By John O'Brien
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Petra Kvitova got her WTA Finals campaign back on track with a hard fought 7-5 7-5 victory over Czech compatriot and Fed Cup team mate Lucie Safarova to record her first win of this year's elite eight-woman event on Wednesday.
Both women had lost their 'White Group' openers on Monday so were desperate to pick up a much-needed win and it was the double Wimbledon champion who made the most of her opportunities on the key points to emerge victorious.
"We actually are good friends from the Fed Cup, so I'm really glad the (final) is coming soon and we are going to be colleagues and not opponents," Kvitova told reporters.
"It's tough to play her... not only because she's like a very good player right now, in good form, but also playing a friend is a little bit tougher with emotions and everything.
"So it's not easy to handle all this kind of stuff."
The powerful left-handers took to court in identical outfits and were also almost impossible to separate on the scoreboard, with each player racing through their service games in a tight first set high on winners and low on unforced errors.
Kvitova appeared happy to keep the points short to conserve energy as she continues her battle with mononucleosis but was jolted into life when she gave up the first break point of the match at 5-5 in the opener, staving off the threat with a crosscourt winner that she greeted with a roared "Come on!".
A pair of huge serves put the double Wimbledon champion back in front and the set appeared destined for a tiebreak when Safarova led 40-15, but the French Open finalist wobbled and Kvitova capitalised, wrapping up the opener with a big forehand.
Safarova shrugged off the disappointment by racing out of the blocks in the second, breaking twice to storm 3-0 clear before the world number five rallied behind her formidable forehand to quickly erase the deficit.
Kvitova had seized the momentum and was threatening to run away with the contest when she held two break points to forge 5-3 ahead before Safarova stood firm through a mixture of guts and guile to drag it back to 4-4.
Both players were now playing their best tennis of the match but it was Kvitova who broke serve again to ensure a tiebreaker would not be needed, wrapping up victory in one hour, 49 minutes with a deep return that Safarova could only thump into the net.
"I was just playing point-by-point and I'm glad I turned it around," Kvitova said of her second set rally. "It was a really difficult match... always close at the end of the sets. So I think it was good for both of us."
The victory improved Kvitova's head-to-head record to 8-0 over Safarova but the pair will transform from rivals to team mates in Prague on Nov. 14-15 when the Czech Republic take on Russia in the Fed Cup final in search of a ninth title.
Play in the 'White Group' continues later on Wednesday when Spain's Garbine Muguruza takes on Germany's Angelique Kerber with both players looking to improve to 2-0 in round robin play.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)