Serena Williams’ magnificent serve once again took centre stage on Centre Court, as she ousted Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 7-5, to move into the Wimbledon semifinals.
It was a blockbuster quarterfinal, the four-time champion against the defending champion, and it lived up to its billing. Neither woman looked comfortable during the first week—Kvitova called her nervy first match a ‘disaster’, while Williams squeaked through consecutive matches—but both produced their best tennis of the Championships today. Whether it was the relief of facing a player to whom it would be no shame to lose, or the effect of having played herself into form, Williams’ movement, anticipation, and defense were vastly improved from her previous matches. Couple that with 13 aces, 27 winners, and a first-serve percenttage that was up in the 70s at times, and you have the result we just saw.
One break of serve in each set decided the match. Kvitova does not have the movement or the margin to put Williams under sustained pressure in long rallies, but she does have the ability to hit anybody off the court. Under those conditions, the return of serve was key, and after Kvitova double faulted at 2-3, Williams struck two mighty returns and moved forward behind them. With her first-strike tennis neutralized, Kvitova put a forehand wide and Williams moved ahead 4-2.
Kvitova saved another break point at 2-5 and held with her finest points of the match so far, moving those crucial few steps forward into the court to take precedence in the short rallies. She then struck a clean return winner to get to 0-15 as Williams served for the set. Behind a point twice in the game, Williams responded with an ace both times, then took a set point as Kvitova failed to make the return on a second serve—perhaps the biggest failure in the Czech’s play today. Serena then served it out.
Kvitova raised her game in the second set, mixing up her serves to raise her percentage of points won behind that shot from 47 to 67, and hitting with more depth down the middle and more accuracy into the corners. Williams’ serving—she hit at least one ace in every service game—kept Kvitova at bay, but the defending champion, under the hammer at 4-4, 0-30, came up with big serves and forehands to gut out a steely hold and put the pressure right back on Serena.
Up 5-4, Kvitova landed her best second-serve return of the match, then attacked behind a backhand down the line to earn her first break point—and set point—before Williams snuffed it out with a big serve. With a game point and Kvitova at net, Williams went right at her opponent before an exchange of reflex volleys saw her hold.
Pressured with good returning and down break point, Kvitova slammed a forehand into the net down with all the time and space in the world. Williams served the match out with three aces to send the only other woman in the draw who had won the Wimbledon title home.