Wimbledon: Kvitova d. Pironkova

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 /by

201106281253464090062-p2@stats_com Stutter-stepping between points as a reminder to move her feet, Petra Kvitova put the proper pacing of her game together after a second-set stumble, and sprinted through the finish line with a flourish. The 21-year-old Czech cracked 54 winners, including an ace on match point, to advance to her second straight Wimbledon semifinal with a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory over Tsvetana Pironkova.

Kvitova may not be the front-runner to raise the Venus Rosewater Dish—Maria Sharapova is the bookmakers’ favorite, and fourth-seeded Belarusian Victoria Azarenka is the highest seed still standing—but she has the most complete game of any of the semifinalists, can dictate play off both her serve and return and unleashed an offensive onslaught today, illustrating why it’s a question of when rather than if the explosive left-hander will break through and master a major.

A year ago, Kvitova arrived at SW19 as the world No. 62 wearing a smile that sparkled with braces and seeking her first career grass-court win. Now, she’s a much more polished player, and if she can hold her nerve and avoid the second-set lapse in which her ambition exceeded her accuracy, she’s got a strong shot to play for the title on Saturday.

The 32nd-ranked Pironkova, also a semifinalist last year, struck the first serve of this rain-delayed quarter at 4:38 local time. She was treated to terrorizing replies, as Kvitova crushed three return winners to break at love in two minutes. Points were also short when Kvitova served. A standard exchange can serve as a dialogue between two players, but when Kvitova slides her swinging slice serve wide in the ad court and follows by firing her forehand into the open court, she reduces the rally to a monologue where she has that last word.

Pironkova, who beat 2010 runner-up Vera Zvonareva and five-time champ Venus Williams, possesses a bold backhand and the ability to alter the height and pace of her shots. Kvitova’s nerves and her opponent’s guile combined to displace the six-foot Czech from her comfort zone, and she lined a flat forehand into net as Pironkova broke for a 3-2 second-set advantage. Kvitova eventually broke back to take things to a tiebreaker, and she held a 4-1 lead, but Pironkova lofted a lob winner to spark a run that saw her win six of the next seven points, as Kvitova failed to make the Bulgarian pay for some sub-80 mph second serves.

It was a brief reprieve, however, as the Bulgarian double-faulted to drop serve in the opening game of the third set. A crackling 12-shot rally concluded with Kvitova blasting the ball up the line and Pironkova losing her Head racquet with a failed flick. Kvitova had the second break and 5-2 lead. She closed in style with her ninth ace, and continues her quest to become the first lefty to win the women’s title since compatriot Martina Navratilova in 1990.

“She was my idol when I was young so I will try my best to do it,” Kvitova said.

—Richard Pagliaro

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