Aussie Ash Barty’s winning streak against one of her closest friends on the WTA Tour is over after a thrilling semi-final slugfest in Doha.
Aussie Ash Barty’s winning streak against one of her closest friends on the WTA Tour is over after a thrilling semi-final slugfest in Doha.

Barty beaten in WTA’s biggest rivalry

Petra Kvitova battled past world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty 6-4 2-6 6-4 on Saturday morning (AEDT) to set up a Qatar Open final against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.

The two-time Wimbledon winner overcame a second-set blip to reach the 37th WTA final of her career and her second in Doha, where she won the 2018 title.

Kvitova ended a run of four straight defeats to Barty, including in the Australian Open quarter-finals earlier this year.

"I did have chances in the last meetings with her as well, but today I was just maybe braver and that's how it is," Kvitova said.

It will be Kvitova's first final since April last year in Stuttgart. The 29-year-old Czech, ranked 11th in the world, is chasing a 28th tour title, having lost only nine finals.

"I always bring something else in the finals and I just love playing finals," said Kvitova.

"That's why I'm playing tennis, for those trophies, and playing a final is something like that, you are very close to have the title, but it's still very far."

She struggled for rhythm in the second set after dominating the first, but managed to clinch the crucial break in the seventh game of the decider.

Petra Kvitova and Ashleigh Barty embraced after their blockbuster.
Petra Kvitova and Ashleigh Barty embraced after their blockbuster.

"I think Ash started to play more slices in the beginning of the second set, so it took me a while to get to used to (it) and be back in my game with my aggressive game, which I tried to play in the first set," Kvitova added.

Australia's Barty has now lost in back-to-back semi-finals after her last-four loss to eventual champion Sofia Kenin in Melbourne.

"It's been a very positive week, it really has, and tonight was no different. It was an exceptional match," said the reigning French Open champion.

"Obviously you look at a match and you debrief it, but I think (it was) another really great contest with Petra."

Tennis writer Tumaini Carayol posted on Twitter it is the seventh time the two close friends have faced each other on court in the past 14 months.

"Really high quality match in what is essentially the main rivalry on the WTA right now," he wrote.

"Barty and Kvitova have now played 7 times in the past 14 months. Although she lost her way a little after her injury last summer, Kvitova's consistency these days is very impressive. Never thought it would happen."

Earlier on Friday, Sabalenka dispatched Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-3.

Ninth seed Sabalenka broke former two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova four times as she reached a 10th career WTA final - her first of the 2020 season.

"I'm really happy with the level I'm playing right now and well, we'll see what's going to happen tomorrow, but for sure I will bring everything I have," said the 21-year-old.

Sabalenka has won five WTA titles despite never having reached a Grand Slam quarter-final.