Wimbledon: Kvitova d. Bouchard

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On the eve of the women’s Wimbledon final, the one thing nobody expected was a comprehensive blow-out. Eugenie Bouchard, the theory went, is just too game a competitor to allow that to happen, even if this was just her first Grand Slam final.

But Petra Kvitova begged to differ. It took the better part of three years for the 24-year-old Czech to return to the final of the tournament she won in 2011, but when she finally made it, she demonstrated that she’s got enough game to decimate all comers. Relying on a wicked, swerving lefty serve, a flat swing, and an explosive forehand, she attacked Bouchard without let-up and pummeled her in 55 minutes to win the title by the appalling score of 6-3, 6-0.

It will be a valuable learning experience for Bouchard, about whom nobody will be able to say that she got too much, too soon. And it was certainly a time of vindication for Kvitova.

As expected, Bouchard showed no real signs of being intimidated by the magnitude of this occasion. It isn’t just because she’d been to two previous Grand Slam semifinals this year; it’s more or less in her genes to meet even the most unnerving of challenges with equanimity.

Her opponent, well that’s been another story. Kvitova, seeded No. 6, has become less famous as a former Wimbledon champ than as an enigmatic and sometimes reluctant warrior, forever prey to bouts of anxiety and loss of form.

Not today, though.

Bouchard held serve to start, after which Kvitova’s first statement was a thunderous ace. She went on to hold with ease, and the pressure was back on the slender shoulders of the No. 13 seed. She started gamely enough, with an ace, and jumped to 30-love. Then Kvitova, showing the flair that would distinguish her day, ran off three points—two of them outright winners. That brought her to break point, but Bouchard held fast and forced a backhand error. Her safety was short-lived, though, as Kvitova’s sharp return forced an error. Kvitova converted her second break point with a cross-court forehand winner.

Kvitova survived three deuces in the next game to hold for 3-1, after which she faced her first—and only—crisis. Bouchard fell behind 15-40 on a double fault, but she fought off the two break chances. Kvitova would have two more break points in that game, but Bouchard dismissed them as well to hold for 2-3.

At that point, Kvitova skeptics were probably expecting a shift of momentum. But in perhaps the biggest game of the set, Kvitova roared out to a 40-love lead, threw in a double fault, but then secured the game and a 4-2 lead with a cross-court backhand winner. The quick hold opened the floodgates.

Kvitova broke Bouchard again, held, and the Canadian found herself serving to stay in it at 3-5. Unrelenting, Kvitova belted sharp returns and rocketing groundstrokes to win the first three points. Kvitova failed to convert either of the first two set points, but she cracked yet another cross-court serve return that proved too hot for Bouchard to handle.

The first set was over in 32 minutes and two statistics highlighted the problem for Bouchard. Even when she got her first serve in, she was able to win just 46 percent of those points. It was a tribute to Kvitova’s return on this exceptional day. At the same time, Kvitova made an outstanding 72 percent of her first serves count, and won 78 percent of those points.

Things then went from bad to worse for Bouchard. The ominous start was merely a prelude to a second set in which Bouchard was simply hammered off the court. And in all honesty, Bouchard’s generally admirable strategy—to play on or inside the baseline, where she could take the ball on the rise and take control of the point—was near suicidal on a day when her bigger, stronger rival could counteract with flat shots with great velocity.

In the second set, Kvitova pulled the trigger on 11 winners, successfully converted three of four break points, and won 90 percent of the first serves she put into play. Bouchard didn’t get a game. The statistic that will most concern the loser will be her poor success rate on second serves; she won just 36 percent of those points.

As commentator Chris Evert said, “I don’t think anyone expected Petra to play a match like this today.”

Indeed, we had grown so accustomed to Kvitova squandering big leads, or hitting patches where her game fell apart at the seams for entire sets at a time, that it was a revelation—and confirmation of her talent—to witness her performance today.

Just as in 2011, Kvitova swung from the heels and threw herself into the fray with total abandon. The result was tennis as convincing and pre-emptive as any that we’ve seen in the past few years, and a reminder of just how dangerous a lefthander with a big slice serve and a volatile forehand can be on grass courts.

For complete Wimbledon coverage, including updated draws and reports from Steve Tignor, head to our tournament page.

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