If any of the spectators on No.1 Court had been wondering about the merit of the tall Czech Petra Kvitova to be the reigning Wimbledon Ladies' Champion their doubts were set at rest by the spectacular nature of her 6-1, 6-0 destruction of fellow left-hander Varvara Lepchenko in just 53 minutes to reach the last 16.
Lepchenko, a 26-year-old born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, who switched nationality and became an American citizen in September last year, simply had no answer to the torrent of forehand winners from the racket of the 22-year-old Kvitova and her tendency to self-destruct with six double-faults only served to hasten her departure from this third round match.
Kvitova has now won her first three matches in defence of her title in straight sets, and at a cost of just 13 games.Next up in Monday's fourth round is Italy's Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion, who will expect to provide sterner opposition than that offered by Lepchenko, whose best tournament achievements this year have been quarter-final appearances in Memphis and Madrid and a fourth round at Roland Garros.
A pair of double-faults in her opening service game were enough to put Lepchenko on the back foot and to offer extra assurance to Kvitova that this would not be an over-demanding occasion. She swept the first five games before Lepchenko was able to get into the match and by then it was far too late to salvage a disastrous opening set, though she did manage to collect two break points at 1-5 down, to which Kvitova responded with four successive points, including a finely judged forehand drop volley and another crunching forehand winner at set point.
Now on an eye-catching roll of winning strokes, the Czech promptly broke Lepchenko in the first game of the second set with another of her forehand specials which left the American scrambling along the baseline and swishing at fresh air. The juggernaut gathered unstoppable pace after that, the only blip coming in the fourth game as Kvitova briefly caught the double-fault disease by perpetrating two in succession but she promptly blasted her way out of that corner, rounding off a decidedly one-sided contest with a crunching service winner.
Without adding to her career total of seven titles in a year marred by injury and illness, Kvitova has shown steady form with four semi-final appearances, including the Australian and French Opens, but her first venture on grass (at Eastbourne) as second seed ended in first round defeat. Now, with excellent timing, she is fine-tuning her grass-court skills in readiness for Wimbledon's second week.
Kvitova revealed afterwards that after playing Lepchecnko at Roland Garros she knew that the path to victory could be followed behind strong serving. Of today's victory, she said, "I felt well and the score looked easy but some rallies were good. But I like to play on grass, here especially, and it's nice to know that I can play here very well.
"I didn't arrive here with confidence because I lost my first match at Eastbourne and played so bad but every round I have played here things have got better. But it is very difficult to play as well as I did at Wimbledon last year, it was seven unbelievable matches. This year it's still a very open tournament."
Kvitova said she has been receiving treatment for back problems since arriving at The Championships but that it had not bothered her today. She will be hoping the same can be said when the matches become more demanding.