She stormed through the early rounds, dispensed with the world No.1 and defied anyone to arrest her momentum but in the end Ash Barty could not quite put to rights her 2018 Sydney International disappointment.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the tournament's fifth seed and world No.8, made it second-time unlucky for Barty, the local favourite, overcoming a first-set shellacking and visible physical discomfort to claim her second Sydney title 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) with a thrilling third-set tiebreak.
Pumped: Petra Kvitova of Czechoslovakia reacts after winning the women’s final against Ash Barty.Credit:AAP
The Australian steamrolled her Czech opponent in the first set but Kvitova found her footing to take the second 7-5 and pushed through cramping and consecutive double faults to claim the third in a nailbiter. It was her second title after defeating countrywoman Karolina Pliskova in straight sets in 2015.
Barty lost to Angelique Kerber in straight sets in the 2018 final and again found herself the bridesmaid on Ken Rosewall Arena, bringing to an end a dominant run in the tournament that saw her defeat three higher-ranked opponents including world No.1 Simona Halep, Elise Mertens and Kiki Bertens.
Bridesmaid again: Ash Barty stretches for a forehand in a tense Sydney International final.Credit:AAP
"Of course, it's tough to take, it's hard to put into words at the moment," Barty said.
"It's been a hell of a week, I couldn't have left any more on the court, and Petra came up with the goods when she needed to today.
"Sometimes when you play Petra you have those matches, where a lot of the time it's out of my control. She had the courage and she was brave, in that buster [tiebreaker] in particular, to take the game on. She deserved to win today."
Despite the disappointment, Barty will head to Melbourne with the wind at her back. She faces Thailand's Luksika Kumkhum, ranked 66th in the world, on Margaret Court Arena on Monday night.
The 22-year-old powered through the first set in 26 minutes, breaking the Czech's serve three times with her all-court game to wrap it up 6-1.
Glassware: Kvitova holds the winner’s trophy alongside runner-up Barty and her consolation prize.Credit:AP
Kvitova appeared to be troubled by her right thigh or hip and may also have been battling fatigue after rain delayed her semi-final clash with Aliaksandra Sasnovich for almost five hours on Friday night. The fifth-seed dispensed with the Belarusian qualifier in under an hour but did not get on to the court until near midnight.
She recovered to find some rhythm and then some dominance, the second set settling into a tit-for-tat clash, both women winning their service games until the 28-year-old broke Barty then took the set 7-5.
The third set went to a tiebreak after both women broke the other's serve three times. Kvitova appeared to struggle in the hot conditions and produced two double faults but took the tiebreak 7-3 when Barty lost her footing on the championship point.
"I just stayed in the game," Kvitova said. "She played really well from the beginning. I missed a lot. I was just trying to get back, hold serve and maybe wait for the chance which, in the end of the second set, it came and I took it. In the third set I was up and down, down a break but I was still believing in myself I could do it."
Barty suffered none of her opponent's discomfort and paid tribute to Kvitova's "bravery".
"I noticed towards the end she looked gassed a little bit, and took a few more risks and they paid off for her. She had the bravery to do that, I have to tip my cap to her, she played an extraordinary match today."
The Czech said she was battling in the first set and suffered cramps in the third, producing two consecutive double faults to take the game to the tiebreaker.
"It was such an amazing final, I was really down, very slow, from the beginning. I'm just happy to find a way to win it somehow," she said.
"It was a lot of nerves, some cramping as well, it was a long one, but it feels great."
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