Birmingham, England (AP) — Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova beat unseeded Ashleigh Barty 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 Sunday in the Aegon Classic final to win her first title since her playing hand was injured in a knife attack at her home.
Kvitova was playing only her second tournament and seventh match since she was attacked in December.
“It’s hard to say anything but I think I’ve been through a very difficult time in my life, and it wasn’t about the tennis, but about coming back healthy and alive and moving my fingers properly and everything like that,” Kvitova said.
“This is something clearly special. It’s some bonus to have in my life and my career and everything.”
It was the Czech leftie’s first grass-court final since her triumph at 2014 Wimbledon and her 20th career title in her 27th final.
Barty won her first career title in March in Kuala Lumpur, and became the first Australian finalist here in 25 years.
While her serving was inconsistent — 13 aces and seven double faults against Barty — Kvitova’s ground strokes looked as penetrating and as hard-to-read as ever. The Czech even saw the silver lining in losing the opener.
“It was nice to lose the first set, and that I had to fight for the second and for the third,” Kvitova said. “I think (it) will give me some extra confidence that I am still able to fight.”
Barty won her first 11 points on serve, and conceded only one point in her first four service games. She broke Kvitova’s serve at the second attempt, took the first set and put Kvitova under pressure in the opening game of the second.
Kvitova clung on and the match changed course. She came up with two fine returns to break serve, began to play more freely and held for 3-0 and 4-1.
By now Kvitova was striking her ground strokes harder, scoring brilliantly with her inside-out forehand, and she closed out the second set with two aces in three points.
Kvitova got an early break but Barty broke back in a see-saw final set. Kvitova finished with a battery of attacks, which steamrollered 17 of the last 18 points, and won with an ace.
“I could not have imagined a better comeback than I am having now,” Kvitova said.