An all-Czech quarter-final pits a former Wimbledon champion against one of the surprise packages of this year’s tournament.
Petra Kvitova booked a place in the last eight of the Championships for the fifth connective year with a comfortable 6-3, 6-2 win over Shuai Peng on Monday. It was a relatively straightforward day at the office for the sixth seed, who had only just survived a marathon battle with Venus Williams in round three.
The Kvitova serve was the dominant shot against Peng: although she fired down only four aces, she won 84% of first serve points and faced only one break point. Perhaps even more impressive, however, was the cleanness of her hitting. Often a player who ranges from the sublime to the woeful in one match, Kvitova hit 25 winners and only seven unforced errors.
It was a performance that underscored her credentials as one of the hot picks for the title, and she will be the heavy favourite against Zahlavova Strycova. But could the unseeded Czech pull off another major upset?
Three days after dispatching second seed Li Na, Zahlavova Strycova took out Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 7-5. Keeping her unforced error count within acceptable margins, she took charge of baseline exchanges from the earliest opportunity and blasted 31 winners past the defensive Dane. Known for her occasional and colourful temper tantrums, Zahlavova Strycova showed admiral mental fortitude in the closing stages, eventually sealing victory on her sixth match point. Having never got beyond the third round of a Grand Slam, she is now one match away from the Wimbledon semi-finals.
Kvitova and Zahlavova Strycova have met four times before, with Kvitova winning three of those matches; Zahlavova Strycova’s sole victory came in the second round of Indian Wells three years ago. We know that Zahlavova Strycova won’t be fazed by the prospect of taking on a big name on Centre Court – her underdog status has worked out very well for her so far. Yet while Li and Wozniacki are excellent players, they do not have Kvitova’s grass court pedigree.
At her very best, Kvitova is unplayable on the turf. Her powerful lefty serve, low-bouncing slices and willingness to come forward make it extremely difficult for opponents to gain the upper hand in rallies: in the 2011 Wimbledon final, not even Maria Sharapova could find a chink in the armour. Of course, she might suffer a dreadful off-day and spray balls everywhere but inside the court, but that seems unlikely given the form and focus she has shown so far. All signs point to the end of Zahlavova Strycova’s giant-killing run.