Two years after stabbing, Kvitova into Australian Open final

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Two years ago, Petra Kvitova missed the Australian Open, just weeks after her racket-holding left hand was stabbed by an intruder at her home in the Czech Republic.

Two days from now, back at her best during what she calls her “second career,” Kvitova will play for the championship at Melbourne Park.

Taking control after the court’s retractable roof was closed as the temperature soared toward 100 degrees (38 Celsius) Thursday, the No. 7-seeded Kvitova surged to a 7-6 (2), 6-0 semifinal victory over 35th-ranked American Danielle Collins.

“It means everything,” Kvitova said of reaching her first major final since the December 2016 knife attack that led to hours of surgery on her hand.

Kvitova stretched her winning streak to 11 matches and has a chance to rise to No. 1 in the WTA rankings if she can collect her first Australian Open title to go alongside the two she earned at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014.

In Saturday’s final, Kvitova will face reigning U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka or 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova.

It was Pliskova who saved four match points and came back from 5-1 down in the third set to stun Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.

Against Collins, a two-time NCAA champion at the University of Virginia who was 0-5 at major tournaments until last week, Kvitova was more aggressive throughout, mixing big lefty forehands and well-timed pushes forward to the tune of a 30-9 edge in total winners.

But the key to the outcome might very well have been what happened at 4-all after 35 minutes of action: That’s when the decision finally was made to close the 15,000-seat stadium’s cover, drawing cheers of approval from broiling spectators.

Kvitova probably wanted to applaud, too.

“I was happier than the fans that the roof closed,” she said afterward. “I like to play indoors. It helped me a little bit.”

She’s made clear over the years she is not a huge fan of playing in stifling heat. Not too many people truly are, of course, but someone like Collins, a 25-year-old from Florida, might be more used to that sort of thing.

The match was suspended for about five minutes and when play resumed, it went from being completely even to tilted in Kvitova’s favor. She dominated the tiebreaker and the second set.

The chair umpire was Carlos Ramos, the official who penalized Williams a game in last year’s chaotic U.S. Open final, and Collins got into a couple of testy exchanges with him.

First in the tiebreaker, then in the opening game of the second set, Collins protested that Ramos was applying rules differently than umpires had in her earlier matches. Whether or not there was merit to what she was saying, it seemed clear that the back-and-forths with Ramos didn’t help Collins.

Gilbert Klier Junior hit with 12-month doping ban

Landon Bost/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY Network-Florida /USA TODAY NETWORK
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LONDON — Brazilian Gilbert Klier Junior, a bronze medalist at the 2018 Youth Olympics, has been banned for 12 months in a doping case, the International Tennis Integrity Agency said.

The ITIA said it had accepted that Klier Junior had not deliberately doped and that the banned substance SARM S-22 had entered his body through a contaminated supplement. However, it said he bore some responsibility, especially “following other high profile cases involving Brazilian tennis players and other sports people.”

The 22-year-old Klier Junior has a career high ranking of 354th and won bronze in the singles event at the 2018 Youth Olympics.

The ban was backdated to start from last June, when Klier Junior was first suspended from competition while the case was resolved.

Croatia advances in Davis Cup as Coric beats Thiem

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Borna Coric beat 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (3), 6-2 to send Croatia into the group stage of the Davis Cup.

Coric helped the Croatians win their second Davis Cup title in 2018, but he was sidelined when they lost in the 2021 final while missing a year of action with a right shoulder injury.

He returned to the tour last March, winning a Masters 1000 title in August in Cincinnati, Ohio, and rejoined the Croatians when they reached the Davis Cup semifinals last year.

His victory over Thiem, who has also dealt with injuries in recent years, gave Croatia a 3-1 victory in Rijeka. The Austrians had taken the tie against the No. 1 team in the Davis Cup rankings to a fourth match when Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler beat Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic 6-3, 7-6 (11) in the doubles match earlier Sunday.

Chile, Finland, the Netherlands, South Korea and the Czech Republic also completed victories Sunday to secure their places in the next round, which will be played in September.

On Saturday, the U.S. completed a sweep of Uzbekistan, while Serbia, France, Britain, Switzerland and Sweden also finished off victories. Those 12 countries will play in the group stage, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will then advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In Sunday’s other matches:

– Finland 3, Argentina 1: On indoor hard courts in Espoo, Finland, Harri Heliovaara and Emil Ruusuvuori edged Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, before Ruusuvuori secured the winning point and a personal 3-0 weekend by beating Facundo Bagnis 7-5, 6-1.

– Netherlands 4, Slovakia 0: On indoor hard courts in Groningen, Matwe Middelkoop and Wesley Koolhof sent the hosts through with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Alex Molcan and Lukas Klein. Middelkoop then beat Jozef Kovalik 6-4, 6-4.

– South Korea 3, Belgium 2: On indoor hard courts in Seoul, the hosts rallied from a 2-0 deficit after the first day. Min-Kyu Song and Ji Sung Nam kept them alive with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) victory over Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille. Soonwoo Kwon then beat David Goffin 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 before Seong Chan Hong completed the comeback with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Zizou Bergs.

– Czech Republic 3, Portugal 1: On an indoor clay court in Maia, Portugal, Jiri Lehecka wrapped up the victory by beating Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-1.

– Chile 3, Kazakhstan 1: On an outdoor clay court in La Serena, Chile, Cristian Garin beat Alexander Bublik 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 after the hosts had taken the lead with a victory by the doubles team of Alejandro Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera.