WTA Birmingham: Petra Kvitova sets up an all-Czech semifinal with Lucie Safarova

Seventh seed Petra Kvitova has played scintillating grass court tennis throughout the week at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham. The world number 16 continues her remarkable comeback after a devastating stabbing to her left hand when an intruder invaded into her house in the Czech Republic six months ago.

Nevertheless, the two-time Wimbledon champion had her toughest test since her comeback against fifth seed Kristina Mladenovic, who is one of the in-form players on the WTA circuit in 2017. Kvitova dispatched the 22-year-old, 6-4, 7-6 (5) in one hour and 43 minutes, and it is the first time that Kvitova has managed to win three back-to-back matches on grass since winning her second Wimbledon title in 2014, setting up a clash with countrywoman Lucie Safarova in the semifinals with a place in the final at stake.

Kvitova shines in the first set

Mladenovic served first in this contest and she was immediately broken by Kvitova. Furthermore, the two-time Wimbledon champion was broken back for the first time in this tournament 1-1 in the second game of the match. However, that didn't bother Kvitova as she broke serve once again with a crushing forehand return winner down the line to create the first break point, and she took it by virtue of a Mladenovic double fault.

The world number 16 recorded the first service game of the match, consolidating the break with an ace down the T, with a hold to love, leading 3-1. The 22-year-old was under pressure on her serve once again but she found some good first serves, to remain in touch with the Czech.

Kvitova was virtually unplayable as her serve and forehand winners down the line were doing the trick. Mladenovic felt the pressure from the two-time Wimbledon champion in her next service game as she was taken to deuce twice despite taking a 40-0 lead. Fortunately for the fifth seed, she was able to hold onto her serve but trailed 3-4.

Mladenovic's level of tennis improved in the second set (Photo by Mike Egerton / PA)
Mladenovic's level of tennis improved in the second set (Photo by Mike Egerton / PA)

The seventh seed had no troubles serving with an ace out wide, and service winner out wide to lead 5-3. Mladenovic was pleased to have a comfortable service game for once but it was too late as the 27-year-old clinched the first set holding to love in 40 minutes.

The two-time Wimbledon champion advances to the semifinals for the first time

This match could have ended rather quickly for the Frenchwoman as she was facing two break points at 15-40. She saved both of the break points, but a third one quickly followed for Kvitova, however, a powerful backhand down the line from Mladenovic's racquet forced the error from Kvitova.

However, the inevitable occurred as the two-time Wimbledon took an early decisive break at the fourth time of asking with Mladenovic's drop shot failing to go over the net and sailing the net hopelessly.

Kvitova consolidated the break with ease as she dished out an ace out wide, with her serve being a dangerous weapon in this match. Moreover, Mladenovic was still fighting as she trailed 15-30, she produced two back-to-back aces out wide and held onto her serve.

The match continued to go with serve with no players facing any troubles on their serve. The world number 12 ensured that the break deficit was only one, and she held to serve to love but still trailed 3-4.

The former world number two's lefty serve was doing the trick, and her favored serve down the middle and forehand winner down the line gave her a crucial 5-3 lead. The match seemed to be over when Mladenovic was serving to stay in the match as Kvitova produced a thumping forehand winner down the line. Nevertheless, despite being two points from defeat on multiple occasions, Mladenovic produced some sublime drop shots. She held onto her serve which was vital, and asked the Czech, the serving out question.

The world number 16 was too good in the big moments of the match (Photo by Mike Egerton / Getty)
The world number 16 was too good in the big moments of the match (Photo by Mike Egerton / Getty)

Surprisingly, the two-time Wimbledon champion was unable to serve out the match as she committed two double faults, and she was broken for the second time of the match by committing a backhand unforced error sailing long, leveling proceedings at 5-5.

Both players held onto serve with ease in the next couple of the games, and they were locked into a second set tiebreak. Both players surrendered a mini-break advantage in the tiebreak, and Mladenovic came out on top in a crucial rally, which was the longest of the match to lead 3-1.

However, the pendulum swung in the tiebreak once more as Mladenovic committed an untimely double fault, and the Czech won the next two points on her serve with crushing forehand winners down the line, roaring after winning the point as she knew how big the points were at the time of the match.

The Frenchwoman was fighting as she produced a drop shot, Kvitova managed to run fast and retrieve it, and under pressure, Mladenovic produced a delightful lob to level the tiebreak at 4-4. Furthermore, the dual Wimbledon champion was in the ascendency as she regained the mini-break with a fierce return.

She created her first match point with a serve out wide, Mladenovic saved it with a delightful forehand winner down the line, however, Kvitova won the match by virtue of a forehand return winner down the line by virtue of the net cord helping.

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