At last, the search appears to be homing in on its target. As the upsets and upheavals of the first week spilled over into the second and Serena Williams lost out to Sabine Lisicki, Petra Kvitova moved nervously towards the head of the queue as one of the favourites for the title. In the absence of Serena, the hunt for a potential Wimbledon winner had turned up a contender.
Of all the players left standing in the draw, only Kvitova knows what it feels like to get her hands on the Venus Rosewater Dish and, if she has her way, she will be back on Centre Court on Saturday trying to do it again. Not that she relishes the extra pressure of being in the spotlight.
“Everybody is talking about it, that I'm highest seeded player in my half,” Kvitova said. “I’m supposed to be already in the final. That's something what is not really easy to hear. Otherwise, I mean, the girls who are in this rounds, they have to play best, too. I mean, they are in good form, they are in good shape. That's quite tricky for us.”
And it was not exactly straightforward as the former champion moved into the quarter-finals with a 7-6(5), 6-3 win over Carla Suarez Navarro. It is fair to say that Suarez Navarro does not have much by way of a grass-court pedigree – she lost in qualifying here last year and her best result is a third round appearance in 2009 – but that was not going to stop her: given a top player and a shot at the quarter-finals, she was willing to give it her all.
Alas, it was not enough. Then again, no part of Suarez Navarro is quite enough. In a world of towering, muscular champions, she stands a diminutive 5ft 4in. Conceding eight inches in height to her rival, the Spaniard would have to stand on a box to look Kvitova in the eye. And conceding more than a stone in weight to the world No.8, there was no way Suarez Navarro was going to hit Kvitova off the court.
No matter – size is not always important. As Marat Safin always used to complain whenever he faced the small but perfectly formed Olivier Rochus, what the slighter players lack in height, they more than make up for in speed (not that Marat used quite those words, particularly if he had just lost). Rochus used to drive Safin mad, buzzing around like court like a mosquito while the big, bear-like Russian swatted and flapped and could not lay a racket string on him.
So it was for Kvitova for much of the first set. Suarez Navarro was speedy, neat and tidy while Kvitova was powerful but edgy and sloppy. Then again, that is Kvitova for you – when the ball goes in, it is almost unreturnable. It is getting it in that is the problem. Her first two matches – she got a walk-over in the second round – were both three-setters and as opportunities went begging in the opening set against Suarez Navarro, it looked as if she was heading for another roller-coaster ride.
The nerves were not helped by the fact that Kvitova is not one of nature’s great tacticians. She has two basic game plans: hit the ball really, really hard or, for a change pace, absolutely leather it. Sticking with Plan A against the Spaniard, she finally found her range and once the tie-break was done and dusted, she was happily in charge and heading for the last eight.
There she will meet Kirsten Flipkens, the 7-6, 6-3 winner over Flavia Pennetta and a woman who has beaten the Czech twice in three meetings. But so far, so good. Kvitova is into the quarter-finals and nerves or no nerves, she is still on course for another shot at the final.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
20:19It was the wackiest of Wimbledons with the most unlikely of headline-makers: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Kimiko-Date Krumm, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli...View all