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Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic celebrates a point over Li Na from China during the final at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament Monday, August 13, 2012 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic celebrates a point over Li Na from China during the final at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament Monday, August 13, 2012 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Kvitova defeats Li to win Rogers Cup Add to ...

Winning the women’s Rogers Cup was a breakthrough event for Petra Kvitova.

Not only was it the 22-year-old Czech’s first WTA Tour victory of the year, it was also the first of her eight career titles that was won on North American soil.

”I hope it will continue,” said Kvitova, who said this week she has had trouble winning in North America because the high humidity affects her asthma. ”North America is always tough for me and I’m so glad how I played here this week.”

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Kvitova defeated China’s Li Na 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in two hours 17 minute final on Monday night before a less-than capacity crowd at Uniprix Stadium.

The tournament is also at the start of the hardcourt season leading into the U.S. Open at the end of the month.

”It’s great,“ said Kvitova, who won six titles last year, including Wimbledon. ”I finally won a title this year. It was a good final, a good fight from both sides.”

She won $360,000 while Li got $180,000. The win avenged a loss to Li at Sydney this year and evened their all-time matchup at two victories apiece.

”It was a tough match, this was a tennis war,” said 30-year-old Li. ”Both players played good.

”She’s very tough. She plays the ball so deep. I felt I was always on defence. The last two matches I felt I could be aggressive on the court, but this one I felt I was 70 per cent of the time on defence.”

The match pitted two grand slam champions from 2011, as Li took the French Open. Li is 0-3 in tournament finals this year.

Kvitova, seeded fifth, struggled to start, hitting several balls long, and fell behind 3-1 before she found the range with her forehand and charged back to take the lead. Even then, she needed to save three break points to take a 6-5 lead, then won the set on her fifth break point against 10th-seeded Li.

Spectators were stunned to see Li take the first 16 points of the second set to grab a 4-0 lead before Kvitova finally held serve.

But Kvitova got her game back for the third, hammering shots deep in the hardcourt that Li could not return. Li didn’t help herself by hitting two easy smashes into the net.

Her service was broken at 3-2 when she doubled faulted, then had a return fly wide off the rim of her racket.

”Between the second and third sets when I was in the locker room changing my clothes, I knew I had to attack the balls and play much faster than in the second set, and have a better first serve percentage,” said Kvitova, who punctuated the win with an ace on match point.

Kvitova, a southpaw who won on International Lefthanders Day, reached the final with a three-set victory over seventh-seeded Caroline Wozniacki.

Li had a tougher route, getting past local prospect Eugenie Bouchard, eighth-seeded Sara Errani and second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska just to reach the semifinals.

There she roared back from a 5-1 third-set deficit to defeat another Czech lefty, Lucie Safarova.

Under agreement with the WTA, organizers had a private jet waiting at the airport to take the finalists to the next Tour stop in Cincinnati.

It was the first day of the week-long Rogers Cup with no rain delays, but the 11,659-seat centre court was still about 2,000 under capacity as fans stayed home. Most of it went up against the London Olympics as well, which also dampened the usual buzz around the event.

Some star players also either skipped or withdrew from the tournament, including Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

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