At the end of a wacky fortnight that saw the top seeds make early exits and lesser-known underdogs make headlines, we have a Wimbledon final that makes sense: a former champion and grass court natural Petra Kvitova against the fastest rising player on tour, Eugenie Bouchard. Check out the Bouchard vs Kvitova Head to Head.
A return to the All England Club showpiece has been a long time coming for Petra Kvitova. The Czech became the first player born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam when she stormed to the 2011 Wimbledon title. That year, she beat Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova in emphatic fashion, and looked set to become the next dominant force in women’s tennis.
That didn’t happen. Kvitova won the 2011 WTA Championships and came within a whisker of the number one ranking, but she gradually lost momentum after that. She managed to reach the last four of the Australian and French Opens in 2012 and bagged trophies in Montreal and New Haven, but defeats to lower ranked players became more and more common. Whether through poor shot selection, a loss of rhythm or an inexplicable mental collapse, Kvitova found ways to lose matches she should have won.
Last year was a similar story, with title runs in Dubai and Tokyo the highlights of an otherwise unremarkable season. Petra had no shortage of admirers – when on form, no one bar Serena Williams can unleash such raw power or hit so many breathtaking winners – but many began to worry that she would go down as one of the WTA’s great underachievers, a woman whose talent far outweighed her ability to deliver.
Now, however, she stands just one victory away from hoisting a second Venus Rosewater Dish, an achievement that would quell those doubts and reinvigorate her career. Moreover, no one would be surprised if Kvitova entered the zone and strolled to glory: she has been in superb form throughout Wimbledon 2014, dropping only one set on her way the the final. Although not impenetrable, her serve has been reliable, allowing her to boss rallies from the get-go. She has been aggressive on the return, and looked comfortable moving laterally as well as forward.
In theory, playing a 20-year-old who has never previously been to a major final should boost Kvitova’s chances further. Many first-time finalists have wilted in recent Grand Slams – see Dominika Cibulkova in Melbourne earlier this year and Sabine Lisicki at last year’s Wimbledon. Often, the advantage lies with the more experienced player, the one who has been there and done it all before. But such a theory falls flat when the 20-year-old in question is Eugenie Bouchard.
What has been most impressive about the Canadian’s ascent this year has been her own attitude towards it. Rather than show astonishment at every high-profile win or step forward, Bouchard has appeared utterly calm. She expects to do well, and when she does well, she expects to do even better. This mentality was much in evidence after her straight sets defeat of Simona Halep on Thursday.
“I would never say I’m surprised (at my success) because I have put in a lot of work,” said the 13th seed. “It has been a long time in the making. I am always looking to better myself and I am focussed.”
Bouchard has certainly epitomised focus over the last two weeks. She has beaten the players she’s supposed to beat as well as those ranked above her by never losing her grip. Of the 12 sets she has played to reach the final, six finished 7-5, or 7-6 – proof of her incredible poise during tight moments. She may be the youngest player in the top 30, but the Montreal native has been playing as though she has a dozen Wimbledons under her belt.
So if nerves won’t be an issue on Saturday, what will determine the outcome? Both Bouchard and Kvitova are big hitters who like to take the ball early. Kvitova has a sharper serve and the advantage of being a lefty, whereas Bouchard is the smoother mover and superior defender. Kvitova is more willing to approach the net; Bouchard can hit flatter off both wings to take time away from her opponents. Both would rather risk an error than float in a safe shot, so we can expect plenty of sprayed balls as well and cleanly-struck winners.
Prediction: This will boil down to who wants it most. Kvitova knows she can win Wimbledon and has a strong desire to prove herself again. But Bouchard, despite having so many years ahead of her, doesn’t want to wait for her moment. She’ll stare down Kvitova in three tough sets, achieving instant superstardom in the process.