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Riding the wind

I have the best memories for this court and I’m looking forward to the final.

Agence France-Presse

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PETRA Kvitova survives Jessica Pegula to book a final ticket in the Qatar Open. / David Gray/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — Petra Kvitova withstood some inspired tennis from Jessica Pegula and high winds to win 6-4, 6-4 and reach the final of the Qatar Open, where she will face Garbine Muguruza.

Muguruza received a walkover into Saturday’s title match after fellow former world’s No. 1 Victoria Azarenka dropped out because of the back pain that dogged her quarterfinal win over Elina Svitolina on Thursday.

Czech Kvitova’s win looked far from assured when she went down 2-4 in the second set before her mistakes melted away and she made short work of her American opponent.

No. 4 seed Kvitova, a Grand Slam champion unlike Pegula, elected to receive after winning the toss.

But her big serve and stride seemed disrupted by the strong evening breeze at the Khalifa Tennis Complex, a stone’s throw from the Doha seafront.

“It was very, very windy and it was very tough — it wasn’t about tennis; it was about putting the ball into the court, and that’s what I tried,” Kvitova said after her win on Friday.

The confidence Pegula showed in her Last Eight clash against Karolina Pliskova, who she broke nine times, shone through from the outset against Kvitova, as she negotiated the conditions to go ahead.

Kvitova broke in the third game but Pegula immediately broke back, judiciously adjusting her play to overcome the wind.

The breeze took several of Kvitova’s returns wide of the mark, hampering her ability to build momentum against Pegula.

“She is improving since last year and it was already a very tough one as we saw she can really play some volleys as well,” Kvitova said.

Kvitova saw off Pegula 6-4, 6-3 at last year’s US Open.

As the set progressed Pegula began to struggle with the wind and Kvitova broke in the seventh and ninth games before holding serve to claim the hard-won set.

Pegula appeared to gained the upper hand as she won the first three games of the second set, but Kvitova slowed her march during a precisely executed winning service game.

Kvitova won an impressive break back to claim the fifth game.

As the set developed, two-time Wimbledon winner Kvitova mixed up her play resorting to several slices that changed the pace of the encounter.

But Pegula maintained her composure, using a cunning drop shot to break Kvitova and dominate the sixth game.

Kvitova broke back at once and then held her serve to tie the set.

In the ninth game, Pegula handed Kvitova a first break point with an erroneous challenge that the American salvaged with a sublime shot.

Kvitova let out her signature screech when the game went to a second break point that allowed her to claim the point and a game that proved to be the turning point.

The Czech held serve to love to seal victory.

“I have the best memories for this court and I’m looking forward to the final,” Kvitova said.

“It is” deja vu of 2018 when she triumphed 3-6, 6-3 6-4 over Muguruza in the Qatar Open final, she said.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she added.

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