Grass is the only Grand Slam surface that grows and dies during the course of play. Leave it to Kirsten Flipkens to transform the Wimbledon lawn into a revival ground.
Combining all-court aggression with plenty of daring on pivotal points, the 27-year-old stung an ace off the sideline to seal an inspired, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over former champion Petra Kvitova and reach her first career Grand Slam semifinal.
Sidelined by blood clots in her legs that caused her ranking to plummet to No. 262 last year, Flipkens was ranked so low she couldn't even gain admittance to the 2012 Wimbledon qualifying event. Now, the feel good story of a wild Wimbledon is one win away from the final.
The eighth-seeded Kvitova began the day as the most dangerous woman still standing in the draw. The 2011 champ, who twice took medical timeouts in the second set, is a beautiful ball striker who plays her cleanest tennis indoors. With the Centre Court roof closed, Kvitova came out firing, blistering a backhand return back into the body to earn the first break and a 3-2 lead.
Contesting her first major quarterfinal, Flipkens calmly broke back, running around her backhand and launching her body airborne into a forehand return winner down the line, but Kvitova, who was punishing second serve returns down the line, won eight of 10 points for a 5-3 lead. Serving for the set, Kvitova fought off four break points with some of the boldest second serves she's hit the entire tournament, including a slice wide to erase the final break chance. Kvitova banged a backhand off the baseline for her third set point, closing it out when Flipkens' backhand died in the net.
The 5'5" Belgian has soft hands and sharp court sense, and put both to good use in the second set. An angled drop shot drew Kvitova forward and Flipkens looped a lob over the 6' Czech's head for break point. She broke thanks to a backhand error for 4-2 and consolidated before Kvitova, who suffers from asthma, took a medical time-out. Flipkens, who won 13 of 15 points played on her first serve in the second set, slid an ace down the middle to level the match.
Kvitova, moving more slowly between points, took another medical time-out after the second set, but held a 2-1 lead when she blistered a backhand return into Flipkens' hip to earn the first break point of the decider. That's when Flipkens launched her level — and her body — to new heights. Some players beat up the ball, Flipkens treats it like a co-conspirator. Elevating every inch of her frame into the air, she wristed an angled overhead to save the break point, then zapped a two-handed backhand pass down the line to help dig out a hard-fought hold for 3-2.
A crackling running forehand from Flipkens drew an error for a break point in the ninth game. Kvitova paused for a split-second before racing up to a floater and the slight hesitation cost her as she sailed a routine backhand swing volley long, handing Flipkens the lone break of the finale for 5-4. Embracing third-set pressure, Flipkens was at her best in critical moments, hitting 11 winners against just one unforced error in a near-immaculate decisive set. She finished with 23 winners against only five unforced errors, sealing both the second set and the match with aces.
Continuing her improbable run and kissing the court to celebrate with a smile of joy plastered across her face, Flipkens faces 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli next. Something tells me she'll still be smiling when that semifinal starts.
IBM is a proud sponsor and official technology partner for Wimbledon. For more information on this match, including the Keys to the Match, visit IBM's SlamTracker.