Wimbledon: Kvitova d. Azarenka

by: TENNIS.com | June 30, 2011

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TENNIS.com

201106300921336844223-p2@stats_com Scanning the service box calmly, as if reading the top line of an eye chart, Petra Kvitova slammed an ace out wide and unleashed a celebratory scream that pierced the Centre Court calm, a surround sound that silenced Victoria Azarenka’s final threat. The eighth-seeded Czech’s lone ace of the last set sealed a hard-fought hold, helping Kvitova power past Azarenka, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, to reach the Wimbledon final for the first time.

A year ago, the shy blonde from Bilovec was seeking her first career grass-court win when she arrived at SW19 as the world No. 62. On Saturday, the 21-year-old will face either 2004 champion Maria Sharapova or German wild card Sabine Lisicki for the Venus Rosewater Dish. She is the first left-hander to reach the ladies’ Wimbledon final since her tennis idol, Martina Navratilova, advanced to the 1994 title match. Navratilova, who was seated next to tennis aficionado and global adventurer Sir Richard Branson, had to be impressed with Kvitova’s unrelenting attacking style today. She hit four times as many winners as Azarenka (40 to 9) with creative combinations and cracking shots down the line, including nine aces.

Kvitova worked out the kinks—and saved a break point—in the opening game, spinning a short-angle ace wide to hold. Both women began to accelerate through their shots, and a pulverizing 15-stroke rally ended with Azarenka pushed backward by the depth of a Kvitova drive. The Belarusian dropped serve to trail 1-3.

Serving for the set, Kvitova showed off the stinging serve that makes her so lethal, cracking three consecutive aces. She then opted for the crash rather than the pass in drilling a screaming shot at the shins of a net-rushing Azarenka, who couldn’t cope with the fury of the drive. That shot concluded an overwhelming offensive assault from Kvitova, who surrendered just three points on her first serve while winning seven of 11 points played on Azarenka’s.

Reduced to a reactionary role in the first set, Azarenka played with more proactive footwork in the second, trying to move the slower Kvitova and force the 6-footer to scoop low balls off the lawn.  Azarenka won eight of the first 10 points, survived a break point Kvitova created with her 16th winner, and coaxed a cluster of errors to hold for 3-0. Reading Kvitova’s serve better and cutting off the angles more effectively, Azarenka extended her lead to 4-1. When the lefty looped a forehand long on the third set point, Azarenka forced a decisive set.

Targeting the Kvitova forehand, Azarenka erased one early break point, but ambition got the best of her as a running, cross-court forehand strayed wide, giving Kvitova the break and a 2-0 lead. At its most basic terms, the match pitted Kvitova’s power against Azarenka’s consistency. Kvitova refused to crack in facing double break point in the fifth game and held for 4-1.

Unable to withstand the pace and depth of Kvitova’s drives, Azarenka clanked a double fault to conclude the match. The girl who grew up idolizing Navratilova is now one win from joining her as a Wimbledon champion.

—Richard Pagliaro

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