MADRID (Reuters) - Petra Kvitova outlasted the unseeded Kiki Bertens to win a thrilling Madrid Open final on Saturday 7-6(8-6) 4-6 6-3 and become the first player to lift the trophy for a third time.
Czech Kvitova, ranked 10th in the world, struck the first blow in a tense match which lasted two hours 52 minutes by edging the tie-break at the end of a gruelling 75-minute first set, taking advantage of a third set point when Bertens found the net.
The Dutchwoman had beaten Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova in a sparkling week in the Spanish capital to reach her first premier mandatory final and recovered well from surrendering the first set to take the second.
She led by a break in the third but let her advantage slip and Kvitova broke twice in a row to take a 4-2 lead in the decider.
Bertens broke back to make it 4-3 but lost her next service game and Kvitova served out the final game to love, sealing victory when Bertens hit the tramlines with a backhand.
In doing so, she took her landmark third title, surpassing the two each won by Serena Williams and Simona Halep in Madrid, which established a women’s section in 2009.
“Everything what I had in my body, I just tried to put it out, even if it was very, very tough today,” Kvitova said.
“She played great tennis. It was a big fight. We both should be very proud of this beautiful final we played today.”
Bertens paid tribute to her opponent and agreed with Kvitova that the final had been a thrilling spectacle.
“It was a great final. I had some chances in the beginning of the third, but didn’t take it. Petra was playing some unbelievable shots there. So, yeah, credit to her today,” she said.
Twice-Wimbledon winner Kvitova was forced out of action for more than five months last year after her racket hand was stabbed by a burglar who broke into her apartment in December 2016.
But she has returned with a vengeance, winning the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy, the Qatar Total Open and the Prague Open this year before making history in Madrid.
“It feels sweet and weird as well,” added Kvitova.
“I didn’t really expect that, even the same time last year. Even coming from Prague last week, I didn’t think I could be in the final, winning another trophy. My body is exhausted, so I’m pretty surprised.
“Every title feels great. Winning three times here in Madrid, it means something.”
Reporting by Richard Martin,; Editing by Neville Dalton/Gene Cherry