In an all-Czech women's semifinal at Wimbledon, it was sixth-seeded Petra Kvitova who triumphed over No. 23 seed Lucie Safarova, 7-6(6), 6-1, to reach the final at the All England Club.
According to SI Tennis, the triumph put Kvitova in position to potentially nab the second Wimbledon title of her career:
Welcome back, Petra Kvitova. The 2011 Champion will get a chance at another #Wimbledon title, beats Lucie Safarova 76 61.— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) July 3, 2014
The match was certainly an intriguing one since Kvitova and Safarova had so much in common in terms of nationality, being lefties and owning big serves. When push came to shove, though, Kvitova's comfort level at Wimbledon and overall skill level proved too much for Safarova.
Kvitova has had her ups and downs since winning Wimbledon in 2011, but nobody has ever questioned her immense talent. With her game in fine form on a preferred surface, Kvitova seemingly felt great about her chances to do some damage at All England Club, per Courtney Nguyen of SI.com.
I'm aggressive definitely more than last year. I just probably feel the grass. I just know that it suits me well and I can really play my best tennis on that. It's everything give me some more confidence. I really had great practices before Wimbledon. I played well in Paris. So it gave me a little bit more confidence from there, as well. I lost a really tough battle against Svetlana Kuznetsova, but it gave me a lot of positive things from that match.
That confidence was evident from the start of Thursday's semifinal as Kvitova used her power to her advantage and came out firing early. Kvitova immediately broke her countrywoman in the first game of the match and followed that up with a hold to seize a quick advantage, according to Douglas Robson of USA Today:
Kvitova breaks Safarova to open and consolidates for 2-0. #wimbledon— Douglas Robson (@dougrobson) July 3, 2014
It didn't take long for that lead to dissipate, though, as Safarova was able to find her footing. The underdog held serve, managed to break the big serve of Kvitova and then held again to seize a 3-2 advantage.
Many observers probably expected this match to be a walk in the park for Kvitova after the first couple games. Not only did she boast a 4-0 career record against Safarova entering the contest, but Safarova has also struggled against top-tier opponents this season, per WTA director of communications and publications Kevin Fischer:
In addition to that, Kvitova boasted a sparkling Wimbledon record over the past few years entering the match:
One thing Safarova had working in her favor, however, was her variety. Safarova boasts an all-around game that can cause some issues for her opponents, while defending Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli pegged Kvitova as somewhat of a one-dimensional player, according to Nguyen:
“She’s a player Petra Kvitova who has only a Plan A. And when Plan A is not working it’s more of Plan A.” — Marion— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) July 3, 2014
After a pair of holds, Safarova held a 4-3 advantage. Per Carole Bouchard of L'Equipe, Safarova appeared to be extremely comfortable despite the immense pressure of the moment:
Safarova down 1-2 break but now leads 4-3 vs Kvitova. Totally in her bubble, such a talented left hand. 2 big shot-makers on this Centre.— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) July 3, 2014
The heavy hitters traded holds of serve for the remainder of the set before ultimately entering a tiebreak. Safarova was able to hang with Kvitova throughout the tiebreak, which prompted Bonnie Bernstein of Campus Insiders to laud her composure:
So impressed w way Safarova's settled in vs Kvitova in #Wimbledon semis. Imagine the butterflies playing on Centre Court 1st time??— Bonnie Bernstein (@BonnieBernstein) July 3, 2014
Safarova had her opportunities and put herself in position to potentially take the tiebreak, but Kvitova's experience in big moments at Wimbledon paid dividends. The favored Czech was able to dig in on the big points and take the tightly contested tiebreak 8-6.
Kvitova certainly understood the importance of taking the opening set as she shrieked in celebration, according to Erik Gudris of USA Today:
With a cry of "Podj!" from the depths of her soul, Kvitova wins very close 1st set TB 76(6) v. Safarova. #Wimbledon2014— Erik Gudris (@ATNtennis) July 3, 2014
As well as Safarova performed in the first set, it wasn't quite good enough. Safarova was essentially flawless leading up to the semifinal encounter, so Kvitova forced Safarova to face true adversity for the first time this year at Wimbledon, per ESPN Tennis:
The second set started much like the first for Kvitova as she was able to break Safarova after holding serve during the opening game. Kvitova had all the momentum on her side and started to take over the match with her aggressive, powerful ground strokes, according to Craig O'Shannessy of The New York Times:
With a 4-1 lead in tow, Kvitova dealt what proved to be the fatal blow. Kvitova was able to break Safarova once again to go up 5-1 and the match ended soon after as Kvitova punctuated it with yet another emphatic hold.
The second set had to be a major disappointment for Safarova after how well she performed in the first, but it would have been tough for anyone to match Kvitova's level of play.
Kvitova didn't wilt despite the pressure of being the favorite in this match and arguably the favorite to win the entire tournament. With top players like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova falling all around her, Kvitova managed to avoid the same fate.
Safarova certainly deserves credit for the manner in which she handled herself on Centre Court, but Kvitova continued to be a thorn in her side.
Who will win the 2014 Wimbledon women's singles title?
Regardless of who wins the other semifinal between Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard, the final will feature a contrast of styles. Kvitova is pure power, while both Halep and Bouchard are smaller players who like to counter-punch and use their quickness to their advantage.
That could give Kvitova some problems, but she will be incredibly difficult to beat if she is locked in on serve.
It can be argued that Kvitova hasn't lived up to expectations since beating Sharapova to surprisingly win the Wimbledon title a few years ago, but winning a second Grand Slam would change that. Kvitova is just 24 years old, but she is on the verge of joining elite company by becoming the second woman to win multiple singles titles at All England Club.
Kvitova's track record at Wimbledon is already an impressive one, so it is difficult to bet against her. She has all the makings of an elite grass-court player and she will reign supreme if she can find a way to play to her fullest potential in the final.
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