Wimbledon 2014 Women's Semifinals: Safarova vs. Kvitova Preview and Prediction
Few considered the chances of a career journeyman like laughing, lovable Lucie Safarova. But here she is, 27, playing in her first Slam semifinal. She'll take on fellow Czech and friend, Petra Kvitova.
The two emerged from the bottom draw, which featured three Czechs in the quarterfinals. The matchup pits a Wimbledon champion against a woman trying to become this year's Marion Bartoli.
Meanwhile, Kvitova will try to become the only active player on the WTA Tour, other than Serena and Venus Williams, to hold two Wimbledon titles.
Who Has the Historic Edge?
Kvitova leads their head-to-head, 5-0. Four of those matches were this year. They last met last month in Eastbourne, England, at the Aegon International. It was by far their closest encounter. Kvitova won 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(4). It was also their only meeting on grass.
In that match, Kvitova took the first set 6-1 and seemed to be cruising to a straight sets win. But up 5-3, she faltered and lost the next set 5-7. She blamed her drop in play on her serve letting her down.
How Safarova Has Looked so Far at Wimbledon
For a player ranked No. 23, Safarova has enjoyed a relatively easy route to the semifinals. She upset No. 10 Dominika Cibulkova in the third round. But Cibulkova, despite reaching the quarterfinals in 2011, was never seen as a serious threat to win Wimbledon.
Safarova's second- and fourth-round opponents were ranked No. 63 and No. 175. Still, Safarova managed to dispatch them like the lowly ranked players they are. She has yet to drop a set. Her toughest match was in the first round against No. 99 Julia Goerges. Safarova needed two tiebreakers to squeak by Goerges.
In her quarterfinal match, it took Safarova just a little over an hour to beat No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova, 6-3, 6-1.
How Kvitova Has Looked so Far at Wimbledon
Kvitova's toughest match came in the third round against Venus Williams. The two battled behind superb serving. Kvitova dug deep and was able to defeat the five-time champion, 5-7, 7-6 (2), 7-5.
After her win over Williams, Kvitova told reporters, via Kate Battersby of Wimbledon.com, “This is the best match I have played on grass since I won the title."
Kvitova breezed through her other matches. She bagged her opponents in the final sets of the first two rounds.
Although she was broken in her quarterfinal against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, Kvitova controlled that match from start to finish. She took the first set 6-1 but fell behind 4-5 in the second. She broke back. It was as if she merely had to decide it was over. Then it was.
Biggest X-Factors in the Semifinal
Both women are Czechs who are lefties. But that's where the similarities end. Safarova has no answer for Kvitova's power. The biggest X-factor will be Kvitova's nerves.
Kvitova is known for lulls during matches. If she suffers through one of her letdowns, Safarova could take advantage. Safarova really has nothing to lose. This is as far as she's ever gone in a Grand Slam. She's already guaranteed to move up in the rankings and has never beaten Kvitova.
If Safarova embraces that "nothing to lose" mentality and swings without fear, she could pull off an upset.
Safarova Will Win If...
Safarova plays with considerable top spin. When she swings freely, she can hit winners on her return. She likes to pounce on the ball, especially the second serve.
She will have to keep her composure. She's come up short in big matches before. Against Li Na at the Australian Open, Safarova came within centimeters from winning. She fought off eight match points against Maria Sharapova in Miami before losing a three-setter. She is often so close to the big win. A few unforced errors and the match gets away from her.
Already experiencing the best Slam appearance of her career, Safarova must stay steady and focused if she wants this dream tournament to continue.
Kvitova Will Win If...
Kvitova will win if she plays her game. She has a 5-0 record against Safarova for a reason. She is simply better than Safarova in nearly all aspects of the game.
Kvitova has to keep her first-serve percentage high to keep the pressure off. The moment she tightens up, her forehand can go awry. She must also avoid long rallies with the agile Safarova.
Kvitova has to keep it simple. Hold serve and calm nerves.
Kvitova is the only player remaining in the women's draw to have won a Grand Slam. That Slam happens to be Wimbledon. Kvitova's experience on the grass and Centre Court will give her an even bigger edge against a player that has yet to beat her.
Of course, Safarova can hope that Kvitova unravels emotionally. Otherwise, unless Safarova's been keeping some fierce game under wraps, Kvitova should cruise to victory in straight sets.