The result was emblematic of Petra Kvitova’s season to date. Flashes of brilliance mixed with prolonged periods of scratchy play, combining for an ultimately dissatisfying ending.
Dissatisfying because she’s already had a taste of Grand Slam success by spectacularly winning Wimbledon two years ago, and because none of her subsequent achievements have come close.
Tuesday's 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 quarter-final exit to unheralded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens could be the most dissatisfying result of all. In a year when the draw was wide open – no Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka – and in which Kvitova was the only former champion still alive, Wimbledon 2013 will always be the one that got away.
It was a dejected and wan Kvitova who faced the press to explain the defeat. “I'm disappoint[ed] right now. I felt that it's a big chance to be in the semifinal here. I really try to do everything what I can, but I lost,” she lamented.
“For sure [there] was a lot of talking about that I'm the highest seeded player in my half. Maybe it's making little bit more pressure, but I used to [this] already. That's something what I really have to be okay with this. I try it, and unfortunately I didn't make it. For now of course I'm quite sad, but I hope that I will be better.”
On paper, the contest was something of a mismatch. Kvitova was playing in her fourth straight quarter-final at the All England Club – not to mention her success at other Grand Slams – while Flipkens had never before made it to this stage at a Slam. The Czech had come through a tough draw to beat seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Carla Suarez Navarro, while Flipkens was yet to face a seed, the average ranking of her four previous opponents being a lowly 98.
Kvitova held significant advantages in height and power, and when the players arrived on Centre Court under a closed roof, it was yet another tick in the Czech’s column – her stellar indoor record included a streak of 27 wins throughout 2011 and 2012.
As they began their match, that counted for nothing. Feeling the effects of a virus, Kvitova vacillated between scorching winners and wild errors, while Flipkens was not awed by the occasion nor the setting.
In truth, Kvitova’s straight-sets fourth round win over Suarez Navarro bucked the trend of her Wimbledon campaign.
The No.8 seed was as erratic as we’ve ever seen her, playing solid tennis for periods before dissolving and surrendering large swathes of games at a time. She appeared to drag herself through the draw, possibly hindered by a strapped right knee and ankle, and today by her health, necessitating a visit from the trainer during the second set.
Kvitova appeared revitalised in the third and enjoyed a steadying hold to lead 1-0. But she could not shake her feisty opponent, and when she surrendered a 40-15 lead at 4-4 and dropped serve with an error off a routine drive-volley, her fate was effectively sealed.
“I should win this game. I was up, I think. But I had easy mistakes in the end of this game. It was bad for me,” she said.
Flipkens made it worse when she showed absolutely no sign of nerves in the biggest game of her life, serving it out thanks to two aces, including one on match point.
Last year, Flipkens couldn’t even contest Wimbledon qualifying - her ranking of No.262 saw her outside the cut-off mark. Kvitova, meanwhile, was the defending champion, trading blows at this very same stage of The Championships in an electrifying battle with eventual winner Serena Williams.
But since then, as Flipkens has staged a stunning rise up the WTA ladder, Kvitova has simultaneously slumped. “I can't say a number in a percentage where I am now,” she said when asked where her level stood compared with 2011 Wimbledon run. “I think it's not as high as 2011. For sure I have still some space where I can improve.
“I felt pretty good [this year]. I had good matches. That's important for me right now.”
And with her loss, a wacky Wimbledon just got wackier.
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