WUHAN, China - Petra Kvitova produced a ruthless performance to power past No.4 seed Simona Halep and into a second Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open final.
In stark contrast to Dominika Cibulkova, the winner of Friday's first semifinal, Kvitova kept her time on court to a minimum, requiring only 67 minutes to wrap up a 6-1, 6-2 victory and move within touching distance of reclaiming the title she won in 2014.
"It's amazing. I came to this tournament and really didn't expect this kind of performance," Kvitova said. "Physically I'm still so-so - I'm really happy that I'm not falling apart. But I played a really great match today in spite of everything, which really put the pressure on her."
On her day, there are few on tour capable of living with Kvitova. Unfortunately, this campaign those days have been few and far between. Struggling with form and fitness, it was not until the Olympics that the Czech showed her true colors, losing a thrilling semifinal against Monica Puig.
She would walk away with bronze, and although the color of medal was not what she had wished, the achievement alleviated the pressure weighing heavily on her shoulders. "The Olympics is just one in four years. For me the Olympic Games are very important. I grew up in a family where we were always watching the Olympics, so it's something special.
"Everything I did from the off-season to Rio, I was just going for the medal. I think that's helped me a lot with everything. The pressure was better afterwards."
At the US Open, Kvitova reached the fourth round, falling to eventual champion Angelique Kerber, and the return to Asia has seen her level rise further. Kvitova's unforced error count is usually an accurate gauge of how she is feeling and against Halep she was particularly stingy. In the end, she finished with only 16, while rattling off 34 winners - many of them spectacular.
The tone was set early on, Halep finding herself marooned several meters behind the baseline. From here she failed to track down a drop shot to slip 0-30 down in her opening service game. Kvitova bludgeoned another winner to bring up three break points, converting when she outmaneuvered the Romanian once more.
Halep had the chance to restore parity the following game, only to flash a forehand into the tape. The match was quickly slipping away in a blur of southpaw winners, Kvitova winning 18 of the next 19 points to take the set. The second set was almost as one-sided, and only a spirited rearguard effort from Halep in the final few games extended the contest beyond the hour mark.
Remarkably given her form, the win takes Kvitova through to her first final of 2016. And another against Cibulkova will continue her improbable late push for a spot at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
"I never have any expectations. I really love to play these big matches, in front of the crowd. Of course I will do my best tomorrow," Kvitova added. "I think she's improved a lot, so it will be a difficult match and I will fight again."