Petra Kvitova was delighted to come through the “mental challenge” provided by Hsieh Su-wei as she fought back from a set down on Friday to book a place in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final.
The No 2 seed, champion of the event in 2013, needed more than two hours to see off her Taiwanese rival on Centre Court, eventually winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
The match represented the third time Kvitova has been pushed to three sets this week and the Czech, vying to reach her third final already this season, looked visibly exhausted following another tough encounter.
"I'm pleased with my mental focus after losing the first set, that I was calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set," she said.
"I still felt that I can do that somehow. I don't know. It was something weird. It's not really happening often to me. But that's helped me a lot today to feel that I can do that or I can battle to the third."
Kvitova was broken twice in the first set, but responded in the second with two breaks of her own before drawing level in the match on her fourth set point. An exchange of breaks at the beginning of the third set the tone for a keenly contested decider, although Kvitova broke once more immediately and showing significant resolve to outlast her opponent.
The two had met three times before, with Hsieh never taking a set off Kvitova. However, the world No 31 has been in inspired form this week, and was seeking a fourth victory against a top-10 seed. Also, Hsieh is one of the more unpredictable players on tour, known for her variation of shots and tenacity.
"Going to the court knowing that you don't know what will be there, what kind of shot will be there, how she going to return or she will not return, if she going to miss or making the winners," Kvitova said.
"She likes to play down the line a lot, something that doesn't really happens many times compared to other opponents. Knowing that, of course, you have to be prepared mentally and physically as well."
Kvitova has started 2019 well, with victory in Sydney last month followed swiftly by a runner-up finish at the Australian Open. Last week, though, the two-time Wimbledon champion gave evidence at the prosecution of an intruder who attempted to rob her at her home in 2016, an ordeal in which Kvitova suffered injuries to her playing hand that threatened to end prematurely her career.
A third final of the season, therefore, constituted a welcome distraction.
"It's a bit weird, to be honest," Kvitova said. "I didn't really expect anything like that. I didn't expect anything that I already achieved this year. For me, everything is just bonus.
"As I mentioned, the tennis, it's a bit like escape this week. This is unbelievable to be in the final when I'm escaping from something. Yeah, very interesting."