(Reuters) - Petra Kvitova showed she will be a serious contender for a third Wimbledon title after beating Australian Ashleigh Barty 4-6 6-3 6-2 to win the Aegon Classic in Birmingham on Sunday in just her second tournament since returning from a knife attack injury.
The Czech, who won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014, suffered a knife attack during a robbery at her home in December that left her with a damaged hand and sidelined her until last month’s French Open.
The 27-year-old not only looked untroubled by her hand this week but also looked back to her best with her explosive serve often too much for Barty as she produced 13 aces.
Kvitova served out for the title in emphatic fashion -- to love and ending with an ace -- before celebrating, in her typically understated style, with a broad smile.
Her last final on grass had been her triumph at Wimbledon three years ago against Eugenie Bouchard and while her talk on arrival at Edgbaston was purely about her delight to be playing again, she clearly has bigger goals now.
“I like to play finals on grass. I wish I could have more. I won’t be sad if it is in a couple of weeks (at Wimbledon) but there is still a lot of work to be done,” she said in her on-court interview.
”It was an amazing week, an amazing tournament. From my first hits on the grass I felt great, it was encouraging to get into the grass season.
“I came to play, to improve my game, I didn’t really have any expectation. I wanted to play my best which I showed today and I hope I can keep doing that,” she added.
Barty, who three years ago took time out from the sport to play in Australia’s domestic women’s cricket competition, had pulled off an upset in the semi, beating Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, the 2015 Wimbledon runner-up.
Her punchy and tenacious approach was effective again, as she lost one point in her first four service games and took the first set with some comfort.
But Kvitova settled into her rhythm in the second, taking a 5-1 lead before stuttering a little at the end of the set with two double-faults handing her opponent a break.
But the Czech kept her composure and took the contest into a third set, where she broke in Barty’s first service game.
The Australian was in no mood to surrender however, breaking back for 2-2, only for Kvitova to respond in kind and then run away with the match.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis and Ian Chadband