Many Grand Slams have passed since Petra Kvitova became a Wimbledon champion and while there were some performances to remember, others were as forgettable as they were fast.
Alongside a pair of semi-finals and two quarter-finals, she has only progressed beyond the third round in Grand Slams on one other occasion.
It’s a record that many of her playing peers would covet, but a long way from the heights that were predicted for the likeable Czech when she defeated Maria Sharapova to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish in 2011. This season has been particularly frustrating for Kvitova, with a first-round loss in Australia followed by a third-round exit at Roland Garros.
It’s understandable, then, that friendship was cast firmly aside when she met countrywoman Lucie Safarova in the semi-final, Kvitova securing a challenging but ultimately emphatic 7-6(1), 6-1 victory in an hour and 20 minutes. “To play Lucie on the Centre Court in the semi-final of Wimbledon, it's never easy. I did everything what I could. I mean, I was just very happy after that,” she said.
The Czechs, who have practised at the same Prostejov club together and are Fed Cup team-mates, chatted amicably before entering the court but were all business once the first ball was struck. Kvitova needed to be, considering that her 27-year-old opponent had discovered a new level in progressing to the first Grand Slam semi-final of her career without the loss of a set. “She played, I think, her best tennis here all the tournament,” Kvitova said. “She really deserves to be in the semi-final.”
Certainly Safarova showed a strong sense of belonging, in her first Centre Court outing at the All England Club. Dropping her serve in the opening game highlighted her nerves, but she recovered by securing her own break on the Kvitova serve just three games later. While the powerful Kvitova relied on her big serve and damaging forehand, Safarova was fast and equally determined.
It took a tie-break to determine that first set winner, with some untimely errors from the less-experienced Czech allowing Kvitova to edge ahead with her big serve and an emphatic forehand winner on set point.
“I'm just glad that I served well today,” said Kvitova, who had eight aces and 24 winners for the match. “I think it was maybe the key.”
So too was experience, as she seized momentum to claim the second set in just 29 minutes, the decisive breaks occurring in the second and sixth games. With her second Wimbledon final, Kvitova now has the opportunity to deliver the success that many expected after her earlier triumph at the All England Club.
Not that she’s concerned about having underachieved since then, Kvitova pointing out that at 24, she’s now more equipped for success. “There were a lot of positive things I got, but definitely when I won here in 2011 I needed to change a little bit myself on the court and off the court, as well, to get used to the pressure, media, and everything like that,” she said.
The next step in that career development will be adding to her Grand Slam trophy collection and the Czech is well aware of the challenges she’ll face from the first-time finalist Eugenie Bouchard on Saturday.
“We played last year in Toronto, I think. She was just coming up. I find her as a very solid and talented player,” Kvitova said. “She really seems confident in her game right now. She's moving very well. She's playing aggressively from near the baseline.”
But knowing that it’s Wimbledon that brings out the best in her powerful game, the former champion is relishing the opportunity to make it another Grand Slam to remember.
“I’m back in the final and I’m feeling well,” Kvitova warned. “I mean, it’s really tough to say about, but definitely I’m all ready for a final and I’m going to try my best.”
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