Serena Williams’s stunning 27-match winning streak stretching back to last year’s WTA finals was snapped in resounding fashion by Petra Kvitova Friday as the Czech progressed to the Madrid Open final 6-2, 6-3.
Kvitova has only recently returned to the tour after a two-month break after admitting to feeling physically and mentally exhausted, but she looked the fresher player in wrapping up victory in just over an hour on court.
“I was very slow off the mark. After my serve I wasn’t moving as well as I should have. I wasn’t in it, I wasn’t Serena today,” Williams said.
After a tight start, the Wimbledon champion reeled off four consecutive games from 2-2 to take the first set.
Kvitova then stormed into an apparently unassailable 5-1 lead in the second.
However, Williams had battled back from three match points down against Victoria Azarenka Wednesday and ensured a nervy end for Kvitova by getting one of the breaks back to close to 5-3.
Yet, there was to be no repeat of the 19-time Grand Slam champion’s heroics earlier in the week as Kvitova broke again on her first match point to seal her first victory over Williams in six attempts.
“I had never beaten her, so it is special day for me and I am happy it is in a semifinal here in Madrid so I can play the final,” Kvitova said.
Kuznetsova also kept her fairy-tale return to form going as she scored her first victory over Sharapova in seven years to reach her first premier final since 2009.
“This week I was fighting. I was a little bit lucky in some moments,” Kuzentsova said.
“Winning matches doesn’t take only [physical] strength, but mental strength also.”
Defending champion Sharapova was the heavy favorite to reach the final for a third consecutive year with the 29-year-old Kuznetsova having spent nearly six hours on court in the past two days to reach the last four.
However, it was the two-time Grand Slam champion who dictated from the off and didn’t drop her serve once in the match.
“I don’t think it caught me by surprise. I’m playing in a semifinal of a tournament, you have to be ready for it. She was just the better player,” Sharapova said.
The world No. 3 had come into Madrid on a slump having lost in her first round in Miami and Stuttgart.
And Sharapova insisted despite defeat that it had been a decent start to her outdoor clay court season as she builds up for her defense of the French Open later this month.
“I’m happy to get obviously to this stage. Having lost a few matches beforehand, I did a good job of setting a good base for myself coming through some really tough matches in the last couple of rounds.
“Obviously we have another tournament ahead of us next week [in Rome] which will also be an important part of the preparation. I think every match for any player at this stage before a Grand Slam is important, so it will be for me as well.”