It was just three short years ago that a relatively unknown youngster took the tennis world by storm by marching through the Wimbledon field and easily defeating favorite Maria Sharapova in the finals in straight sets.
Petra Kvitova, who was only 21 at the time, became the first ever tennis player born in the 1990s to capture a major championship. She is back in the finals and ready to do it again in 2014, this time at the ripe old age of 24.
Kvitova won’t be such a dramatic underdog against one of the marquee names in women’s tennis like she was in 2011. No. 6 Kvitova knocked off No. 23 Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 6-1 in the semifinals Thursday to set up a match against No. 13 Eugenie Bouchard. It was the fifth time that Kvitova beat Safarova this year alone.
This is not to suggest that Kvitova isn’t a formidable competitor in other venues, but there is just something about Wimbledon that brings the best out of her. In fact, this will be her first finals appearance of the season in 12 tournaments, and she sports a 25-5 record at the All England Club. It is also the fifth year in a row that she made it to at least the quarterfinals in the event.
She is just a better tennis player on the heralded grass surface.
Matt Zemek of Bloguin summarized Kvitova’s dominance at Wimbledon compared to the other major venues nicely:
Melbourne's too hot. Paris is too slow. New York is too smoggy and loud. But Wimbledon is juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust right for Petra Kvitova.— Matt Zemek (@mzemek) July 3, 2014
Kvitova herself acknowledged that she is comfortable on tennis’ biggest stage after winning in the semifinals, via Greg Garber of ESPN.com:
I just probably feel the grass. I just know that it suits me well and I can really play my best tennis on that… I don't have words to describe what I'm thinking right now. I know this feeling when you hold the trophy. I would like to win my second title.
Things certainly won’t come easy, though, against Bouchard, who is on something of a meteoric rise through the sport herself.
Bouchard knocked off No. 3 Simona Halep 7-6 (5), 6-2 Thursday to set up the final showdown and actually hasn’t lost a set in six matches. Bouchard impressed in previous majors when she reached the semifinals at this year’s Australian Open and French Open, and she is projected to rise to No. 6 or No. 7 in the rankings, depending on the outcome of Saturday’s match.
Unfortunately for Bouchard, she will come up just short of a major title yet again.
The women’s game has become incredibly unpredictable, but counting on Kvitova at Wimbledon has become the closest thing to a safe bet fans can see. Outside of her 2011 title and overall consistency there in recent years, her game is simply built for the event.
She will prove that again Saturday when she unleashes her power on the quick grass against Bouchard. Kvitova will defend her serve throughout the match and take advantage of some timely break opportunities to capture another Wimbledon crown.
In fact, Kvitova has held serve 57 of 61 times during the 2014 version, and there is no reason to expect that dominance to change anytime soon. What's more, Kvitova's experience at this stage will certainly pay dividends in pressure-packed moments against the young Bouchard.
Unlike the first title in 2011 when she knocked off Sharapova, Kvitova will be the household name when the event is over.
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