On an overcast Court No.2, shades of 2011. Petra Kvitova, Ladies' Singles champion three years ago, marches on to the last eight with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Peng Shuai on a special day for Czech tennis.
Kvitova is one of three Czech women through to the Ladies’ Singles quarter-finals, a first at The Championships. One is guaranteed to reach the semi-finals – Kvitova next faces Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, while Lucie Safarova is also in the bottom half of the draw after beating compatriot Tereza Smitkova earlier on Monday. No nation was better represented in the singles draws at the start of the second week of The Championships.
“I think we – Lucie definitely – prefer an aggressive game,” said Kvitova in an effort to explain the trio’s 2014 success. “Barbora is very good with the tactics and she has great touch and great volleys, slice, everything like that. So I think it's just the grass suits us, definitely.”
For her part, Kvitova – brimming with confidence following her third round win against five-time champion Venus Williams – wants to play down the comparisons between her current run and 2011 triumph. “I mean, it's a different time,” she said. “It's already three years, so I really can't compare it. I'm feeling confident, and that's important right now.”
She can be the best kind of bully on court – hard-hitting, unrelenting and capable of firing back a smart answer when put in an awkward spot. So fierce was the Czech’s return game that at times Peng found the ball back at her feet before she had recovered her ground from the serve.
The Chinese 28-year-old could not generate as much power as Kvitova but she was able to re-channel it, and her quick hands and double-fisted drives from both wings regularly wrong-footed the 2011 champion to stay in touch in the first set.
After saving three early break points, Peng might have stolen a lead at 3-3 when Kvitova overcooked a forehand to trail 30-40, but the Czech fired her way out of trouble with some more huge hitting from that leftie forehand. From there Kvitova raised her game, bringing up break point at 3-4 with a smash and powering another sterling return at Peng’s feet before holding to love to seal the set.
Another ripped forehand return at 1-1 in the second paved the way for an earlier break in the second, and with that Peng’s challenge faded. Kvitova gave up just one unforced error in the second set and finished the match with 25 winners, a consummate performance.
“After my match against Venus I thought it's going to be very difficult emotionally and physically, but I had two days off, which was nice,” Kvitova said. “I could relax a little bit and focus on this match, and I think that I did it well – I was focusing on every point.”
The Czech takeover in the bottom half of the draw may be historic, but Kvitova admits the notion of facing a compatriot with a Grand Slam semi-final berth on the line is a tough assignment. “I’ve had good practice,” she said. “I played [Andrea] Hlavackova, and of course with Barbora it's going to be very a similar feeling, a Czech one on the other side.
“We played last time quite a long time ago, so I'm not sure how it's going to go. And we never played on the grass. The tactics will be totally different, definitely. She's playing not like everyone here. She's really going for her volleys and playing different game, so that's what I need to focus on.”
Focus. So often a fleeting companion in the past, it has been Kvitova’s mantra at Wimbledon and a key component of her armoury. If she can maintain it, she will take some stopping.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
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