova said after the semi-final win. 

– Strong comeback –

Kvitova will meet Dominika Cibulkova in the finals on Saturday, after the Slovak rallied from one set down to beat double Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Rain delays meant that Cibulkova has spent more than six hours on court in the last two days, playing both a fourth round and quarter final match on Thursday — and claiming the scalp of US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova en route.

Her strong run at Wuhan marks an impressive return for the 27-year-old who missed four months of the season in 2015 after having surgery on her left foot.

A left calf injury also forced her to withdraw from the Rio Olympics.

“It’s never easy to come back after injury, especially when your ranking drops,” said Cibulkova after the match.

But she has reached five finals this year and the quarter finals at Wimbledon, and is now just points away from qualifying for the year finale in Singapore for the first time.

“I’m a good player, I can beat top players. But I was missing consistency in my game. This is the first year that I’m really consistent playing the whole year,” the Slovak said.

Meanwhile, 31-year-old Kuznetsova — who reached world number two in 2007 — is enjoying a late-career resurgence and reaching the semi-finals at Wuhan will likely see her reach her highest ranking in six years when next week’s leaderboard is released.

“I lost little bit my way when I got broken in second set because I felt like I was on top of the game after I won first set,” Kuznetsova told reporters after the match. – Agence France-Presse

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