Petra Kvitova will look to make it two Birmingham Classic victories in two years when she faces Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova in the final on Sunday. Kvitova, who started the calendar year as the world number #29 due to a hand injury, has had a good 2018, returning to the top ten on the back of consistently solid results. Rybarikova, meanwhile, will be eager to capitalise on her first finals appearance since October of last year. But who will lift the title in Britain’s second city?
The pair have made a habit of meeting each other late in tournaments. Of their six career match ups, four have been in tournament finals, while the other two have been in a semifinal and a quarterfinal. Kvitova has generally had the measure of Rybarikova, winning five of these matches. They have not, however, played in the recent past. Their last match against each other was in 2014, and the one before that was in 2011.
Of her five career wins against Rybarikova, Kvitova has won four of them in straight sets, though a couple of these were still tightly contested. All of these wins have come on hard court. The solitary victory earned by Rybarikova against Kvitova was on clay back in 2011, when she won 6-3 6-4. This will be the first time the two have met on grass, which adds an interesting dynamic to the match up considering it is both women's favoured surface.
Path to the final
Kvitova has been impressive, winning every match in straight sets and not conceding more than four games in any set throughout the tournament. Her first round match up was probably her most difficult, but she won through against Johanna Konta with a 6-3 6-4 victory. She followed that up with a 6-2 6-2 win over Australian Daria Gavrilova, before beating Julia Goerges 6-1 6-4. In the semis, she came up against Michaela Buzarnescu of Romania, and won 6-3 6-4.
Rybarikova has also played well on her way to the final, dropping just a single set along the way. She opened her tournament with an impressive 6-2 6-3 win over the third seed Karolina Pliskova, before dropping her only set of the tournament in a 3-6 6-2 6-1 comeback win over Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic. She easily disposed of qualifier Dalila Jakupovic, 6-2 6-4 in the quarters, before winning through to the final in a tight 7-6 6-4 win over Barbara Strycova.
How do they match up?
Kvitova is renowned for her powerful and aggressive game style. Standing at 182cm, the left hander is able to generate plenty of speed on her serve, as well as from her groundstrokes. She tends to play with a lot of aggression, using her power to create plenty of winners. At times, however, this can be to her detriment, as she can also rack up the unforced errors, but when she is playing well makes her almost unstoppable.
Rybarikova’s agility will allow her to combat Kvitova’s power to an extent. She will likely spend much of the match defending, though she is more than capable of getting on the front foot as well. She has a reliable two-handed backhand and a solid forehand, and will look to come to the net as often as she can. Grass is her best surface, as illustrated by her run to the Wimbledon semifinals last year, so expect her to put up a good fight against her more fancied opponent.
Kvitova will go in as favourite, and has shown that she can win here in the past. Rybarikova, however, won’t make things easy for her, and will force Kvitova to play a lot of extra shots. Kvitova is more than capable of going off-kilter, and if Rybarikova can defend the court like she is able to, the Slovak will be in with a good chance. Kvitova will be slightly too strong though, winning her second consecutive Birmingham Classic in three sets.